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Exploring Context in 'London'

In this worksheet, students will learn to explore the context in 'London' and understand a little bit about Blake's background and the nature of the poem.

'Exploring Context in 'London'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA, Pearson Edexcel

Curriculum topic:   Poetry, Poetry Anthology Collections

Curriculum subtopic:   Power and Conflict: 'London', Time and Place: 'London'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Always wanted to practice your understanding of context in 'London'?

 

Thought bubble

 

Well, you've come to the right place! 

 

This activity is quite simple. We're going to be looking at the background of the poem, the themes that Blake uses and how they link to the context of his life and background. Blake (1757-1827) was considered pretty crazy by his contemporaries for his revolutionary views. Not only was he hostile towards religion, despite being a Christian, he was quite hostile towards the government for the way it rejected the poor. London, in Blake's time, was undergoing quite a big industrial revolution; many people lost their jobs and fell to poverty. Blake was also a romantic poet; romanticism meant the rejection of organised society and a focus on nature, feelings and emotions instead.

 

As you do this activity, jot down some important facts that you notice along the way. It'll be really helpful for your exam, and your general knowledge.

 

 

 

 

Just a reminder: context is the background, environment and setting of a poem. 

Tick the one quote from below which shows that Blake was against the church.

 

 

"In every cry of man"

"Every black'ning church appalls"

"How the youthful harlots curse..."

Blake was a radical, which meant he was against the monarchy (and the government). 

 

Just a little info: around the time of this poem, the French revolution had taken place and aristocrats were being killed left right and centre! This was influencing social unrest in England; London had a MASSIVE gap between rich and poor.

 

What one quote from below really showcases Blake's hatred of aristocrats. Pick a number and write it in the box below.

 

 

1. "Marks of weakness, marks of woe"

2. "And mark in every face I meet"

3. "Runs in blood down the palace walls"

What can we infer about the overall meaning of the poem?

 

Tick the three answers that you think are the most logical.

The poem is about the joys of being rich

The poem is about the joys of being a middle class poet

The poem is about government/church institutions failing the poor people of London

The poem is about the cyclical and confined nature of poverty

The poem brings awareness to the sufferings of the lower-class due to upper-class corruption

Why is it important for us to know that this poem was written not long after the French Revolution?

 

Pick one number out of the options below:

 

1. Because the poem is set in France.

2. Because the poem is a message to readers about the social unrest and poverty in London, which could end up turning into a revolution if things don't change.

3. Because the poem is telling a story about the lower-class people of London.

Blake uses the adjective "chartered" to emphasise government control. Why do you think he did this?

 

The adjective is used to show that the government provides comfort and security

The adjective is used to highlight the government's failed responsibility in protecting the poor people of London

The adjective is used to highlight the social gap between rich and poor

What one quote illustrates Blake's empathy for the suffering of the poor? 

 

(Empathy: the ability to understand and share feelings of others)

 

 

"Marks of weakness, marks of woe"

"I wander through each charted street"

"Every black'ning church appalls"

Match each contextual idea with a quote from the poem.

Column A

Column B

Loss of innocence
"Runs in blood down the palace walls"
Warning about revolution
"Where the chartered Thames does flow... marks of ...
Failure of the government
"Youthful harlots curse"

Once more! Match each contextual idea with a quote from the poem.

Column A

Column B

Failure and corruption of religious institutions
"Mind-forged manacles"
Empathy and alignment with poor
"How the chimney-sweeper's cry"
Government control
"Every black'ning church appalls"

Tick one theme that's not in the poem.

 

Pain/suffering

Confinement

Social mobility

What idea from the options below seems to be the most important one in the poem?

 

That the government is terrible

That poverty is terrible

That the French Revolution was a good thing

That social unrest and confinement of the poor will result in pain and suffering for all

That everyone is equal

  • Question 1

Tick the one quote from below which shows that Blake was against the church.

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Every black'ning church appalls"
EDDIE SAYS
Blake clearly looked down on the organised church teachings- mainly because, as the poem shows us, the church failed in helping the poorer people in society. Orphans, at the time, were the responsibility of the church. But many of them were sent to be chimney sweeps, who were subjected to awful conditions with horrible consequences - like suffocating in chimneys, early death due to soot in the lungs and even being burnt alive.
  • Question 2

Blake was a radical, which meant he was against the monarchy (and the government). 

 

Just a little info: around the time of this poem, the French revolution had taken place and aristocrats were being killed left right and centre! This was influencing social unrest in England; London had a MASSIVE gap between rich and poor.

 

What one quote from below really showcases Blake's hatred of aristocrats. Pick a number and write it in the box below.

