Tag Archives: drama


“Ariel: (1900) An essay by Jose Enrique Rod, which had a tremendous impact on Hispanic American Intellectuals. Rodo appealed to the youth of Spanish American to aspire to be the spirituality, idealism, and rationality symbolized by Shakespeare’s Ariel and to reject the brutishness and sensuality represented by Caliban. Because Rodo censured U.S. materialism and utilitarianism in the essay, many readers erroneously assumed that he was pitting Anglo-Saxon crassness against Latin idealism. A later essay by Fernandes Retamar made a quite different interpretation of Caliban, as the native and victim of imperialism.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.


“Elocution: The study and practice of oral delivery, including control of breath, voice, pronunciation, stance, and gesture (Has he taken elocution lessons?); the way in which someone speaks or reads aloud, especially in public (flawless elocution). An early meaning of the term was literary style as distinct from content, and relates to the Latin meaning of elocutio (‘speaking out’), one of the canons or departments of rhetoric. Elocution training in how to speak ‘properly’ (as in taking elocution lessons) was a feature of education, particularly for girls, in the 18th and 19th century. Shaw, who gave an extended dramatic treatment to elocution in Pygmalion (1912), added to his will in 1913 a clause giving some of the residue of his estate to ‘The substitution or a scientific training in phonetics for the makeshifts of so-called elocution lessons by actors and others who have hitherto prevailed in the teaching of oratory.””

Excerpted from: McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Concise Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

3 Playwrights of Athens’ Golden Age

“Aeschylus * Sophocles * Euripides

The apogee of Classical Athens’ two-century-long golden age of literature was the generation who thought and wrote between 461 and 431 BC. Theatre-going Greeks of this time witnessed the high-minded and complex tragedies of Aeschylus, the graceful, measured characterization of Sophocles and the more emotional and passionately charged creations of Euripides.

It is fitting that they are remembered as a trio, for each year three tragic playwrights produced a trilogy of tragedies (and a farcical comedy) that was performed over three consecutive days to honor Dionysus. These festivals were held around the time of the spring equinox. No more than three actors were permitted on the stage at any one time, their faces and that of the chorus covered in masks. At the end of the festival, one of the playwrights was voted the winner and given the prize of a goat, for the word ‘tragedy’ derives from ‘goat song.’”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

The Algonquin Wits: Heywood Brown on the Marx Brothers

Broun, who was totally captivated by the Marx Brothers, went to see their shows—each one—as many times as possible (he saw Cocoanuts twenty-one times). Concerning this particular passion, he remarked: ‘Very likely my epitaph will read, “Here lies Heywood Broun (who?), killed by getting in the way of some scene shifters at a Marx Brothers show.”’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? A play (1962) by the US playwright Edward Albee (1928-2016) depicting the tense relationship between a sharp-tongued college professor and his embittered wife. Filmed in 1966 with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the two main roles, the play owed its memorable title to a line of graffiti scribbled in soap on a mirror in a bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village that the author happened visit in the 1950s. The quip, evidently derived from the song title ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf’ from the Disney cartoon The Three Little Pigs (1933), was later redefined by Albee as meaning ‘who’s afraid of living without false illusions.’”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002. 

3 Emblems Within a Crown

“Power * Legitimacy * Victory

The Norman conqueror William I wore his crown three times each year: at Winchester at Easter, Westminster at Whitsuntide and at midwinter at Gloucester. But, as Shakespeare tells us, ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.’ For the crown stands for the three emblems of power, legitimacy, and victory, but also for an ordained blood sacrifice as epitomized by the crown of thorns.

