Aim: Personal comprehension of the extract via translation.
Activity: This stage achieves its aim by a text translation exercise and group reflection on it. For Stage 2 to work well, Stage 1 needs to have been experienced solidly. Students organize themselves into pairs, and then write out the extract in their own words as accurately as possible. Teachers should guide the students where required as they do this. The point is to get them focusing as intensely as possible on deriving the exact meaning of each line, phrase and word of the passage. Attention to detail and clarity of thought and expression are crucial here. After giving them time to do this, each pair can read out their translations and comment on them within their group. In the pilot run of the Bard Blitz we discovered that student translations are often far more general and semantically casual than the original text. There’s lots of room here for the teacher to guide them to greater precision. Discuss what is lost (eg. poetic beauty) and gained (eg. clarity of meaning) in such an exercise and affirm how important this close reading is for the development of any argument about a text because the writer chose specific words for specific reasons. Successful essays rely on the accuracy and depth of such close reading. Using examples that arise in the groups, note that varied interpretations or translations are possible because of the richness of language and contradictory readings may be equally credible. Ask students to explain why this translation exercise is important.
Using the Table: The translation exercise should be completed without use of the Table. The Extension exercises could benefit from the ‘Characterisation’ and ‘Stagecraft’ columns. The ‘Language’ column may help when reflecting on the loss of poetic language in the translations.
- See if students can individually produce two differing translations of the one part of the extract and discuss how large interpretive ramifications follow from differences in word translation choices;
- Discuss the way the extract and its poetic language contribute to the characterisation of its speaker and other relevant characters (bear in mind the style of other speeches by the speaker; pick one such speech for comparison);
- Explore the significance of the extract in its local context of the wider passage and explore its staging;
- See if students can come up with analogous modern situations and speech genres to match the Shakespearean ones (eg. Claudius and modern moral dilemmas; Gertrude and daydreaming or lamenting the dead in elegy; Hamlet and depression or processing family problems).