How far do you agree that Shakespeare perpetuates prejudice against Jewish characters in ‘The Merchant of Venice’?
Shakespeare, in his problematic comedy, ‘The Merchant of Venice’ does seem to be heavily in favour of the Christian characters at the expense of the Jewish characters which perpetuates prejudice against them. One reason the play is problematic is the treatment of Shylock for humorous effect. Throughout the play, we see Shylock discussing his unfavourable former treatment, we see his daughter and servant reject him and leave him and we experience a trial that inevitably favours Antonio the titular Merchant against Shylock.
First, we are introduced to Shylock in Act 1 Scene 3 when Antonio needs to borrow money with interest from him. The practice of usury is banned for Christians, which is why Antonio needs to go to a Jewish moneylender as they are able within the confines of their religion to lend money and charge interest. This is clearly a point of contention between the characters as Shylock in an aside states ‘ He lends out money gratis’ which is clearly an unpleasant idea to Shylock as this reduces the rate at which he can lend money. This leads to another aside from Antonio to Bassanio ‘The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose!’ with the exclamatory sentence both complimenting and insulting Shylock at both times. The compliment is about Shylock’s knowledge of the holy book, but the insult is calling him a ‘devil’. This has connotations of being sent from hell, evil and vicious and therefore implies a high level of prejudice against Shylock as this is a strong insult and clearly not designed to be heard by him. At this point, it seems that the Christian characters are revelling in their dislike of Shylock and enjoying being rude about him. Shylock then proceeds to explain how Antonio and his friends have treated him in the past. The monologue informs us of the many forms of prejudice that Shylock has experienced. First, we hear that Shylock has endured being ‘rated’ for his practice of lending money with the verb implying that Antonio has been heckling him in the streets, insulting and offending him due to his occupation. Then, we hear that Antonio has ‘You call me misbeliever,’ and ‘cutthroat dog,’ and ‘ And spet upon my Jewish gaberdine,’ with the first insult clearly being directed towards his religion. The triplet of insults begin by denigrating him due to being Jewish which may seem blasphemous to Shylock, as he has a strong faith and belief and being insulted by being called this is rude, uncalled for and reinforces prejudicial stereotypes against Jews. Then, the insult about being a ‘dog’ implies that he is unclean and murderous, as the Jewish faith believes that keeping dogs in your own home is unappreciated. Therefore, this insult not only insults his cleanliness and holiness, but also implies he is someone who would resort to physical violence. Finally, the physical nature of the insult when he has his clothes spat on, is disgusting, offensive and unwarranted. All of these examples provided by Shylock show how he has been victimised and insulted by the Christians, who were the predominant religion of the time. Therefore, this reinforces how marginalised and prejudiced society is towards Jews. Although Jews were exiled or made to convert to Christianity and therefore were not in England at the time of the play being viewed, the parallels between Queen Elizabeth’s protestant beliefs and persecution of the Catholic faith are clear. Therefore, although the play is perpetuating prejudice against the Jewish faith it is also reinforcing the belief that Queen Elizabeth can persecute anyone who does not follow her instructions regarding their faith. Also, an Elizabethan audience could find the tales of persecution from Shylock amusing and see him as a pitiful character that is deserving of this horrible fate. Modern, contemporary audiences might be horrified by this clear prejudice and horrific treatment for no reason, other than religious intolerance. It seems apparent that Shakespeare is perpetuating prejudice against Jewish people through the treatment of Shylock and the intolerance he is treated with.
As the play progresses the prejudice against Shylock seems to be compounded by his servant, Lancelot and his daughter Jessica. Lancelot begins Act 2 Scene 2 with a soliloquy about leaving Shylock and calls him ‘the very devil incarnation’ which is a repetition of the earlier insult from Antonio. The fact that there is a superlative before the insult makes it even more derogatory towards Shylock and although Lancelot does work with Shylock, we don’t hear any reason for him leaving other than his Jewish faith. This seems to reinforce the message of prejudice against Jewish people. The connotations of ‘incarnation’ are brought to life and the flesh and blood presentation of the devil on earth, which is obviously hyperbolic but indicates a strong dislike and hatred for Shylock. When Lancelot is discussing Shylock with Bassanio he is even more derogatory towards him ‘Give him a halter!’ with the imperative showing that this is what needs to be done. He wants Shylock to be hung and to die a terrible death. He also insinuates that Shylock is tight fisted and controlling with food ‘I am famished in his service’ implying that he is hungry and is not fed enough. The verb ‘famished’ is used to exaggerate how hungry he is and how little he is allowed to eat. This could be Shakespeare perpetuating stereotypes about Jewish people being greedy and holding onto their money and counting every penny. Obviously, this would elicit sympathy for Lancelot as the audience would believe what he is saying. It is also sly of Lancelot to be speaking about Shylock in this way when he is not able to defend himself. Everything Lancelot says about Shylock is behind his back further implying that he is perpetuating prejudice and discrimination against Jewish people as Shylock is offered no opportunity here for recompense. Also, his daughter Jessica behaves in the same manner. She calls her home ‘Our house is hell,’ with the connotations of ‘hell’ reinforcing that her opinion of her father is the same as Lancelot. She also believes he is the devil and she cannot wait to leave ‘end this strife Become a Christian and thy loving wife.’ with the implication being made that she is unhappy at home, doesn’t want to be Jewish, is in conflict with her father and her religion and is not willing to remain as a Jew, but instead would like to convert to Christianity through marriage to Lorenzo. Furthermore, she compounds this terrible desire by leaving Shylock and stealing from him when she goes, leaving him angry, upset and bereft: not only due to the loss of his daughter but also the loss of precious jewellery and his ducats. When Lorenzo arrives to escape with Jessica she shouts to him ‘Here, catch this casket, it is worth the pains.’ showing that she is stealing from her father and has no remorse about it. Her behaviour is arguably worse than Lancelot’s as she is Shylock’s flesh and blood, his only daughter and family and she is betraying him most heinously. Shakespeare could be reflecting on patriarchy and the lack of choice for women and her strong will and desire to leave her father could be entirely because she has no choice of her own, but it does seem to be perpetuating the idea that being Jewish is bad and evil and being Christian is good and righteous. Therefore, Shakespeare seems to insinuate that her course of action is actually Shylock’s own fault.
