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Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair

Year 10 have there Macbeth assessment coming up and a number of students are experiencing the last minute panic that hits everyone before an assessment.

Here, I'll go through a range of things that may help you.

Presentation is key in Literature - in fact you will see the word 'present' in most GCSE literature questions.

How does the writer present growing up?

Explore the ways writers present love in....

Addressing the 'present' in the question is as key to your success as developing an answer about love or growing up. Present really translates as 'use devices to highlight'.

How does the writer present (use devices to highlight) growing up?

The writer highlights the character growing up through the use of metaphor. This is conveyed in 'suddenly before her eyes, her young boy was a man' which develops the idea of the speed of growing up through the use of the words 'suddenly' and the metaphoric transformation of boy to man 'before here eyes.

Here is an analytical answer covering the 'presents' in picking out devices engaging with language as well as answering the question about growing up.

So Browning and Shakespeare - what devices do they use?

Shakespeare is the master of imagery, rhythm and structure. The man was a genius in painting pictures with words:

'Plucked my nipples from it's boneless gums and dashed the brains out had I so sworn as you'

Here the image of a mother in the most tender and intimate moment with an infant is destroyed by the violence of the word 'dashed' effectively crushing any of the femininity Lady Macbeth wanted to remove from herself in Act 1 Scene 5.

As you track Lady Macbeth throughout the play you notice the images that she conjures surround Gender, Violence, Guilt and the Supernatural. This imagery is key to her presentation.

In the structure of the play Shakespeare crafts Dramatic Irony to shock the audience by the power, deceit and cruelty Lady Macbeth embodies in the early Acts of the play. Her 'playing' of the hostess in Act 1 Scene 6 and pretence of her weak feminine side in Act 2 Scene 3 develop her as manipulative and cunning. Then there is the scene in between with stichomythia highlighting the first signs of weakness within her in Act 2 Scene 2.

As with his use of structure, Shakespeare's use of Soliloquy highlights Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's vulnerability and give the audience the first hints of suspicion from the rest of the cast. Soliloquy is vital in clarifying the motivation and the opinions of the characters. With all the deceit in the scene's with Dramatic Irony without Soliloquy the audience would struggle to keep up with who wants to stab whom and who really thinks what.

Finally, the subtle changes in verse in the scenes: Lady Macbeth's use of Blank Verse as she grows in power to Rhymed Verse in her beautiful four line Soliloquy in Act 3 Scene 2 to her descent into guilt ridden madness through the use of Prose in Act 5 Scene 1. Shakespeare is using all his craft to convey the characters feelings and developments throughout the play.

In the Assessment, it is your job to pick out quotations relevant to the task and analyse these picking out the devices / language used and how they relate to the question.

So what does Browning do?

Well first is the form of the poems - Dramatic Monologues.

Browning was a pioneer of the Dramatic Monologues appealing to the darker side of Victorian Life. The Dramatic Monologue, simply put, is one character speaking their thoughts to an implied listener with the reader almost listening in. In Porphyria's Lover and The Laboratory this takes on an almost manic confessional tone whereas My Last Duchess is controlled and almost more sinister in the manipulation.

Like Shakespeare, Browning is a master of structure. You have the long single stanza of Porphyria and My Last Duchess and then the manic episodic quatrains of The Laboratory. What do these symbolise? Well that is up to you?

Again rhythm is important here especially with the use of Iambic Pentameter in My Last Duchess and the Caesura in each of the poems. The rhythm and the stopping and starting of lines tells us a lot about the characters.

Again you've got lots of imagery in the poems, pathetic fallacy, power, deceit, death and love. The perfect companion to Macbeth.

Once you have all your points, the structuring of your answers is key.

You have to cover A01 (Essentially answer the question using appropriate vocabulary / terminology) AO2 (Analysing Language / Structure) AO3 (Comparison) and AO4 (The Historical and Social Context).

AO1 and AO2 should be covered above but it is still important to cover context in the points you're making.

AO3 are the links you can make between the texts. These might be links in feelings, themes, or language/devices.

Contextual points can include something as simple as the audience being aware that a Soliloquy conveys the characters true thoughts but we can delve deeper.

Consider these questions:

How would a patriarchal society that Shakespeare was writing for react to the power of Lady Macbeth and the seemingly week Macbeth?

How would they have reacted to the Supernatural elements and the betrayal of a King?

What would the outwardly conservative Victorians feel about Browning's Poems?

Put it altogether and you have the perfect paragraph. Cover all your key scenes and you are laughing!

If in doubt follow the wheel -

Year 11 have done this task - if you're lucky they'll post some helpful hints here. You could always ask them how they managed!

Good luck - tweet or post any questions here.

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