 

 

1. "Marks of weakness, marks of woe"

2. "And mark in every face I meet"

3. "Runs in blood down the palace walls"

CORRECT ANSWER
3
EDDIE SAYS
Well done if you chose option three! The metaphor of the blood running down palace walls is the clue that Blake is blaming the aristocrats who live in those palaces, for the deaths of soldiers and chimney sweeps.
  • Question 3

What can we infer about the overall meaning of the poem?

 

Tick the three answers that you think are the most logical.

CORRECT ANSWER
The poem is about government/church institutions failing the poor people of London
The poem is about the cyclical and confined nature of poverty
The poem brings awareness to the sufferings of the lower-class due to upper-class corruption
EDDIE SAYS
Blake's radical views really show in this poem- Blake begins the poem addressing the "chartered" (government controlled) streets of London and the suffering and woe of the lower class who live on those very streets. There's definitely a sense that Blake is blaming the government/church/aristocracy for neglecting the poor people of London. There's also a strong sense of entrapment and confinement in the poem- the lower class are subjected to this cyclical suffering, over and over.
  • Question 4

Why is it important for us to know that this poem was written not long after the French Revolution?

 

Pick one number out of the options below:

 

1. Because the poem is set in France.

2. Because the poem is a message to readers about the social unrest and poverty in London, which could end up turning into a revolution if things don't change.

3. Because the poem is telling a story about the lower-class people of London.

CORRECT ANSWER
2
EDDIE SAYS
The poem seems to be influenced by the effects of the French Revolution, almost warning aristocratic/upperclass readers about the negative effects of poverty. This is especially important when we analyse the quote "runs in blood down palace walls"- this could be seen as a direct metaphorical reference to the French Revolution, where the people of Paris stormed the Palace of Versaille to take King Louis and Marie-Antoinette.
  • Question 5

Blake uses the adjective "chartered" to emphasise government control. Why do you think he did this?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The adjective is used to highlight the government's failed responsibility in protecting the poor people of London
EDDIE SAYS
Is this getting easier? The adjective emphasises how controlling the government was- everything was "chartered" - controlled by the government. In a sense, this adjective highlights how the government failed in its responsibilities even further, because it shows how tightly it controlled the streets, but wilfully ignored the suffering of the people on those streets!
  • Question 6

What one quote illustrates Blake's empathy for the suffering of the poor? 

 

(Empathy: the ability to understand and share feelings of others)

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Marks of weakness, marks of woe"
EDDIE SAYS
The first quote highlights Blake's empathy for the suffering of the lower-class. He aligns himself with the poor people.
  • Question 7

Match each contextual idea with a quote from the poem.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Loss of innocence
"Youthful harlots curse"
Warning about revolution
"Runs in blood down the palace wa...
Failure of the government
"Where the chartered Thames does ...
EDDIE SAYS
Think about the overall meaning of the poem and what tone you think it conveys about Blake's feelings/radicalism? What do you think he's trying to convey about upper class responsibility?
  • Question 8

Once more! Match each contextual idea with a quote from the poem.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Failure and corruption of religio...
"Every black'ning church appalls"
Empathy and alignment with poor
"How the chimney-sweeper's cry"
Government control
"Mind-forged manacles"
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? This idea of linking meaning to quote really enhances our understanding of contextual ideas.
  • Question 9

Tick one theme that's not in the poem.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Social mobility
EDDIE SAYS
A tricky one! Hopefully, you know what social mobility means. If not, you've learnt it now! Social mobility is movement between social classes. So, a lower-class person moving up to become middle-class is an example of social mobility. Blake's not really showing this, though. He's actually highlighting the opposite. The lower-class are trapped in their poverty, unable to move up, due to the corruption of the upper-class, who are keeping them in these awful conditions.
  • Question 10

What idea from the options below seems to be the most important one in the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
That social unrest and confinement of the poor will result in pain and suffering for all
EDDIE SAYS
Thinking about overall themes gives us a sense of context and understanding the simple- from there, we can understand the more complicated way that these themes are shown. In 'London' we see how the sufferings of the lower-class are used to almost threaten the middle and upper-class (who would have been the ones reading the poem- back then, poor people had little to no education and probably couldn't read). Blake's insinuating that London might go the way of Paris- a revolution might occur if the upper-class aren't more considerate and caring of the lower-class people. Remember, radicalism in England started due to the French Revolution. So, Blake's radicalism and belief that change needed to occur was definitely influenced by the French Revolution and hinted at within the poem. Well done for completing this activity! Do you feel smarter now?
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