Russell Kane’s guide to literary classics

When you settle down for an English Lit exam, one thing you’ll want clear in your head are the plots of those set texts.

Who wants to murder whom in Shakespeare’s Macbeth? What exactly were they doing in that house before an inspector called?

To help you keep the facts in order, comedian Russell Kane has recorded these guides to the aforementioned classics especially for Bitesize.

Macbeth in under a minute

Shakespeare’s dark tale of power, witches and thirst for the throne is one of the most celebrated plays in the English language, as well as the source of theatrical superstition (make sure you only refer to it as ‘the Scottish play’ within the walls of a theatre.)

It's got witches, it's got murders, and you mustn't say its name in a theatre.

As Russell says: “Encouraged by his wife, Macbeth kills the king, he kills more people, he kills whoever it takes, fuelled by his paranoia, to become King of Scotland.”

It’s no fairytale then, but if you need to know more about this macabre plot in time for your exam, make sure you check out our guide to Macbeth here.

An Inspector Calls in under a minute

JB Priestley’s play was first performed in 1945 (in Moscow, as a suitable theatre could not be found in London) and involves an engagement party in 1912 where the worst possible guest imaginable pops along to say hello.

Eva Smith is dead and the inspector who interrupts the party needs to find out more.

Russell says: “The ‘Calls’ part of the title refers to a time when people actually went round teach other’s houses, and had human contact instead of just FaceTime… the inspector creates a tense and uncomfortable atmosphere where everyone starts to think how they were involved.”

An Inspector Calls is studied at GCSE as it has important things to say about class, gender and social responsibility, among other topics. You can find out more about it in our Bitesize guide.

These are just two of the texts covered in detail on the Bitesize website. You can find the full list here - and good luck with your exam!

Who was William Shakespeare?
The tremendously tricky theatre quiz
GCSE Drama