This Spring I set my Year 11s a tricky little question for their Edexcel Certificate mock English Lit exam: A comparison of the treatment of love in His Last Duchess and La Belle Dame Sans Merci.
I chose the two longest poems in the Anthology, and the two that they had found the most opaque, precisely because I hoped they would find the question hard. I believe it is a valid question and since the two poems have not yet been examined from Anthology C, I thought it worth while.
I attach a Powerpoint used as part of a give back… a screencast may follow when i have the time!
I had been disappointed by how many students simply had forgotten the two poems – many thinking that the Duke was utterly justified in his behaviour because the Duchess must have been unfaithful. Echoes of MAAN became hard to miss, but with the Duke as a wronged Claudio rather than an arrogant and domineering husband who treats his wife and love in general as a business transaction. The treatment of Belle Dame, tended to miss the Gothic decay of the surroundings and the focus tended to be on the woman and miss the idea that men are their own worst enemies – he is warned, but persists!
Anyway, have fun.