Poetry Aloud – Learning a Poem

Good luck to the students who have entered the Poetry Aloud 2013 Competition. The seniors are busy working on their set poem ‘Postscript’ by Seamus Heaney as well as their selected poem. In order to memorise a poem, the most traditional and fool-proof method is repetition – first line by line, then two lines together and so on. Here is a slideshow of ‘Postscript’, with various words and phrases missing at different points in the poem, that might help seniors memorise the poem. Make your own slideshow of another poem, if you think this method is helpful.
Postscript – Learn It!

‘Romeo and Juliet’ audiobook

For any student struggling to read ‘Romeo and Juliet’, here is the audiobook version. There are no images here (as there would be in a film version), but rather the text appears on screen as it is read by actors.

Another option for students who like to listen to the text being read is to download the audiobook to your mp3 player and listen to it in the car, while out walking or while reading along with the text yourself.

Sonnets, Shakespeare and Iambic Pentameter

While studying the poetry of  Shakespeare, we are becoming familiar with the sonnet form. At the moment we are focussing on one of the most famous love poems of all time: Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 often referred to by its first line, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” It is a beautiful poem written to the Fair Youth dealing with the loveliness of the beloved, the effect time has on all and the power of poetry to immortalise the beloved. This is captured n 14 lines written in iambic pentameter and following a strict rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg.

Let’s refresh ourselves on what iambic pentameter is. In simple terms it is a line of verse with ten syllables grouped into pairs. Each pair of syllables has one soft and one strong beat.  Each pair is called an IAMB and there FIVE pairs – that’s why each line of 5 pairs is called IAMBIC PENTAMETER.  The rhythm in each line sounds like:

ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM
Here are some famous lines written in iambic pentameter:
If music be the food of love , play on.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
You’ll notice that each pair of syllables is made up of one unstressed and one stressed beat (ba-BUM).
Here are some good attempts by students at the college of iambic pentameter: Here is Jasper’s quatrain:
“Everyone wants to go out for fun
Wanna see the clouds, trees, and the nice sky
To play golf or take a bath in the sun
Go high above the trees and clouds and fly!”
Super work Jasper and great rhyme scheme!
Dennis also wrote a quatrain, while Jaime went full steam ahead and wrote an entire sonnet in iambic pentameter following the correct rhyme scheme!
Dennis’s Quatrain

Jaime’s Sonnet

Macbeth’s horrific deeds


You are currently preparing the following essay:

Describe any two of Macbeth’s most horrific deeds in the course of the play.

Here are some of the deeds that you may have chosen to write about:

  • The murder of Duncan (Act 2 Scene 2)
  • The murder of Banquo (Act 3 Scene 1)
  • Macbeth’s seeking out of the Witches (Act 4 Scene 1)
  • The murder of Lady Macduff and her son (Act 4 Scene 2)

Remeber to fully explain why they are horrific deeds and to include plenty of quotation in your notes so that you will be able to use them in your answer.

‘Romeo and Juliet’ – The Prologue

In your study of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, be sure that you can answer the following questions on The Prologue:

  1. Who speaks The Prologue?
  2. What is the purpose of The Prologue?
  3. What poetic form does it take?
  4. Explain the importance of lines 5 and 6.
  5. Why does Shakespeare tell us how the story is going to end and what effect does this have on the audience?
  6. What themes are established in The Prologue?

What quotations should you know from the Prologue? You should really know the whole Prologue off-by-heart. It is a sonnet and 14 lines should not present too much of a challenge.  Perhaps the most crucial phrases from are as follows:

‘star-crossed lovers’


‘death-marked love’

More on ‘Macbeth’

Here are some links worth checking out if you are studying ‘Macbeth’:

Bitsize covers the basics

More basics from Sparknotes

A clip about the character of Lady Macbeth

 Some challenging stuff from the RSC

More excellent work from the BBC

Historical and political background of ‘How Many Miles to Babylon?’

‘How Many Miles to Babylon?’ is set in the early 1900s until the early part of the First World War. At this time, Ireland was under British rule.
John Redmond was the leader of the Home Rule Party from 1900 until he died in 1918. The Home Rule Party wanted Ireland to be allowed to govern herself but did not seek independence from Britain. It did not support the use of violence.
Home Rulers had many opponents. The Ulster Volunteers were formed in 1913 in order to prevent Home Rule, even using violence if necessary. In southern Ireland the Irish National Volunteers were formed. They wanted more than Home Rule.
The Home Rule Bill was passed by the British Parliament in September 1918 but it was agreed that it would not come into effect until the war was over. At this time John Redmond asked the Irish National Volunteers to join the British army and support the war movement. He believed this would help the the Home Rule Bill gain popularity in Britain. The Ulster Volunteers also wanted their supporters to support Britain. Over 200,000 Irish men fought in the First World War. Many joined simply for economic reasons.
One of Redmond’s opponents was Padraig Pearse. He supported Home Rule at first  but soon began to believe that Ireland would never gain independence from Britain while so many people in Ulster opposed it. When war broke out in 1914 Pearse and his supporters saw an opportunity for Irish rebellion while the British were busy fighting in Europe. He became one of the leaders of a group which split from Redmond and began to prepare for insurrection.