You must prepare your bosom for his knife,
said Portia to Antonio in which
of Shakespeare’s Comedies? Who killed his wife,
insane with jealousy? And which Scots witch
knew Something wicked this way comes? Who said
Is this a dagger which I see? Which Tragedy?
Whose blade was drawn which led to Tybalt’s death?
To whom did dying Caesar say Et tu? And why?
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark – do you
know what this means? Explain how poetry
pursues the human like the smitten moon
above the weeping, laughing earth; how we
make prayers of it. Nothing will come of nothing:
speak again. Said by which King? You may begin.
Carol Ann Duffy
Printed in The Guardian, 6 September 2008
On December 7, the lunchtime poem was Education for Leisure by Carol Ann Duffy. In 2008, the poem was withdrawn from the school curriculum on the grounds it incited knife violence. Today’s poem is the poet’s response.
Duffy points out the instances of violence in the plays of Shakespeare, many of which are still studied at school. How effective is the argument Duffy makes? Is the education curriculum the best place for dealing with complex issues like knife crime? Is poetry the right format for difficult subjects? Share your thoughts by using the comment feature.
This is the last lunchtime poem for 2016. We’ll be back in January with more poetry for your mid-week consumption. In the meantime, seasonal greetings and the very best of wishes for a peaceful new year.