Thoughts Written Upon Turning Over an English Literature A-level Paper on Shakespeare

Question 1: ‘If we wish to know the force of human genius
we should read Shakespeare.’ William Hazlitt

Do you share this view of Shakespeare? Illustrate your answer
with examples from his writing.

For goodness’ sake,
what a way to break the ice.
This is all Greek to me.

It may sound like treason
but I cannot make rhyme nor reason
of his words.

I knew I should have paid more attention,
but at the merest mention
of the bard, I fear the game is up.

Shakespeare sets my teeth on edge.
It is all too hard.
I have been hoisted by my own petard.

Question 2: Answer either a. or b.
a. Using quotations from his work, show how Shakespeare’s language still resonates with us today.
b. In what ways is Shakespeare still relevant in the twenty-first century?

I am still in shock.
For this is the long and short of it;
I shall be the laughing stock

of the class. A sorry sight.
A foregone conclusion.
I am under no delusion.

I should have worn some quotes
on my sleeve, not my heart.
Perhaps I should try the second part –

or will that, too, give me indigestion?
2b or not 2b, that is the question.

Question 3: ‘A fool thinks himself to be wise but a wise man knows himself
to be a fool.’ Consider Touchstone’s observation in As You Like It in relation
to the current predicament in which you find yourself.

I wonder can others hear
in the midsummer madness
of this examination room,

this brave new world’s crack of doom
as my thoughts thunder and race
on their wild goose chase

for Shakespeare’s words.
No sooner do they stop
to linger there,

then they vanish into thin air.
I could more easily catch a cold
than manage to keep hold

of one of his phrases.
I have reached stasis
and I realise now

this naked truth;
my head is as dead
as a doornail.

I know that I am going to fail —
and thereby, I suppose,
hangs this tale.

Read My Lips

I don’t need a lover
who’s a looker,
just someone who knows
the shortlist
for this year’s Booker,

with an insightful view on
Doris Lessing or Ian McEwan,
being satanically well-versed
in Salman Rushdie,
and would find it cushty
to share pillow talk
about the work of A.S. Byatt.

Yes, that would be a riot.

I could never judge a lover
by her cover,
be swayed by make-up
or a fancy hair do;
I’d much rather her be intimate
with À la recherche du temps perdu.

To be clear, I’m not talking
Fifty Shades of Grey here,
but finding someone
who knows their way around
the complete works of Shakespeare.

I would rip out my heart
and write her name upon it
if she can recite to me
his eighteenth sonnet.

So don’t give me eyes
to get lost in;
I’d rather have a heated debate
about Jane Austen.

I don’t care if she talks
in a Donald Duck voice,
if, together, we can thumb
through the stories of Joyce,

nor will we ever feel
an unbridgeable gulf
if neither of us are afraid
of Virginia Woolf.

You see, one thing I’ve learnt
as I’ve got older
is that literature
lights up love
and makes it smoulder

and that beauty
is in the eye
of the book holder.