Articles for Discussion
‘All the world’s a stage’ by William Shakespeare ‘As you like it’ Act II, Scene vii: 142 – 169
Speech made by Jacques to Duke Senior
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloons,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everythihng.”
‘Plague priest is my inspiration to hope’ by Rev Alison Joyce, Rector of St Bride’s Church in Fleet Street, London (Article published in ‘The Times’ April 18th 2020, p. 78)
In recent days I have found myself thinking a great deal about Richard Peirson.
In 1665 the year of the Great Plague, Peirson was the priest here at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, the post that I now hold. Faced with the unimaginable horror of the plague, many clergy fled London. Peirson was one of the few who chose to remain. He stayed at his post, faithfully serving his people as best he could.
Our burial register for the year 1665 makes for startling reading. In the month of September alone, when the plague was at its height, Peirson buried 636 people. He buries whole families; he buries his church officials; he buries unknown and unidentified strangers: some entries read simply: “A child from Kingshead Ally” or “A man from new street”. The symptoms of bubonic plague were horrific; the recovery rate was effectively nil.
I can’t help wondering how Peirson kept going during that year. I wonder what kept him here, quietly and steadfastly ministering to his flock day after dreadful day, when every human instinct within him must have craved escape. And Peirson was not alone. Churches were essential hubs of social care for the most vulnerable.
We live in a time of fear and uncertainty during the present pandemic. And yet, compared with Peirson, I have it easy. I do not have to take hard decisions about whether or not to expose myself to contagion, for the simple reason that I am bound by the same self-distancing rules as everyone else. My pastoral work continues, but these days it is a ministry of telephone calls, emails and Facetime. My rectory is connected to our church, enabling me to keep a candle burning before our main altar and continue a ministry of prayer, including for all journalists, part of our distinctive ministry at St Bride’s. I record sermons, surrounded by empty pews, and yet I am discovering that it is possible to sustain a very real sense of community that is a lifeline, especially for those who are isolated and alone, bored, frustrated, or simply fearful.
It surprises me when people regard the Christian faith as a kind of celestial insurance policy against bad things happening to you. The first followers of Jesus certainly didn’t see it like that. In dedicating their lives to following the crucified and risen Christ they knew that their discipleship would take them into the very heart of dearkness, not away from it. Hope is no hope at all unless it can engage with utter despair and meaninglessness.
Peirson survived the plague. In August 1666 he was succeeded by Paul Boston , just a fortnight before the Great Fire of London destroyed our church. Boston kept the worship going in a tabernacle in our churchyard until the foundations of our present Wren church were laid. In his will he left St Bride’s money to buy new communion silverware, which I use here each Sunday morning (in normal times). When I do so I feel a direct connection with these extraordinary men. And I thank God for them.
Effects of climate change in the UK
Climate change is causing warming across the UK. All of the UK’s 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2002. Heatwaves, like that of summer 2018 are now 30 times more likely to happen due to climate change.
UK winters are predicted to become warmer and wetter on average, although cold and dry winter will still occur sometimes. Summers are projected to become hotter and are more likely to be drier, although wetter summers are also possible. By 2050, heatwaves like that seen in 2019 are expected to happen every other year.
Even if we do reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sea levels around the UK will keep rising beyond 2100. Parts of the UK will be in danger of flooding, with low lying and coastal cities at particular risk.
Heavy rainfall is also more likely. Since 1998, the UK has seen seven of the ten wettest years on record. The winter storms in 2015 were at least 40% more likely because of climate change.
Farming in the UK will be affected by climate change too. Hotter weather and higher levels of CO2 may make growing some crops easier, or even allow us to produce new ones. However, with more droughts expected, water may not be as easy to access, making it harder for farmers to plan the growing season.
Floods, storms and extreme heat can cause damage to buildings, disrupt transport, and affect health. Buildings and infrastructure need to be adapted to cope with the new conditions. Businesses will have to plan around a changing climate. To help the UK understand what climate change means for the nation, the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment is published every 5 years. More details of the future conditions expected for the UK are available in the UK Climate Projections (UKCP18).
This article was written and published by the Met Office on its website: metoffice.gov.uk/weather/climate-change/effects-of-climate-change
William Shakespeare ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ Act III, Scene II: 226 - 242
Enobarbus speaking to Maecenas and Agrippa about Cleopatra
“I will tell you,
The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,
Burn’d on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar’d all description: she did lie
In her pavilion – cloth-of-gold of tissue –
O’er-picturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colour’d fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did.”
Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theorem of thermo-dynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
Written by Revd Martin Luther King Jr. (1926-68)
1. We may not recognise some of the words and phrases used here to describe individual stages in someone’s life, but many are still in use today. Which words and phrases do you find it easy to recognise and why? Do you think they are an accurate depiction of someone growing old?
2. If you were to write your own ‘Seven ages of man’ (or woman), what would be different to this one written by Shakespeare?
3. Shakespeare considers in this passage that life is like being on stage, where we all play a part. If we accept that idea, it suggests that we may simply act a part as we progress through life, rather than being what and who we really are. Why do you think it is important to be true to yourself and not be persuaded to act a part that is not the real you?
- Although this is quite a sombre piece of writing, it is also uplifting. Why do you think that is?
- Why do you think Richard Peirson stayed at the church during the Great Plague?
- The writer of this article, Alison Joyce, says that “hope” (and by that she means Christian hope) “is no hope at all unless it can engage with utter despair and meaninglessness”. How does Christian hope address our feelings of fear, uncertainty and loneliness, which we might be experiencing at this time?
- This article focuses on the effects of climate change on this country. Can you think of some of the measures that have been put in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade?
- If you were advising the directors of a business on how to put plans in place to deal with climate change, what things would you consider or suggest?
- How does transport disruption affect day to day living, especially if it continues for some time? (Think of at least 3 things)
- How can we tell that this poem was written in the 1950s? How has the Advent season
changed during the years since then?
- What pictures do the first five verses paint of Christmas preparations?
- Sir John Betjeman was a practising Christian, and the final three verses pose a question about the real meaning of Christmas. What do you think he is trying to make us think about by his question, which is repeated three times?
- What is the underlying message of this prayer?
- We don’t know when this prayer was written – it could have been at the start of Martin Luther King’s fight for civil liberties, or it could be near the end of his life. Do you think this matters? How do you think his prominence in society would influence the confidence of ordinary people to believe that they could do the same?
- What stops you from believing and doing great things, or from serving people around you?
As you read this article, what emotions does it evoke within you?
If you were in this position, as a stateless refugee, what message would you want to send out to the world?
What responsibility do we have, as citizens, to respond to situations like this?
- From this description, how does the reader know that Enobarbus is talking about an important person?
- The scene describes a journey made by Cleopatra to her lover Antony. How does Shakespeare emphasise this with the words and phrases which are used in this passage?
- Why does he include mythological characters and how does this add to the scene being described?
- This is the opening section of a longer poem and it became famous as it was spoken by King George VI in his Christmas speech in 1939, shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War. What picture or image does it bring to mind as you read these lines?
- At the start of a new year we can never know what lies ahead, but what comfort do you think these words might have brought to people listening at that time, particularly since many of them had loved ones who had been called up to fight?
- There have been other famous speeches made by rulers or leaders, such as the speech made by Elizabeth 1 as the country faced the impending Spanish Armada in 1588, and the speech made by Sir Winston Churchill in June 1940. What words would you use to describe the impact that these speeches would have made on their listeners, or those who read the words later