Wednesday, March 19, 2008

8th Graders get a lesson in tragic flaws

Well, you have to admit, MPH does certainly promote critical thinking and heady ideas, even in the middle school. Check out the amazing lessons Bill Preston has been doing in his English 8 class with the comparison of MacBeth and Spitzer. Very thoughtful and important stuff...

Toil and trouble: Students discuss Spitzer's tragic flaw Tuesday, March 18, 2008
By Elizabeth Doran
Staff writer
What do former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Shakespearean tragic figure Macbeth have in common?

A lot, according to Manlius Pebble Hill eighth-grade teacher Bill Preston, who's been teaching his students how Spitzer's fall relates to Macbeth, the tragic central figure in the Shakespeare play of the same name.

Media accounts have portrayed Spitzer as the central figure in a Greek tragedy, but Preston assures his students that's inaccurate. Greek tragedies involve the anger or amusement of the gods or fate.

"Either you ticked off a god, who then made sure you paid, or you did something terrible that had repercussions in the future in divine payback," Preston said.

In Shakespearean tragedies, a gaping character flaw leads to the character's ultimate downfall, he said.

"The Spitzer matter is Shakespearean tragedy. Everyone has a crack or flaw in his or her character. It becomes a tragic flaw when it expands to become your entire personality and ultimately destroys you," he said.

Macbeth undergoes dramatic changes as he lusts for power, his bravery and loyalty evaporating as he becomes evil and murderous in his quest to be king.

Eighth-grader Polly Englot said the class talked Tuesday about the parallels between the main characters in the play and the scandal.

"Both Spitzer and Macbeth had character flaws that led to their downfall," she said. "Macbeth's desire to have more power led him to kill the king, and Spitzer's flaw was that he was so comfortable with his power he thought he could get away with anything."

Spitzer's confidence in his power led to his demise, just as Macbeth's yearning for absolute power caused him to do horrible things like kill the king, said student Mark Berger, 14.

"It's showed me you have to notice your flaws so they don't wind up hurting you," he said.

Spitzer resigned as governor effective Monday after being linked to a high-priced prostitution ring.

Elizabeth Doran can be reached at or 470-3012

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