Importance of the Extract in the Play as a Whole

Importance of the Extract in the Play as a Whole

A difficulty that many students find when writing their response to an extract is judging the balance between writing about the extract and relating it to the play as a whole.

It is essential to find a balance between writing specifically about what happens in a particular extract and discussing the ideas.

Many students write about the extract in isolation and don't relate their comments to events elsewhere in the play. In contrast other students become preoccupied with discussing the themes and ideas in the play as a whole and only make passing reference to the extract.

The examiner is looking for something more than just a balance between these two approaches. They are looking for a candidate who relates understanding of the play as a whole through close analysis of the extract. That is to say, that rather than writing about the themes of play, explain how a character's actions at a particular point reflect this theme.

  • What significance does the opening line of a speech have to what has happened before?
  • How does the direction of the play change during the course of the extract?
  • What questions are answered in this extract? How are they are answered?
  • Does the audience's attitude change during the extract?
  • In what way are there parallels between this scene and what has happened earlier or will take place later in the play?
  • Does Shakespeare develop an image or idea that he has used before or is this the scene where he introduces a key idea? How does this work on stage?
  • Why do you think this scene has been chosen by the examiner? In what way is it significant?

As you have the extract in front of you, you are unlikely to score many marks for quoting great chunks of the passage. Instead, the examiner is looking for you to use close analysis of short quotations.

This will show a strong understanding of the play. Making reference to lines from elsewhere in the play will obviously help you prove an understanding of the relevance of the scene to the play as a whole.

However, don't become preoccupied with quoting from and discussing other incidents in the play.

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