By the end of the play, during the climatic trial we see Shylock lose everything. He has already lost his servant and his daughter and is at court alone and with no defence other than his own words and his righteous belief that the law is on his side. It had been agreed that Shylock would have a ‘pound of flesh’ instead of interest on the ‘3,000 ducats’ so his insistence that ‘I will have my bond’ seems lawful and just. Shakespeare however engineers the scene so that Portia pretending to be a lawyer is able to find a loophole. Just when Shylock thinks he is going to get his bond, she removes this hope. Shylock exclaims in joy ‘O noble judge, O excellent young man!’ which is ironic on many levels, as he is praising Portia and doesn’t realise she is female, he is praising her when she will thwart him very soon and he is showing how joyful he is at the thought of killing Antonio, which shows no mercy. This would make the audience feel that Shylock is the antagonist and devil-like in behaviour as they might expect Shylock to be given a lesson. When Portia states ‘One drop of Christian blood’ she indicates that all is lost for Shylock and this sets up his complete downfall. He has shown no mercy and the Christian characters equally intend to show him no mercy in return, further indicating the prejudice that is inherent in the play. Antonio insists that he ‘presently become a Christian’ with the declarative nature of this indicating that there can and will be no argument. It means that Shylock loses what is most important to him, his religion. Antonio also states that ‘all he dies possess’d Unto his son Lorenzo and his daughter.’
meaning that he loses his home and his money to the Christian who took his daughter from him. The prejudice and intolerance of Shylock as a Jewish character seems complete here as he has lost everything and is no longer even able to practise his own faith, something that would have been a fate worse than death for a religious and pious man, like Shylock. A modern audience can empathise with Shylock as he does not seem to deserve this terrible fate and the ongoing persecution of Jewish people makes us reflect that this treatment is hideous and unfair. However, Shakespeare’s audience would have probably enjoyed the villain, that they would have believed Shylock to be, getting his comeuppance.
Throughout the play, there is little sympathy levelled towards Shylock. He is constantly riled, rejected and abused by the Christian characters. The humour is cruel and callous and directed towards Shylock due to religious intolerance and prejudice, so it does seem as though Shakespeare perpetuates this in the play ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in his unsympathetic portrayal of Shylock.
How far would you agree that Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a play about the difficulties related to love?
Romeo and Juliet is a tragic love story, presented as a play by Shakespeare which explores the difficulties that relate to love in a climate of rivalry and tension. First, the difficulty of unrequited love is shown through Romeo and his melancholic behaviour and how this concerns his family; then, we see the difficulty related to forbidden love; finally, we see paternal love being strained and difficult. Overall all relationships within the play encounter difficulties due to the love the characters have.
At the start of the play the difficulty with love is presented in the prologue when the Greek chorus introduces us to the terrible tragic ending in ‘a pair of star crossed lovers take their life;’ with the idea that love is going to inevitably lead to death. Already in the introductory prologue we are seeing difficulty related to being in love. Then, we meet Romeo’s father, Lord Montague and Benvolio, his cousin, who both clearly love and are concerned about Romeo and his strange out of character behaviour in Act 1 Scene 1. Romeo’s ‘tears augmenting the morning dew’ is a metaphor used by his father to demonstrate the poor mental state that Romeo is in, to show that he is often seen crying and that no-one can fathom why he is feeling this way. He is also said to be metaphorically isolating himself from everyone when he ‘locks far daylight out And makes himself an artificial night:’ suggesting that he is sleeping all day and roaming around outside and night which indicates that he has something weighing heavy on his mind. When Benvolio does speak to Romeo we learn that he is heavy hearted due to love. The multiple oxymorons used by Romeo ‘O brawling love! O loving hate!’ demonstrate how heavy hearted he feels, we know that his love is unrequited and causing him pain and suffering and this means that he cannot shift the darkness and melancholy that he is experiencing. Benvolio asks Romeo the question ‘Then she hath sworn that she will still live chaste?’ which Romeo affirms, meaning that Rosaline has sworn her love to God and therefore cannot love Romeo. This indicates that he has no hope of gaining her favour, he cannot compete with God and he is completely bereft of any hope. While his reaction may seem over the top and exaggerated he is young and presumably experiencing the pangs of first love, which brings extreme emotions and Shakespeare presenting him this way shows that it is okay for young men to experience difficult feelings in relation to love. Perhaps, Shakespeare is showing us an example of courtly love where no matter what gesture is sent to the object of your affection the feelings are not and will never be reciprocated. Shakespeare is clearly showing us through Romeo that affection is not always returned and he may be commenting on this being a normal and natural part of growing up. The unrequited nature of his love makes it difficult for Romeo, but also causes concerns for his family as they worry about his state of mind.
