Friday, January 22, 2016

1902 Shakespeare quiz, Seventh and Lastly

Only seven questions in this final installment, alas, since the Numbering Genie seems to have struck again.

50) What do we know from the Plays about the private means and residence of the aunt of a young lover who came near having his head cut off?
51) Give six examples from the plays of nineteenth-twentieth century slang.
52) What character in the plays lost his head because he wrote correct Latin?
53) What character said that two potentates must be equally valiant, because they were both born by rivers in which salmon abounded?
54) What character was accused by his sister of preaching better than he practiced?
55) What character knelt before his blind father backward so as to pretend that he had grown a beard?
59) What King thrust into prison by his foes, receives a secret visit from one of his grooms, who breaks into sobs to think that the horse of which he had the care, is to be used in the triumph of former master's enemies, and what was the horse's name?

Thanks for the quiz, B.W.H. It was fun, if occasionally frustrating. I bet you didn't think someone would be taking it 114 years in the future. I wonder who you were.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

1902 Shakespeare quiz, part 6

40) What character in the plays uses the name of a popular seventeenth century author as an ejaculation?
41) What lady had for her maid the daughter of a celebrated witch?
42) On what day of the week, and at what hour did Romeo kill himself?
43) What character in the plays feared to cross the English channel for fear of seasickness.
44) Tell Cleopatra's fish story.
45) What character invited guests to a banquet and set them up for nothing but hot water?
46) What character in the plays was buried in the sand on a sea-beach?
47) What character was supposed to be possessed of a devil? What one talked Staffordshire dialect?
48) What character was hanged for stealing a crucifix from a cathedral?
49) Who arranged a play to be performed before a noble lord and wanted to play all the parts himself?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

1902 Shakespeare quiz, Part 5

30) Give the pleadings and arguments in the action of William Visor of Wincot, against Clement Perkes of the Hill?
31) What was the color of Orlando's hair? Who punned on his own name on his deathbed?
32) What dainties did Perdita provide for the sheep-shearing feast?
33) What was Shakespeare's favorite ballad judging from the fact that it is the one oftenest alluded to in the plays.
34) What six characters in the plays are palpably thumbnail sketches for six characters in the later ones?
35) What Scriptural story did Falstaff think fittest to be represented on tapestry?
36) What women in the plays had beards?
37) What character in the plays owed his life to his ability to write a clerky or engrossing hand?
38) What character in the plays was punished for his crimes by being buried breast deep in the earth and left to starve?
39) What character in the plays made a plume for his hat out of a pack of playing cards?

Monday, January 18, 2016

1902 Shakespeare quiz, Part 4

As before, I've transcribed the questions exactly as written, spelling errors and all.

20) How many years had Falstaff known Bardolph before he met Mrs. Quickly?
21) What was the name of Poins's sister? And who is alleged to have promised to have married her?
22) Where is breach of promise mentioned in the Play's?
23) What character was taken prisoner in joke by his friends disguised as enemies?
24) What character, who boasted of his knowledge of a certain language, was exposed by his companions who talked to him in gibberish which he mistook for that language?
25) What was Dull's riddle and what was the answer to it?
26) What are the names of the only four dogs in Shakespeare?
27) What noble lady refused to accept forgiveness from her leige if spoken in French and what Queen refused absolution if given in Latin?
28) Who was Casca's schoolmate?
29) Give all the instances of second marriages in the plays?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

1902 Shakespeare quiz, Part 3

In which the questions range from fairly normal trivia to "Guess what B.W.H. was thinking when he wrote this."

10) What lady in the Plays gave a critical opinion on her physical attractions? How many others are there of her name in the plays?
11) What Shakespearean characters played billiards?
12) What pair of lovers in the Plays played chess?
13) What was the maiden name of Petruchio's wife?
14) What Shakespearean characters mixed their metaphors?
15) What poetry did Falstaff propose to supply a theme for?
16) What character in the Plays gives a purely fanciful definition of a Latin noun to make a point in an argument?
17) Give three examples of Shakespeare's opinion of schoolmasters?
18) Two characters in the plays are said to have been born under the influence of certain planets; and one under a constellation. Name characters and influences?
19) What animal did Shakespeare hear of being hung for killing a human being?

Friday, January 15, 2016

1902 Shakespeare quiz, Part 2

Now we are heading into true stump-the-Shakespeare-scholar territory, so help with the ones I haven't been able to figure out would be appreciated! I have reproduced the questions exactly as printed, numbering errors and all.

11) What was the name of Falstaff's tailor?
12) What was the name of Mrs. Quickly's spiritual advisor?
13) What was the tale that Imogen read in bed.
14) What did old Capulet think of people who would not dance?
4) What was to have been the menu at Juliet's marriage with the County Paris?
5) What four characters in the plays had blue eyes?
6) What one of Queen Victoria's Prime-ministers is mentioned by his popular name in the plays?
7) What character in the plays, on being accosted by three acquaintances, expresses in his greeting to each, the different degree of his intimacy with them?
8) Differentiate between the finger rings of three gentlemen, two of whom were lovers of noble ladies and the third a reprobate?
9) The wedding gown of a certain noble lady is given in detail in the Plays. Who was the lady, and give the items detailed?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A 1902 Shakespeare trivia quiz, Part 1

So the university library is being renovated, and all kinds of interesting things are turning up. One of the librarians called me over, in great excitement, to show me her latest discovery: a stack of early-twentieth-century volumes of a journal called New Shakespeareana.

It seems that in those days, academic journals had trivia quizzes. The editor printed a list of 59 70 questions (for some reason, #14 is followed by a second #4), sent in by one B.W.H., who notes, "Of course every one of your readers can answer all the following questions without a Bartlett Concordance, as the answers are all in the Plays." (We had better be able to do that, as the answers are not in the journal.)

