ENGL 204 / ENGL 331 / ENGL 339
Dr. Debora B. Schwartz
English Department, California Polytechnic State University
 
 

Humanist Education: ENGLISH GRAMMAR SCHOOL
("A little Latin and less Greek")

Schoolmasters at King's New School of Stratford upon Avon (where Shakespeare was educated) made 20 Pounds a year and received a dwelling -- slightly more than their counterparts at Eton. Most had a B.A. or M.A. from Oxford.

A child entering at the age of five probably passed his first two or three years at a "petty school" attached to the Grammar School where he mastered the alphabet and learned the rudiments of reading and writing. Grammar school met daily except Sundays from 7:00 to 11:00 and from 1:00 to 5:00.

Lower grammar school (first three years): memorization of Lilie's Grammar. This grammar along with the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer were books every educated Englishman knew. By the end of the third year, student had mastered syntaxis, figura, prosodia -- i.e., could parse (=diagram) Latin sentences, recognized grammatical parts, knew how to vary sentences artfully by changing the diction or the order of words, and was able to scan Latin verse in various meters.

Curriculum: New Testament, Proverbs, Eclogues (1503) of Baptista Spagnuoli (Mantuan), Six Books of Sacred Dialogues for the Improvement of the Language and Morals of Children, Colloquies of Vives and Erasmus. All read in LATIN, not English.

Upper Grammar School. 4th form: Rhetoric. Student learned to identify the numerous rhetorical figures (figures of words; sentences; figures of thought) and to distinguish figures from tropes. If Greek was offered, it was started in the fourth form. Composition of elegant letters began.

Curriculum: Comedies of Terence; serious inquiry into Ovid's Metamorphoses. Method: Each scholar had to memorize half a dozen verses, then construe the passage verbatim, parse it grammatically, list all the tropes and figures, give the derivations of words, show knowledge of Latin vocabulary by finding synonyms, and scan each verse for meter. Next, student translated the Latin passage into elegant English prose, closed the Latin book , and translated the English translation back into Latin. (This is the famous "double translation" advocated by Roger Ascham.) Finally, student translated Latin passage again, this time into English verse.

5th form: Comparative Latin and Greek grammar. Oratory, esp. Demosthenes, Isocrates, and Cicero. The schoolmasters felt that after working with the students on the Eclogues and Georgics of Virgil, the students could be left to themselves for the Aeneid.

Curriculum: commonly taught from an anthology containing brief and pointedly moral histories out of Plutarch, Livy, and Pliny, fables, adages, emblems, proverbs, etc. This book was subdivided into sections:

1) collection of witty sayings
2) record of rhetorical ornaments
3) list of descriptions of things "natural and artifical."
Students also used "Flowers of rhetoric," collections of particularly apt poetry or lines on certain topics, as well as dictionaries, partly encyclopedic (containing a summary of allegory, myth, and facts about a given topic).

6th form: Homer ("father of poetry"), Pindar, Euripides, Sophocles, and Aristophanes in Greek. Students perfected their Latin with Horace, Lucan, Martial, Persius, and Seneca. For fun, they read Plautus. Imitation of Pliny's Panegyrics and speeches of Cicero and Quintilian. Finally, they practiced their poetic appreciation by composing epitaphs and eclogues in English, Latin, and Greek.

(Based on Rev. Charles Hoole, New Discovery of the Old Art of Teaching Schools [1660], which discusses the pedagogic methods "commonly practiced in England and foreign countries."  Summary adapted from Jean Brink's.)
 

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