Next, we see a dramatic shift in Romeo’s affections as he falls for Juliet who immediately makes him forget his unrequited love, perhaps suggesting that as well as being difficult love can be fickle in Act 1 Scene 5. Romeo sees Juliet and immediately falls in love ‘For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.’ is his final declarative sentence in his soliloquy exclaiming delight about Juliet’s beauty. This suggests that he is in love with her and the difficulty becomes clear when they both realise that their families are sworn enemies. Romeo says ‘my life is my foe’s debt.’ implying that he can’t live without her but recognises the danger in loving the daughter of his family’s enemy. While Juliet states ‘My only love sprung from my only hate!’ with the juxtaposing strength of emotions showing how difficult this realisation is and how impossible the love she has just discovered will be. Romeo arrives in the Capulet orchard after the party and exclaims in his soliloquy ‘Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,’ the metaphor comparing Juliet to the sun which lights up his world and which his life now revolves around with Rosaline as a darkness that had hung over him and now needs to be banished forever. This shows that he has completely forgotten the difficulty related to his unrequited love and is willing to overcome the difficulty faced by loving the daughter of a Capulet. Perhaps, Shakespeare is implying that love is worth experiencing and demonstrates this throughout Act 2 Scene 2. Romeo promises to ‘Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized;’ suggesting that he would do anything for Juliet’s love, and would be reborn if she were to confess her feelings to him. They hastily agree to marry which is their solution to overcome the difficulties they face in loving each other ‘Thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow,’ which is Juliet’s statement of intent to marry. Here she is forceful and determined and taking the lead, which in a patriarchal society, where she should be demure and wait to be asked to marry through the permission of her father seems unusual. Perhaps Shakespeare is highlighting societal normality and implying that it is okay for women to speak their minds. However, the historical expectation would be for Romeo to ask Juliet’s father for permission to marry his daughter. Not doing this leads to further difficulties in the love they have for each other.
The difficulties inherent in keeping the marriage from her family can be seen when her father misguidedly agrees to allow Paris, Juliet’s hand in marriage. Lord Capulet thinks that Juliet is upset over the death of Tybalt, when in fact she is upset by the separation from Romeo and his banishment. He repeats questions about her tears showing paternal care and concern for her ‘How now! a conduit, girl? what, still in tears?
Evermore showering?’ the metaphors here tell us that she has been crying a lot and he is worried and concerned about her wellbeing. His worry and concern show his love for Juliet. This love turns to rage when he realises that she is being defiant. The dramatic irony here is that the audience understands her reluctance as she would be committing bigamy to marry Paris, while already married to Romeo, but her father is unaware of this and sees no reason for her refusal. His anger is evident in the insults and threats that Lord Capulet uses ‘Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither.’ which implies that he will tie her to a frame and drag her like a traitor through the streets to ensure that she is at the church to marry Paris. It is clear through the dramatic phrasing that Lord Capulet is furious with her and his love for her and concern for her wellbeing has been overtaken by indignation that she should refuse to do as he asks. He metaphorically implies that he would like to hit her at this moment ‘My fingers itch,’ but he controls his temper and uses verbal insults rather than physical violence which implies that although he is angry and annoyed with her he still has some control over his temper. This demonstrates how difficult paternal love can be and again reinforces that different types of love can cause pain and suffering. Lord Capulet, Juliet, her mother and the nurse are affected by this outburst of anger.
We know that ultimately the love in Romeo and Juliet has tragic and unintended consequences. Both Romeo and Juliet are dead by the end of the play after taking their own lives as they don’t think they can live without each other. While this allows the reconciliation of the Capulet and Montague families, romantic love has caused pain and suffering for every character in the play and the price of the love is extremely high. Therefore, it seems evident that the play is about the difficulties that can be caused by different forms of love. Unrequited love clearly causes problems for Romeo at the start of the play, then his forbidden love and hidden love for Juliet causes issues leading to decisions being made that are difficult and rash and finally paternal love causes problems that unfortunately are not overcome by the end of the play. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is fraught with difficulty over love and could serve as a warning to young people to be careful about their actions as they affect everyone.
On Tuesday, we will do the final revision session with Y11. Some will be focusing on Macbeth, some Merchant of Venice and some Romeo and Juliet. Therefore, I thought I’d end the sessions with example essays that hit the high mark criteria and which they can ‘borrow’ ideas from and use ideas in other essays.
The Macbeth one is below and if you click on the drop box link the document can be downloaded:
How far would you agree that Macduff is a threat to Macbeth’s kingship in ‘Macbeth’?
In Shakespeare’s Jacobethan tragedy ‘Macbeth’, it is evident that Macduff is not immediately a threat to Macbeth, but gradually becomes one due to the unfolding tyranny, throughout the play. First, in Act 2 Scene 3, we meet Macduff when he discovers that King Duncan has been murdered in Dunsinane; then, the Witches issue prophecies that include Macduff in Act 4 Scene 1 and his family is murdered by Macbeth in Act 4 Scene 2; finally, Macbeth is killed by Macduff to return the throne to the rightful King and to avenge the death of his family.
We first meet Macduff in Act 2 Scene 3, when he discovers the body of King Duncan. His reaction is shocked and horrified and he exclaims ‘O, horror, horror, horror’ with the repetition of the abstract noun implying he cannot find more than one word to express his disgust and fright at what has just happened. When he elaborates he shows immediate disgust for the murder and support and allegiance with the dead King Duncan through the metaphor ‘Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope The Lord’s anointed temple and stole thence the life o’the building.’ reflecting how he cannot understand or comprehend who or what has happened. The connotations of ‘sacrilegious’ are impious, blasphemous and to go against the religion, which reflects how thoroughly committed to the proper King, Macduff is. The verb ‘stole’ reflects his belief that his life was unlawfully taken from him, that it was theft and murder and treason to commit this act, while King Duncan lay helpless in bed asleep. Macduff then informs Ross that Macbeth is ‘already named and gone to Scone To be invested.’ which uses a declarative sentence to reflect on the fact of the matter. There is no suspicion of Macbeth from Macduff at this point, but the adverb ‘already’ implies that this is quick, sudden and unexpected news and that perhaps this was not the outcome that they had considered. However, this conversation does end with Macduff saying ‘lest our old sit easier than our new.’ which implies that he is uncomfortable with the situation of Macbeth as King and doesn’t know how that will play out as the true line of succession was Malcolm and he fled to England, in fear of his life, meaning that he was not able to be invested as the new King. Macduff is clearly loyal to the crown and King James the 1st, who was the Scottish King, was very suspicious and paranoid that he would be usurped from the throne. Shakespeare may be writing a play, set in Scotland, where a King is murdered and then avenged by a worthy Thane as a reminder that treason would be unwise.
