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If you were directing 'Educating Rita', how would you seek to achieve the humour for an Audience?

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Elegy What is this? In a simple sense it's a text about a dead person, or, in this case, persons. Before we look at this particular elegy I want us to think about memorial writing in general. It's clearly quite an important part of a social organisation-the way we control and manage death. And it's also an insight into the way we think about individuals in a wide variety of social contexts: * Grand memorial elegies * Small personal ones we place in newspapers, little poems * Obituaries * Letters of consolation in which the writer sets down memories of the dead person * Epitaphs on headstones and plaques We can recognise in all of these there is no direct contact between the writing and the dead person. We can see this in three ways: 1. Our awareness that this is a special kind of writing that cannot exist without the absence of the death person 2. Our acceptance of the intertextual nature of this writing: that there is a way of doing it which takes its meaning from other similar kinds of writing. An official obituary is very formal and stylised. The more unofficial kink in the newspaper columns is also extremely generic. 3. Our sense that the death of a person distances us from them and allows us to make sense of them as a person But what if we thought about this from another angle. Suppose we consider the possibility that memorial writing is not really a special kind of writing but in fact the norm? That all writing is memorial writing that assumes the death (or absence) of its referents? That even when people are alive this is so confusing that we secretly have to pretend that they are dead in order to make sense of them? This would be very different from memorial writing as replacing someone who used to be present. ...read more.


Thirdly, the narrator suggests that his unimportant, out-of-power country dead lived morally better lives by being untempted to commit murder or act cruelly. Last, "uncouth rhymes," "shapeless sculpture," and "many a holy text" that characterize their "frail" cemetery memorials, and even those markers with only a simple name and age at death, "spelt by th' unlettered muse" (81), serve the important universal human needs: to prompt "the passing tribute of a sigh" (80) and to "teach the rustic moralist to die" (84). In the next three stanzas, the narrator -- the "me" who with darkness takes over the world at sunset (4) -- finally reveals why he is in the cemetery, telling the "artless tale" of the "unhonour'd Dead" (93). He is one of them. Like the "rude Forefathers" among whom he is found, the narrator ghost is "to Fortune and to Fame unknown" (118). Like anyone who "This pleasing anxious being e'er resigned," he -- in this narrative itself -- casts "one longing, ling'ring look behind" to life (86-88). As he says, "Ev'n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries" (91). He tells us the literal truth in saying, "Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires" (92). These fires appear in his ashes, which speak this elegy. He anticipates this astounding confession earlier in saying: Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire; Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd, or wak'd to ecstasy the living lyre. As Nature's voice from the dead, the "living lyre," he addresses himself in the past tense as having passed on, as of course he did. Should some "kindred spirit" ask about his "fate," that of the one who describes the dead "in these lines," an old "swain" (shepherd) might describe his last days. If so, he would have seen, with "another" person, the narrator's bier carried towards the church and his epitaph "Grav'd on the stone" (116). ...read more.


24. Village-Hampden: Allusion to John Hampden (1594-1643), who refused to pay an unfair tax imposed by the king and later died in battle in the English Civil Wars (1642-1651). 25. Milton: Allusion to the great English poet, John Milton (1608-1674). 26. Th'applause . . . eyes: If these buried people had had a chance, they could have made politicians in a senate listen to them, comforted people threatened by pain and ruin, provided great bounty for their nation, and earned a place in history books. 27. Their lot . . . mankind: Because they were deprived of power, the buried people were also deprived of the temptation to commit wrongs, such as murdering their way to a throne and deny mercy to worthy people. 28. The struggling . . . flame: The buried people didn't have to lie or perform deeds that brought shame upon them. Nor did they hire writers to pen great stories about them. 29. Madding: Raving, frenzied, maddening; in an uproar. Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) wrote a novel with the title Far From the Madding Crowd. 30. Yet . . . sigh: These humble people do have tombstones decorated with the words of an amateur writer and the pictures of an amateur sculptor. 31: Unletter'd muse: Muse is an allusion to nine goddesses in Greek mythology. They inspired people to write, sing and dance. Muse is used here metaphorically to refer to a writer inspired to record his thoughts about the people buried in the cemetery. However, the adjective unletter'd indicates that he is an uneducated writer, perhaps a humble member of the community like those buried in the cemetery. 32. Thee: Gray himself. 33. Some kindred . . .fate: Gray is wondering what people would say about him if he died. 34. Haply . . . lawn: Here Gray begins to speculate about how people would assess him after he dies. 35. Listless length: His body 36: Pore upon: Gaze upon; look upon. 37. The Epitaph: Here Gray writes his own epitaph (inscription on a tomb). ...read more.

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