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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.
SUMMARY OF THE STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT IN MACBETH’S CHARACTER
Reputation at the start (I ii)
Reaction to the prophecies (I iii)
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
Effects of the murder on Macbeth (II ii/ II iii))
(private) Regret; physical/metal/spiritual effects
(public) hypocrisy of his public responses
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.
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
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