Macbeth’s tyranny and desire to hold onto power increases and we next hear about Macduff during the Witches apparitions in Act 4 Scene 1. Two of the prophecies, which are told through supernatural conjurations not the Witches themselves, which could add to the impression that they are using manipulation and double crossing Macbeth are told about Macduff. The first prophecy is ‘Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth, beware Macduff’ with the repetition of Macbeth’s name repeating the horrified structure and repetition of ‘horror’ from earlier in the play, when Macduff discovered the death of King Duncan. The tone is clearly one of warning and is perhaps supposed to make Macbeth think about the threat that Macduff could pose to him retaining power and Kingship. As Macbeth sought the Witches advice at this point he is likely to believe them, want to destroy Macduff and be scared of what Macduff could do. The next prophecy is more ambiguous and unclear that it is about Macduff ‘no man of woman born shall kill Macbeth’ which is declarative in nature and cryptic too. This would give Macbeth false hope that he cannot be murdered or killed, as all men have a mother, therefore this prophecy does seem to imply that Macbeth will be untouchable, perhaps making him think he is invincible. The Witches and the supernatural were something that King James believed in, so much so that he wrote the book deamonologie about witchcraft and encouraged a widespread belief in witches. The audience would have known that their current monarch was highly suspicious of witches and these superstitious beliefs would have spread throughout the population fuelling suspicion and unrest. Therefore, the witches would have been a highly entertaining and feared element of the play, ‘Macbeth’. As well as the prophecies which are ambiguous, the immediate action that Macbeth takes is to murder Macduff’s family. Macduff has already fled to England to persuade Malcolm to invade Scotland and take back the throne. The murderers use the short sentence ‘He’s a traitor’ about Macduff before immediately killing the family. This is clearly going to incite fury and vengeance in Macduff as he was already rightfully suspicious of Macbeth, hence his decision to ‘fly the land.’ with the metaphor implying urgency on Macduff’s part and suspicion of his reasons from his wife Lady Macduff at the beginning of Act 4 Scene 2, just before she was murdered.
Macbeth’s plan to eliminate the threat posed by Macduff was thwarted as he was not present when the murderers arrived. However, this despicable act gave Malcolm more reasons to trust, believe and listen to Macduff. This allowed Macduff to convince Malcolm to march upon Dunsinane to retrieve the throne, implying that he now knows that Macbeth was treasonous and murderous and needed to be stopped. The Witches third prophecy has reassured Macbeth that all will be well ‘until Great Birnam Wood to Dunsinane does come upon him with’ with this seeming impossible as trees can’t walk. However, it soon becomes clear that Malcolm has ingeniously disguised his army as trees meaning that Macbeth can see the prophecy unfolding before his eyes. This may send fear into his heart, but he is reassured by the second prophecy, until he hears that ‘Macduff was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped’ which implies that he was born by caesarean section as his mother was unable to have him naturally, showing that the witches cryptic reassurance was in fact false and Macbeth was going to get his comeuppance as a result of the first prophecy. The divine rights of Kings means that Macbeth should have been ordained by God as King, but due to his treason, treacherous and manipulative behaviour he went against this divine right. The fact that Macduff is able to then kill him on the battlefield seems fitting and just, as it brings the play full circle. Ironically, Macduff states ‘Then yield thee coward’ which Macbeth would have seen as an insult and which he refuses to do, as he has never admitted his behaviour, up till this point, therefore the connotations of ‘to yield’ would be to admit his treason, admit his deception and admit the murder not only of King Duncan but Banquo and Macduff’s family too. At the start of the play he was described as ‘brave Macbeth’ which is now completely juxtaposed by Macduff’s assertion that he is a ‘coward’ and perhaps Macbeth recognises at this point that he has lost control and power and the only course he has left is to fight. They fight and ‘Macbeth slain’ by Macduff is stated in the stage directions allowing us to understand that he is dead and has been judged for his tyrannical behaviour. Shakespeare may be sending a clear message that treasonous characters or people will be dealt with and killed and therefore there is no point in trying to go against the King.
While it is clear that Macbeth did not see Macduff as a threat to his power and retention of the throne in the early scenes of the play, by the end he realised that Macduff’s loyalty to the crown, his virtuous behaviour and his desire to end his tyrannical rule will be his downfall. Macbeth’s hamartia is his attempt to hold onto power and Macduff is successful in ending his reign of terror and returning the crown to Malcolm, showing that Macduff was a worthy adversary for Macbeth and an honest and loyal subject to the rightful King. The Shakespearean audience may have enjoyed the gory depictions of murder and treason, while understanding that this should never be undertaken. A contemporary audience may understand that King James was terrified of losing his seat on the English throne and Shakespeare, understanding this nuance, wrote a play which warned against treason.
This tweet caught my eye and made me think about the complexities for students of embedding context usefully, meaningfully and with precision. Although, I replied briefly to the tweet, there is a lot more that I could have said and will try to cover here. Hopefully, this is useful. It will cover AO3 more widely than the Anthology, because although the descriptors for AO3 are the same across the Literature mark schemes, the nuances of applying these to texts differ depending on the text itself and the demands of the question. I requested permission to embed the tweet that got me thinking and although I cover the Anthology for Power and Conflict in here as we don’t teach (Love and Relationships) I hope that the ideas are transferable.
For context, on our Literature specification we teach:
Shakespeare – Macbeth or The Merchant of Venice
A Christmas Carol
The Power and Conflict Anthology AQA.
Each of these use AO3 and bring up different challenges.
AQA states that AO3 means –
AO3: Show understanding of the relationships between texts and the contexts in which they were written.
