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Posted by U15531519 (U15531519) on Saturday, 8th December 2012
I need help with choosing a play for my Critical Essay.
My teacher hasn't really given us much to choose from. Can I choose The Merchant of Venice or An Inspector Calls ? I do have others which are considered more suitable for Higher essays but I am familiar with these ones. If my choices are not considered suitable can you give me a few pointers plz
Posted by bitesize_english_teacher (U15197928) on Saturday, 8th December 2012
You are right in saying that these are not ideal plays for Higher level as they are usually studied in S3/4 rather than S5/6. Shakespeare's later tragedies (Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, etc) are more typical choices for Higher.
Neverthless, a well-written Critical Essay on either of the texts you mention could still be suitable for Higher if it contained a high standard of detailed analysis and had clearly constructed paragraphs which used topic sentences to create effective links to the question.
For example, a look at the past papers book shows several questions that would fit 'The Merchant of Venice', such as:
'choose a play which has a theme of revenge'
'choose a play in which a character makes a crucial error'
'choose a play in which one person's flaws can have a significant impact on other people as well as on himself'
Perhaps the key difference between a Higher essay and a Standard Grade/Intermediate one would be that it will show a greater awareness of complexities within the characters - i.e. the essay should not take too simplistic approach.
Thus, if writing about Shylock, you should avoid a simplistic interpretation such as 'Shylock is a villain' or 'Shylock is a victim of prejudice'. While there is plenty of evidence to support each of these views of Shylock, you should show awareness that the issue is not always clear cut: if Shylock suffers from prejudice, he also exhibits it himself (of Antonio he says "I hate him for he is a Christian"). Similarly, if Shylock comes across as a villain we also feel sympathy for him (look at the "Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech, for instance).
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