AQA · literature · Macbeth · Shakespeare

Y11: Macbeth revision – exam writing slides

Here are the slides we used and produced in the lessons on Thursday.

First the question. Alongside this is a possible way of structuring your response. It’s one way, not THE way. Some of you might find this too restrictive; others like it because it has a neat division between extract and whole: Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 17.24.43

  1. The first thing we did was look at the key words in the question and respond with a few words about the idea of Macbeth as a hero. Is he a hero? Some of you made notes about him as a tragic hero; you also wrote down words such as ‘harmatia’ (fatal flaw); others wrote down ‘protagonist’ as another way of referring to Macbeth’s role in the narrative. In the exam then, make sure you look at the question and think about your own response to it – remember that level 6 answers tend to offer what the examiner calls a ‘conceptualised response’ – in other words, you are able to present your own argument about the question/text/extract and use this to guide your writing throughout your essay.
  2. We then highlighted three to four quotations in the extract that we can write about. You cannot write about everything, so choose your quotes carefully. Make sure that you can say something about how they reveal Macbeth’s character/heroic qualities.
  3. The next thing you did was to think of two or three key points from other parts of the play that illustrate what you want to say about Macbeth: the opening exchanges between the Captain and Duncan (brave Macbeth, well he deserves that name) were popular. I liked Ellen’s comment on the description of Macbeth’s savage evisceration of his enemy: ‘unseamed him from the nave to the chops’. She said that although this shows his prowess in battle, it also shows his utter brutality and that there existed within him something already dark and dangerous. I think it was Harold Bloom (Shakespearean scholar) who said that no-one in Shakespeare’s plays is killed like this. What other details might you refer to? His lack of heroism (after the killing of Duncan; his behaviour at the banquet; Lady Macbeth’s uncertainty about his ability to kill Duncan and her calling him a coward) his arrogance and stubbornness in the light of his increasing isolation; his utter depravity – murdering Macduff’s family, etc
  4. Here’s the example of the first two paragraphs we wrote in class:

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 17.30.53Notice the first paragraph sets out our argument and we get a couple of early points in about the tragic hero which can’t fail to impress the examiner. The second paragraph is our first attempt at analysing a section of the extract. Notice the references to Shakespeare’s methods (use of imperatives as a language device), closer analysis of the word ‘taint’ and I suppose even an implicit structural reference by making a comment about how this links with an earlier part of the play. References to Shakespeare’s audience and the play’s themes also help with AO3.

5. Then we needed to write about another part of the play. Again, it’s important to do this early as the mark scheme explicitly states that failure to engage with both the extract and the whole of the play will limit your mark to level 2. Now, we could argue that by referring to the earlier part of the play at the end of that last paragraph, we’ve satisfied some of the criteria, but we need to be ‘safely thus’ – our fears in the examiner stick deep.

So, in the last paragraph, we made a mention about Macbeth’s arrogance and hubris so we could expand on this in our next paragraph or even contrast it: we did the latter like this: Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 17.30.46Notice how the ideas between the paragraphs have some sort of link – it makes the essay feel more structured. Also, the closer analysis of one aspect of the scene – his refusal to take back the daggers – prevents the answer from becoming a re-telling of the scene. We also included some comments on the presentation of women but tried to say something more than the usual ‘women had no rights in those days’ cliche. Instead, we made a point about how it appears to be the supernatural influence that has upset the order of things. Perhaps we could have included, in that penultimate line, ‘Lady Macbeth’s call on the spirits’ to ‘unsex’ her’ – this would have made the point a little more coherent.

Here’s the mark scheme:

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 17.25.08

Hopefully, this will help you write the rest of the response.

I’ll post some examples here when you hand them in next lesson.

 

 

 

 

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