Now, I think that is a pretty broad definition. Then, the markscheme pretty much demarcates the difference in the Bands 1 – 6 by using the following definition that is simplified as it goes down the levels:
Level 6 – Exploration of ideas/perspectives/contextual factors shown by specific, detailed links between context/text/task.
Level 5 – Thoughtful consideration…
Level 4 – Clear understanding…
Level 3 – Some understanding… (implicit)
Level 2 – Some awareness… (implicit)
Level 1 – Simple comment… (explicit)
So, this gives us a broader understanding of what AO3 is all about.
Then, when you dig into the exam reports, you can learn loads more.
In the Poetry Anthology 2021 examiner report it states:
‘The given poem, London, elicited some sharp responses addressing AO3 by exploring ideas about power and abuse of power by church and state.’
‘…power and control at a state and an individual level.’
Which suggests that students accessed AO3 by looking at the wider implications on society for the Anthology and understand that Blake was perhaps commenting on corruption. This means that the context used was directly linked to the poems meaning. Also, the second quotation is linked to the ability to compare, therefore the bigger ideas relating to context were a useful way to compare meaning and embed AO3.
In the Modern Text 2021 examiner report it states:
‘Those students who simply present what looks like a prepared answer regardless of the question will not be able to access the higher reaches of the mark scheme for AO1/ AO3.
There was also an improvement in terms of AO3 by students who understood that they needed to focus on the task and frame their response in terms of the ideas and themes suggested by the question.
Students are increasingly skilled at responding appropriately to AO3 as it is indicated by the question, instead of bolted-on context which does not focus on the task and the ideas implicit within it.’
This suggests that A) answering the given question aids links to AO3 B) ideas and themes that link to the question help to embed context C) bolted on context doesn’t work, but carefully thought out context that links to analysis and the question helps.
The 19th Century Text 2021 examiner report doesn’t mention AO3.
In the Shakespeare 2021 examiner report it states:
‘Students were extremely focused on the key words in the question, in particular the AO3 focus, and showed real determination to ensure that their comments were directly related to the demands of the question.
It was really fascinating to see the way students dealt with AO3 so effectively with this play. (in relation to Romeo and Juliet)
The better responses were very focused on the task and therefore were able to achieve well for AO3 as well as for AO1.
Students who used the key words in the question for the Shakespeare task performed much better for AO3 than those who attempted to make generalised comments about the role of women in Shakespearean society.’
Again, this shows that focusing on the question is a key aspect of engaging well with AO3. As well as this, being really specific about how the context links to the question and not over generalising are really useful.
So, the examiner reports and the mark schemes offer us a great insight into what works for AO3. In summary, we need to ensure:
Students focus on the question
Link the context to the ideas that they are discussing related to the question
Embed the context with the analysis
Ensure the context is contextualised (specifically relating to the event or idea that is being discussed)
Get them to focus on the key words from the question
Be really specific about what the context is and why it is important in that specific scene/moment
Think about context from a thematic point of view
Wider contextual ideas work well to link to society, historical reception etc.
So, what does that mean in the classroom?
Perhaps, teach them context linked to specific moments in the play/text and that can be easily transferred to other moments or events or that are thematically linked.
Also, focus on the audience or reader reaction of the time and in a contemporary (or modern) context, as this is an enlightening and easy way to cover both context and effect.
Another way is the authorial intention. What did the author want us to think (hypothetically) of course?
For example, we can give examples like this and explore them as we go through the teaching:
Divine Rights of Kings – God chose to put the King on the throne. Duncan’s murder is directly against this edict and therefore this can link to; Duncan’s murder; the Witches supernatural meddling and therefore both sets of prophecies; the death of Macbeth and reinstating of Malcolm as the rightful King. In this way, we can embed this piece of context in multiple places and with multiple examples that are specific and support students in understanding how they link to themes of: kingship; deception, treason, supernatural.
A Shakespearean audience may have recognised the threat and treason inherent in Macbeth and understood that this was a position that would threaten the world that they knew, understood and lived in. However, a modern audience would possibly recognise that Shakespeare was flattering the King and ensuring that the audience knew that treason was a bad idea and would end in death, hence the bloody ending of Macbeth.
Shakespeare may have wanted us to consider the consequences of killing the King and the repercussions that would ensue. Almost a warning to those that may have wanted to commit treason and a reassurance to King James, who was notoriously paranoid about his position as King.
The Merchant of Venice:
The conflict between Jews and Christians, as a result of Jewish people being forced into exile from Britain or to convert meaning that when Shakespeare wrote the play people were aware of Jews and their customs through hearsay and stereotyping, rather than a true understanding. In this way we can link this to: Antonio’s historic poor treatment of Shylock; Shylock’s distrust and dislike of the Christians; the segregation of the Jewish community and the lack of representation beyond Shylock and Tubal; Jessica changing religion and becoming Christian; the support from Portia towards Antonio in the trial; the complete disregard of Shylock throughout they play.
All of this can be seen through a Shakespearean audience response compared to a modern one. Shakespeare’s audience may have found this comedic and amusing, rather than what we currently see as anti-semitic and derogatory towards a religion that has suffered persecution through time. The Shakespearean audience’s perspective would reflect their lack of experience of knowing Jewish people. Likewise, a modern audience perspective is influenced by our knowledge of the Jewish experience.
Shakespeare may have been highlighting stereotyping in society and using Shylock as the antagonist because the audience wouldn’t have first hand experiences of Jewish people due to the exile of Jews by Edward the 1st.
A Christmas Carol:
Dickens’ own experience as a young boy with his father being sent to debtors’ prison leaving an irrevocable impression on him and a strong desire for social justice. We can link this to: the entire characterisation of Scrooge; moments in the text such as the education section in Stave 2; the treatment of the Cratchit family; Scrooge’s employees in Stave 4; the epiphany and multiple other moments across the text.
