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E - Abitur - Arbeit Nr. 9

ENGLISCH > ARBEITEN > Abitur
 

Birnam Wood

 



John Updike, The Same Door, 1956, (extract)

        When Gloria [...] had taken her seat, and Peter had swerved into his, Mr
        Prosser said, 'Peter Forrester.' 'Yes ?' Peter rose, scrabbling through his book
        for the right place. 'Kindly tell the class the exact meaning of the words '
        Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty face from day
05     to day". 'Peter glanced down at the high-school edition of  Macbeth lying open
        on his desk. One of the duller girls tittered expectantly from the back of the
        room. Peter was popular with the girls; girls that age had minds like moths.
        'Peter. With your book shut we have all memorized this passage for today.
        Remember ?' The girl in the back of the room squealed in delight. Gloria  
10     laid her own book face-open on her desk, where Peter could see it. Peter shut
        his book with a bang and stared into Gloria's. 'Why,' he said at last, 'I think it
        means pretty much what it says.'  'Which is?' 'Why, that tomorrow is something
         we often think about. It creeps into our conversation all the time.
        We couldn't make any plans without thinking about tomorrow.' 'I see. Then
15     you would say that  Macbeth is here referring to the, the date-book aspect of
        life ?' Geoffrey Langer laughed, no doubt to please Mr Prosser. For a moment,
        he was pleased. Then he realized he had been playing for laughs at a student's  
        expense. His paraphrase had made Peter's reading of the lines seem more
        ridiculous than it was. He began to retract. 'I admit ...' But Peter was going
20     on; redheads never know when to quit. ' Macbeth means that if we quit  
        worrying about tomorrow, and just live for today, we could appreciate all the
        wonderful things that are going on under our noses.' Mark considered this a
        moment before he spoke. He would not be sarcastic. 'Uh, without denying  
        that there is truth in what you say, Peter, do you think it likely that  Macbeth,
25     in his situation, would be expressing such' - he couldn't help himself - 'such
        sunny sentiments ?' Geoffrey laughed again. Peter's neck reddened; he studied
        the floor. Gloria glared at Mr Prosser, the indignation in her face clearly
        meant for him to see. Mark hurried to undo his mistake. 'Don't misunderstand
        me, please,' he told Peter. 'I don't have all the answers myself. But it seems to
30     me the whole speech, down to "Signifying nothing", is saying that life is - well,
        a fraud. Nothing wonderful about it.' 'Did Shakespeare really think
        that ?' Geoffrey Langer asked,  a nervous quickness pitching his voice high.
        Mark read into Geoffrey's question his own adolescent premonitions of the
        terrible truth. The attempt he must make was plain. He told Peter he could sit
35     down and looked through the window towards the steadying sky. The clouds
        were gaining intensity. 'There is,' Mr Prosser slowly began, 'much darkness in
        Shakespeare's work, and no play is darker than  Macbeth. The atmosphere is
        poisonous, oppressive. One critic has said that in this play, humanity
        suffocates.' He felt himself in danger of suffocating, and cleared his throat. 'In
40     the middle of his career, Shakespeare wrote plays about men like Hamlet and
        Othello and  Macbeth - men who aren't allowed by their society, or bad luck,
        or some minor flaw in themselves, to become the great men they might have
        been. Even Shakespeare's comedies of this period deal with a world gone sour.
        It is as if he had seen through the bright, bold surface of his earlier
45     comedies and histories and had looked upon something terrible. It frightened
        him, just as some day it may frighten some of you.' In his determination to
        find the right words, he had been staring at Gloria, without meaning to.
        Embarrassed, she nodded, and, realizing what had happened, he smiled at
        her. He tried to make his remarks gentle, even diffident. 'But  then I think
50     Shakespeare sensed a redeeming truth. His last plays are serene and
        symbolical, as if he had pierced through the ugly facts and reached  the realm
        where the facts are again beautiful. In this way, Shakespeare's total work is a
        more complete image of life than that of any other writer, except perhaps for
        Dante, an Italian poet who wrote several centuries earlier.' He had been
55     taken far from the  Macbeth soliloquy. Other teachers had been happy to tell
        him how the kids made a game of getting him 'going'. He looked towards
        Geoffrey. The boys were doodling on his tablet, indifferent. Mr Prosser
        concluded, 'The last play Shakespeare wrote is an extraordinary poem  
        called The Tempest. Some of you may want to read it for your next book
60     reports - the ones due May 10th. It's a short play.' ...

(about 780 words)



Assignments


1. Comprehension

Read all the questions first, then answer them in the given order. Use your own words as far as is appropriate.

1.1. Where does the story take place?
1.2. Which characters are introduced ? What do we learn about these characters?
1.3. Mark Prosser reacts twice to Peter's answers; explain his comments
1.3.1. "the date-book aspect of life" (ll. 15 + 16)
1.3.2. "such sunny sentiments" (ll. 25 + 26).
1.4. What is Geoffrey's reaction to Prosser's explanation of the speech as meaning that life is a "fraud" (ll. 30 + 31)?
1.5.  According to Prosser, is there only "darkness" in Shakespeare's work?

2. Analysis and discussion

2.1. Find an adequate heading for the given extract from John Updike's novel.
2.2. What is Prosser's function in the story?
2.3. Give your own short interpretation of the quote from Shakespeare's  Macbeth:
                               "She should have died hereafter;
                                There would have been a time for such a word.
                                Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
                                Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
                                To the last syllable of recorded time;
                               And all our yesterdays have lighted fools  
                                The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle !
                                Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
                                That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
                                And then is heard no more; it is a tale
                                Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
                                Signifying nothing."
                               (W. Shakespeare,  Macbeth, Act V, scene 5)
2.4. Give an account of the part played by the supernatural in  Macbeth. Do not write more than 150 words.
2.5. Point out why you liked or disliked Shakespeare's Macbeth.

 
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