As an icon of power the crown has numerous lines of descent: the double crowns worn by the pharaohs of Egypt, the laurel wreaths of victory awarded to Greek heroes (and turned into the finest gold for Greek kings), the jewel-studded diadem worn on the brow by Persian and Hellenistic monarchs. The truest line of descent for the Western crown seems to have been the Greek radiant crown—Lucian’schaplet with sunbeams’—which was placed on statues of the sun god and which Constantine the Great co-opted in his fusing of the cult of the unconquered sun to the newly formed symbolism of a Christian emperor.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Cultural Literacy: Isadora Duncan

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Isadora Duncan. This is a short worksheet, three questions, that could be expanded to include a couple more. I expect this would be high-interest material to certain students, so I’ve tagged it as such.

And, of course, Ms. Duncan’s rich life, in the hands of an interested student, is the stuff of a variety of avenues of inquiry, from modern dance to the life of a bohemian, and beyond. Incidentally, did you know that her sister Elizabeth Duncan was also a dancer? Or that her brother Raymond Duncan was as well? Finally, a second brother, Augustin Duncan was an actor and theatrical director who continued to perform and direct even after he had gone blind.

So, a couple of big questions that come out of even this cursory knowledge of the Duncan family are What is an artistic family? and How does an “artistic family” become artistic?

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Cultural Literacy: Haiti

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Haiti. This is a full-page worksheet, so it is suitable, I think, for a number of uses besides the rather limited do-now scope of the shorter, half-page Cultural Literacy worksheets posted on this blog.

Have you, by any chance, read C.L.R. James’s well-regarded history of the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins? I just started it yesterday, and it is all it is reputed to be: classic, at once passionate and analytical, infused with a rich contempt for tyranny, and and endowed with a welcome and edifying scholarly apparatus. I should also mention that Mr. James wrote with verve, and used his gifts as a prose stylist to produce fiction and drama as well.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

The Weekly Text, February 5, 2020, Black History Month 2021 Week I: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Huey P. Newton

Here, for the first Weekly Text in observance of Black History Month 2021, is a reading on Huey P. Newton along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

In the mid-1970s, among my crowd in high school, Huey P. Newton was a bona fide hero. He co-founded, with Bobby Seale (another of our heroes), the Black Panther Party, (a heroic organization), which among many other things, fed breakfast to impoverished children and challenged the kind of police brutality that brings us events like the patently racist and sadistic murder of George Floyd in 2020.

It’s quite possible that your students may know Huey’s name. A panoply of rappers, including Tupac Shakur, Dead Prez, The Flobots, Public Enemy, Ab-Soul, Buddy and A$AP Ferg, and the great Kendrick Lamar have alluded to Huey in their rhymes. Pop artists like St. Vincent, Ramshackle Glory, Bhi Bhiman, and the Boo Radleys have also mentioned Huey in their songs. The character of Huey Freeman in Aaron McGruder’s brilliant comic strip and television show The Boondocks, a favorite of many students I’ve served over the years, is named for Huey P. Newton.

My own personal favorite pop-culture reference to Huey occurs in the 1979 film Richard Pryor: Live in Concertwhich Eddie Murphy regards as the greatest stand-up comedy performance ever captured on film. At the 1:06:54 mark (thanks to Wikipedia for that) of Mr. Pryor’s performance, he calls out to raise the house lights and introduces the audience to Huey P. Newton–who, alas, does not appear on camera.

Finally, I found Spike Lee’s production of Roger Guenveur Smith’s celebrated solo performance in A Huey P. Newton Story to be utterly riveting. Mr. Smith uncannily captures Huey’s deep intellect and abiding compassion, but also his essential shyness and even diffidence. I highly recommend this film.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Term of Art: Atmosphere

“Atmosphere: The mood and feeling, the intangible quality which appeals to extra-sensory as well as sensory perception, evoked by a work of art. For instance, the opening scene in Hamlet where the watch is tense and apprehensive, even “jumpy.” By contrast, the beginning of Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist indicates clearly that the play is going to be comic to the point of knockabout. An excellent example in the novel is Hardy’s depiction of Egdon Heath in The Return of the Native.”

Excerpted from: Cuddon, J.A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. New York: Penguin, 1992.