Victorian audiences would have been aware that workhouses and prisons were used as a deterrent in society and would have understood the fear and anguish that being sent to them caused families. Therefore, Scrooge’s rude dismissal encapsulates the attitude of the majority of the rich towards the poor, who often saw poverty as the fault of the poor, rather than a signal that society wasn’t supporting people experiencing hardship. A contemporary audience can also see that society British society hasn’t changed much since Dickens wrote ‘A Christmas Carol’ as we currently have a society that uses food banks to support those most in need. While this isn’t the same as the workhouses and the prisons, it is an indication that something in society isn’t working as it should.
Dickens may be reflecting on his own experience of working in a blackening factory while his father was in debtors prison as it left a lasting impression on him making him more appreciative of the experiences of those less fortunate financially and socially.
The allegorical nature of the text with Napoleon representing Stalin and the other characters representing many characters from Russian history and the events throughout the novella reflecting Stalin’s totalitarian behaviour. As we teach the novella, we can link events to many of the atrocities committed by Stalin. Napoleon testing the reaction of the animals with the milk in Chapter 2 is subtle and similar to Stalin’s behaviour while vying for power; Napoleon creating his secret service with the dogs in Chapter 3 similar to the way Stalin surrounded himself with agents; Napoleon using the secret service to exile Snowball who represents Trotsky and was exiled from Russia; Napoleon starving the hens reflective of the mass starvation of the proletariat in Russia; Napoleon’s mass executions linking to the show trials; the use of the animals to create the Windmill linking to the five year plans and the failed industrialisation of Russia. As we teach Animal Farm we can drip feed these contextual facts meaning that students can build a strong picture of how Orwell used real examples to create his anthropomorphic allegory.
The audience can see the hypocrisy that Orwell is highlighting throughout the novella and may feel angered about Napoleon’s behaviour, while feeling frustrated by the animals acceptance and complicity in allowing him to behave in this way.
Orwell was known to be disillusioned by the communist regimes and Animal Farm is a scathing reflection on the way Stalin behaved and the way that the proletariat allowed this to happen. His message may be to show through the allegory how frightening and ridiculous and horrific it was that Stalin was able to become such a strong totalitarian dictator and also how easily and insidiously he managed to take control.
The Power and Conflict Anthology
With the context, it is also nice to make links between poems as you go along. Pupils can then see the links in the bigger ideas forming and although they may not realise it, you are strengthening their schema in a holistic and natural way.
London by William Blake:
Blake was anti-establishment as he could see the corruption evident in society; the rife poverty; the Churches hypocrisy; the mistreatment of children; the pain and suffering ordinary people suffered and couldn’t escape from. This can link to multiple examples from the poem: the repetition of ‘In every’ is the suffering; the ‘mind forged manacles’ is the inability to escape the grinding poverty; the ‘Chimney-sweepers cry’ is the exploitation of children; the ‘blackening Church appals’ is the hypocrisy of the Church who should support and look out for the poor, but instead do very little.
A poor Victorian audience hearing or reading London would be able to relate to the hardships and the experiences in the poem. Those who were wealthy and not affected by the hardship may recognise the criticism and judgement Blake is offering through the poem.
Blake may be criticising the existing Church, politics and monarchy for their apathy towards the poor and the lack of action taken to support and make real changes to the lives of others.
Ozymandias by Percy Shelley:
Shelley similarly to Blake was anti establishment and used the poem Ozymandias to highlight the hubris and corruption of those in power. This is evident in the presentation of the ‘cold command’ on the face of Ozymandias; the metaphorical and literal ‘pedestal’ that he has put himself on; the inscription ‘King of Kings’; the destruction of the statue by time and nature ‘two vast and trunkless legs of stone’. All reflecting on the ultimate failure of the Pharaoh Ramesses ii to keep his memory alive while showing his cruel and corrupt nature.
Shelley’s readers may have seen the sonnet as a reflection that nature and time will always win, over controlling and dictatorial leaders. A modern audience may also interpret in this way and also reflect on how society over time hasn’t changed a great deal.
Shelley may have wanted us to understand that corruption and power seem to go hand in hand and we are almost helpless in the face of it, unless we change the systems.
Extract from the Prelude by William Wordsworth:
Wordsworth was inspired by the natural beauty of the Lake Districts which was the area that he lived in and as a result wrote the epic poem as a semi-autobiographical reflection on his experiences. The extract is a small snippet from the larger poem and we can see his changing emotions towards his environment clearly in this part of the wider poem. The ‘small circles glittered idly in the moon’ reflects a relaxed, enjoyable moment in time with the persona appearing to be at one with his surroundings and the environment reflecting the outstanding natural beauty of the lakes; the repetition of ‘huge peak, black and huge’ reflects the power and fear nature can inspire; then ‘hung a darkness; call it solitude’ reflects the depression that the persona sunk into after they had a life changing moment again showing the power that nature can inspire.
Those reading the poem may understand that nature can play a huge part in the emotional experiences that you go through and may see the fluctuation in emotions as a wider part of life.
Wordsworth may have written about this moment as a reminder that the landscape , which is juxtaposingly beautiful and terrifyingly vast, can trigger a moment of epiphany in you. It may change and shape the way you look at life from that moment on.
My Last Duchess by Robert Browning:
Browning was inspired by the real life story of the Duke of Ferrara, which is linked to in the subtitle of the poem, and his alleged murder of his young wife Lucrezia de’ Medici. This alleged murder is hinted at throughout the poem and contextually, this can be linked to the title; the obsessive behaviour of the Duke; the confession that he unwittingly gives to the messenger and the way the Duke then brushes over the confession, as if it is nothing.
An audience may enjoy the scandalous nature of the murder and the brazen obsessive behaviour of the Duke, who arrogantly assumes that due to his power and position he will and can literally get away with murder.