For fun, I'll be posting ten questions at a time, followed by my best stab at answers in the comments -- but I can't answer them all by any means, and I'm not sure all my guesses are correct, so everyone else should feel free to jump in.

1) What was Bully Bottom's remedy for a cut finger?
2) What credentials were required of bar-tenders (tapsters) in Shakespeare's time?
3) What was Falstaff's waist measurement?
4) How many children had Mr. Justice Shallow? Give their names.
5) Who was Parson Evans' favorite poet, and favorite poem? What was Falstaff's favorite tune?
6) How did Orsino's nephew lose his leg?
7) What was Holofernes's opinion as to the value of silent letters?
8) Who made Desdemona's handkerchief? and who, according to the arrangement of plays in the First Folios, was the first married woman jealous of her husband?
9) Who had a statue of pure gold after her death?
10) How long did Leontes take to woo and win his queen?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Loose canon

I don't usually teach a lot of contemporary lit in Brit Lit II. For the last few years, it's just been this one play, and I've been teaching it alongside works from the time period when the play takes place, because that seemed to make more sense than shoving it off by itself at the end of the semester and hoping the students actually remember something about that era by the time we get to it.

But this time, there is going to be a production of the play at another local university in mid-April, about three weeks from the end of the semester, so it seemed to make sense to place it where it belonged chronologically, and then add in some more contemporary lit after that. There was another play that I used to like teaching before they took it out of the Norton Anthology, but it's too long to photocopy and I couldn't find a reasonably priced, student-friendly edition. And I couldn't really find anything else in the anthology that really grabbed me. (To be honest, most contemporary poetry and literary fiction does nothing for me. I feel like I don't get the poetry a lot of the time, and while I enjoy some novels with Serious Literary Cred, there are a lot more I don't, and most of the ones I do like aren't really suitable for a gen ed Brit Lit survey for one reason or another -- they're too long, or require too much background knowledge, or the authors aren't British even if you use the Norton Anthology's amazingly expansive definition of "British.")*

So I asked for some suggestions about novels on Facebook, read one or two of them that sounded interesting, discovered that I didn't, in fact, find them interesting at all (pretty language, not much of a plot, unsatisfying endings). And finally, I gave up and ordered a novel that I'd recently read for pleasure. I'm going to be vague here, because I'm probably the first person ever to teach this novel in the classroom and I don't want students Googling the title and discovering my blog, but it's marketed as science fiction, although it's definitely unconventional science fiction with some literary pretensions. (This is, generally, the sort of book I do enjoy -- genre fiction with some serious ideas behind it -- but it has to actually work as genre fiction. No fair writing a literary murder mystery and then never solving the mystery.**)

Almost as soon as I submitted the book order, I started second-guessing myself. Sure, it's a decent novel, with the potential to open up some interesting conversations -- what is the good life? how much can our choices change the world? But is it worth four or more days of the Brit Lit survey, when Charles Dickens only gets two and my dear, beloved, dead-too-soon Keats gets one and a half, if he's lucky? Isn't the prose rather ... pedestrian? Doesn't it feel too rushed in spots, more like a summary than a story? Is anybody even going to remember this novel in ten years? Shouldn't I be spending those few precious days of class on something that has stood the test of time? Do I even like this novel that much?

Then I realized those are pretty much exactly the questions Virginia Woolf's narrator asks about Mary Carmichael's novel toward the end of A Room of One's Own, and I decided I felt pretty good about teaching this book. Because those are the kinds of questions students should be asking and answering for themselves, and because really, this is just the sort of book Woolf says the new generation of women novelists ought to be writing -- one that illuminates those dark corners of an ordinary, seemingly unimportant woman's life. (I teach A Room of One's Own in its entirety, every single time I teach this course, despite the stupid Norton editors' decision to print only excerpts in this latest edition, and if nothing else, this novel makes a really neat follow-on to A Room of One's Own.)

So, novel taken care of. Then I realized I still had a couple of extra days of class at the end of the semester, and started scrambling frantically to find some short stories to fill those days. I read about twelve or fifteen stories, and I think I've found a couple that I like. One of them is even unimpeachably literary fiction, by someone super-famous and well-regarded. It's a weird story -- sort of magical realism, I'd say -- and I don't know how it's going to go over with the students, but I thought it was weird in a good way. The other one is by someone who's basically an author of light pop fiction, but I think it really is a pretty good story, and it's easy to read and funny. They are both about art, in their different ways. I like stories about art. I threw in some Browning poems about art earlier in the semester, so now we have a mini-theme going.

I can't get over how much thought and second-guessing went into the last few weeks of this syllabus. It's like sailing into uncharted territory. I'm not sure I have the slightest idea what makes a piece of contemporary fiction good. I don't know if any of the ones I've chosen are any good, or if I will still like them once I have to stand in front of a classroom of gen ed students suffering from end-of-April exhaustion and find something to say about them.

On to Shakespeare. Shakespeare is sooo much easier!

* As far as I can tell, the Norton editors think you are British if you are from any country that was ever colonized by the British other than the US. Nigeria, Canada, Jamaica, Australia? Come on in. Americans, on the other hand, are only considered British if they absolutely insist they are, as is the case with T.S. Eliot.

** Donna Tartt, I'm looking at you.

*** I do, pretty much, believe in teaching the traditional canon in the surveys. If you're at an obscure regional state university full of first-generation students bent on careers in physical therapy or culinary arts, you have to believe in teaching the canon. If you're at Harvard or Oberlin, you can be pretty darn sure your students will encounter Donne and Shelley and Yeats at some other point in their lives, and proceed accordingly.