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  • Message 1. 

    Posted by bitesize_english_teacher (U15197928) on Wednesday, 21st November 2012

    Over the last few months you will have built up a collection of detailed notes on your play, novel and poetry texts.

    In a critical essay you must back up your points with plenty of detailed evidence and quotations.

    However, as you will know, it is difficult to learn up large amounts of material and sitting for hours re-reading pages and pages of notes rarely works.

    Try laying out notes with as many sub-headings, bullet points, numbers, etc to make the material more easily digested in small ‘bites’.

    Then, reduce your notes on a text to a single sheet of paper listing only the main headings and sub-headings. This will be easier to memorise and the headings should help you recall the detailed back-up material.

    As an example of how to do this, here is a revision list on the character of Macbeth, covering the main stages of his development in each act.


    Act One
    Reputation at the start (I ii)
    · bravery/loyalty

    Reaction to the prophecies (I iii)
    Initial disbelief
    Emergence of ambition
    Considers killing Duncan
    Decides to leave things to chance
    Changes his mind when Duncan names Malcolm as his heir

    Reaches a decision (I vii)
    Soliloquy: reasons why he should not kill the king
    Lady Macbeth uses various methods of persuasion
    ‘I am settled’: agrees to go along with her plan, fully aware that he is doing wrong

    Act Two
    Effects of the murder on Macbeth (II ii/ II iii))
    (private) Regret; physical/metal/spiritual effects
    (public) hypocrisy of his public responses

    Act Three
    III i: Macbeth and Banquo
    Realisation that ‘to be thus is nothing but to be safely thus’
    Persuades murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance (parallels with Lady Macbeth’s persuasion in I vii)

    III ii: Macbeth and Lady Macbeth
    Effect on their marriage (‘be innocent of the knowledge’, etc)

    III iv: Banquet Scene
    A dramatic representation of his isolation
    Turning point at the end: ‘for mine own good/All causes shall give way’. Succeeds in suppressing his conscience; only self-preservation matters to him now.

    Act Four
    Macbeth’s second encounter with the witches
    Different attitude compared to first meeting

    Three new prophecies
    Decision to have Macduff’s family murdered: an act of brutality that completely alienates the audience

    Act Five
    Clings to faith in prophecies
    Tires of constant struggle to hold onto power (‘I have lived long enough’)
    Reaction to death of Lady Macbeth (‘She should have died hereafter’)
    Loss of the will to live (‘Tomorrow and tomorrow’ speech)
    Fulfilment of prophecies in a way he did not expect

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