Perhaps Browning was commenting on the inequality in society as the rich and powerful Duke is able to do whatever he likes without any consequences.
Exposure by Wilfred Owen:
Owen was a serving soldier on the frontlines during World War 1 and tragically died as war came to an end. His poem exposure links directly to his own and the collective experiences of those who were in the trenches in the war and this context can be linked to his reflections on the interminable waiting that the soldiers experienced, the terrible cold and exposure to the weather, as well as the futility and loss of hope that the soldiers felt.
The audience of the time may have been surprised and horrified by the bleak reality that Owen depicted, as the contrast of reality in his poem with some of the more jingoist poems would have been stark. Modern audiences can see the horror and the terrifying reality of what it was like to constantly be outside in terrible conditions and have no real understanding of when this would stop. Owen’s experiences brings to life the hardship of war and the pointlessness.
Owen may have wanted us to understand that war is not glamorous, unlike the portrayal that was sold to young men and soldiers. The reality was shown from his first hand experiences and therefore we can believe that he is portraying the truth.
Storm on the Island by Seamus Heaney:
Heaney was proud of his Irish roots and the collective spirit of the Irish people. His poem Storm on the Island reflects this pride and sense of collective experiences showing that he believed Irish people to be strong and resilient, irrespective of what life throws at them.
The audience can sense the pride that Heaney feels throughout the poem and see that nature while powerful and intimidating is no match for the way Irish people can endure, survive and thrive in these conditions, making us understand the strong patriotism that Heaney felt.
Heaney may want the audience to recognise the endurance and hardships faced by Irish people living on a small island that is battered constantly by the weather and see that this resilience is part of what makes them such a great community.
Remains by Simon Armitage:
Armitage was writing about soldiers experiences after interviewing them for the TV show The Not Dead. Remains tells the story of the guilt and PTSD experienced by Guardsman Troman after shooting and killing someone stealing. This links to several lines in the poem. The modality of whether the thief was a threat or not; the alcohol and drug abuse that followed the soldier; the flashback he experienced; the constant guilt and reflection on whether his behaviour was moral or not.
The audience can sympathise with the soldier and the person who was shot as the way Armitage writes is colloquial and helps us to understand the moral and ethical conflict that the soldier felt after the killing.
Armitage may be highlighting the complexity of emotions that follow soldiers after having to make a split second decision and this is reinforced by the fact that all three soldiers made the same decision at the same time.
Bayonet Charge by Ted Hughes:
Hughes was not a soldier himself but was inspired to write Bayonet Charge as a first person account of the terror of being on the frontlines after growing up hearing stories from his family about being in war. The use of memories is evident throughout the poem right from the start when the soldier is awake and running, the use of verbs to reflect the soldiers clumsy movements; the fear when a hare is killed very near to the soldier; the loss of hope and faith the soldier experiences. All of these moments in the poem can be linked to the stories that Hughes listened to and reflected on to create the poem.
An audience might feel empathetic towards the fear that the soldier experiences and realise that Hughes is reflecting on his understanding of his relatives felt but may not have voiced.
Hughes seems to be using the poem as a way of reflecting and reliving the stories he was told and by giving the poem a first person perspective it brings to live the reality of the stories and the emotions that were felt by his relatives.
Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Tennyson, who was poet laureate, was inspired by a new report to write the poem The Charge of the Light Brigade as a memorial to those who had died. The poem about the Crimean War keeps the memory of the soldiers who died alive and remembered. This can be seen through the poem when he recounts their actions and reflects on the bravery that they met their deaths.
The audience feels both dismayed by the mistake made by officers which sent the men to their untimely deaths, but equally proud of how resilient and strong they were in the face of danger. Despite being surrounded and the enemy having superior artillery, the men and their horses faced death with honour and bravery.
Tennyson may be highlighting the high cost of war and the stupidity of those in charge, while also reflecting on the courage and stoic nature of British soldiers who carried out their duty, knowing that they were likely to die.
Poppies by Beatrice Garland:
Garland specialises in working with textiles and this is reflected in the tactile imagery that is used throughout the poem and the topic of loss was something that Garland, as a mother, was thinking about. Throughout the poem Garland uses touch as a way of reflecting on the feelings a mother has towards her son and the sense of loss and grief that ensues when he doesn’t come back. The implication in the poem is that he is dead and she is grieving him.
The audience can feel the mother’s loss and grief and therefore empathises with the feelings and can understand why she is mourning her son.
Garland might have been reflecting, as a mother, on how other women feel when they lose a child and the deep sorrow and sadness that this creates and how this never goes away.
War Photographer by Carol Ann Duffy:
Duffy was inspired by her friendships with Don McCullin and Philip Jones Griffiths who were both photographers specialising in war pictures. The links in the poem to this friendship are clear from the reflections on the photographer being home again, the trembling hands as they relive taking the pictures while they develop, the few pictures that would make it into the Sunday papers and the emotional impact on the photographers juxtaposed with how little impact they will have with the general public. You can almost hear the conversations that would have taken place between Duffy and the photographer friends to elicit this information and emotional reflections.
The reader can feel the helplessness that the photographer has. Both while doing their job documenting the brutality of war and in the aftermath when they reflect on the fact that they have captured those moments, but are unsure whether the public will recognise the horror of the war. Duffy’s close relationship with the photographers allow an insight into how they feel about not helping the people suffering.
Duffy may have wanted the public to understand the contradictory emotions felt by the photographers and the public to take notice of what is happening and not see the pictures purely as Sunday entertainment.
The Emigree by Carol Rumens:
The theme of displacement through civil war runs throughout the poem and links to current affairs really well. Displacement is shown through the memories that the persona reflects upon; not being able to go back to her home land; not having a passport that will allow her entry; the memory of how beautiful her home land is and how she can remember it but is not welcome there. Civil war and potential ethnic or religious conflict are hinted at throughout the poem too; the country is full of tyrants; military vehicles are used a a metaphor and the persona is aware of how unwelcome she is in the country of her birth.
The audience can tell that there is a great sense of loss emanating from the persona about the loss of her home country which links to the displacement she feels.
Rumens may be reflecting on the tyrannical nature of some regimes that displace people without considering that their sense of identity coexists with where they are from and how they feel they belong in the world.
Kamikaze by Beatrice Garland:
Garland reflects on the loss of honour and duty that occurs when a Japanese suicide pilot decides not to carry out his mission. Kamikaze pilots were revered in Japanese culture and being chosen was seen as a great honour, therefore not completing the mission is dishonourable. The mission is reflected on at the start of the poem and the loss of honour is shown by way that the grandfather is ostracised by his family after failing to complete the mission. Ironically, the pilot seems to have lost quality of life as a result of choosing to live.
The reader feels deep sympathy for the family: both the man who loses everything by choosing to live and the wider family who are so afraid of the stigma attached to him that they choose to shun him, rather than enjoying the fact that he is still with them. It shows the deep rooted honour in Japanese society.
Garland may be reflecting on the duty and honour inherent in the Japanese culture and showing us that different cultures have values they uphold, whether this hurts the family or not. Appearances are everything to them and the failure to fulfil his duty is seen as a failure of them all.
Checking out me History by John Agard:
Agard was born and educated under British rule in Gayana. This meant that what he was taught at school was a white washed version of history, not reflective of his own culture or heritage in any way. The poem reflects on this continuously in the way he juxtaposes what he learnt in the British school with stories of people from his own cultural background. Throughout the poem we can see the pointlessness and irrelevance of some of the stories he was taught in contrast with strong cultural and historical figures that he should have known about and that we all should know about.
Agard reflects on identity, much like Rumens in The Emigree, and what makes your identity your own. The reader can see that Agard is trying to reconcile what he was taught with what he feels he should have been taught and his journey to reclaim this part of his cultural identity is clear when he uses metaphors to explain how he felt about the past experiences of education.
Agard may be highlighting the deep inequality and hierarchal decisions that are made without considering the long lasting impact these decisions can have on individuals and wider members of communities who have a right to be taught and learn about their own culture.
Tissue by Imtiaz Dharker:
Dharker uses the extended metaphor of tissue as both a material used to create, build and document and as the living human tissue of the skin to reflect on the constraints placed on humanity both by themselves and by the way that we choose to live and value things. The complexity of the poem links to the idea of humanity documenting things through religion, architecture and the fragility of this. We also see how the fragility of life is reflected upon throughout the poem with the way everything is transparent.
The reader might feel how transient Dharker thinks life is as we continuously strive to make sense of and document our lives, but ultimately will die as we are not meant to last and time on earth is limited and therefore precious.
Dharker may be trying to comment on how humanity rushes from one thing to the next without stopping to appreciate the smaller things in life and may be trying to impress on us to slow down and appreciate what we have.
How do I try to help students to embed context?
When considering how students write about context, I always want them to make links to the evidence or idea that they are referencing. For some students with lower or middle prior attainment, I recommend that they use the following context sentence stems or intention starters or effect support ideas:
This links to context as…
At the time, this was important because…
Maybe the author was commenting/highlighting/criticising/suggesting/showing/wants us to understand…(choose as appropriate)
(Author name) wanted to…
(Author name) is…
The reader/audience may think/feel…because…
For higher prior attainers they can be more holistic and tend to embed the context more seamlessly without the need to signpost it as much.
What might this look like in practice?
How does Shakespeare present ambition in Macbeth?
1 – Prophecies 2 – Lady Macbeth 3 – Macbeth holding onto power by any means
Shakespeare presents the idea of ambition by implanting the idea into Macbeth’s mind, that he deserves to be King, through the introduction of the supernatural witches and their prophecies. This idea takes root and grows implying that ambition has taken seed. He is told in the witches prophecies that he will be ‘Thane of Cawdor’ which is ironic as the original thane was killed as a traitor to the crown, the position that Macbeth quickly takes when he kills King Duncan to fulfil his ambition. Shakespeare may have been flattering King James the 1st as he had a strong belief in witchcraft, writing the book Daemonologie, which decried witches and their ability to see the future alongside other supernatural abilities that were widely believed at the time. A Shakespearean audience would have been aware of the King’s beliefs, aware of the superstitions surrounding witches and aware that they were thought to be able to predict future events. Therefore, the play opening with the pathetic fallacy and rhyme ‘When shall we three meet again, in thunder, lightning and in rain’ plays into the audience’s superstitions and reinforces the idea that Macbeth’s ambition was prompted by the weird sisters meddling in matters that don’t concern them. Contemporary audiences are more sceptical and realise that Shakespeare was feeding into popular thoughts of the time and playing on the audiences concerns for entertainment purposes.
Of course, they can embed the context in other ways and in a different order but this is just an example of what this might look like.
Hopefully, this is a useful look at how we can consider embedding context with students on multiple levels.
My year 10 class are struggling, not all, but some with basic retrieval of information for Animal Farm. We’ve read up to Chapter 8. We’ve summarised it. We’ve planned essays. We’ve used retrieval practice every lesson. We’ve written about the events, but still for some students they are struggling to tell me what happens across the text. As well as this, we’ve used Sarah Barker’s excellent video links and quizzes for home learning, consolidating what we have read and worked on in class. Link here: https://roundlearning.org/exam-papers-for-youtube-videos/
So, I thought I’d try to dial it back and make the retrieval much more simple. Hopefully reducing the cognitive load for some of them. First, I was going to do some simple questions and get them to answer them. Instead, I decided to create a quiz on Carousel. Ninety questions later, we have a ten chapter simple quiz on plot knowledge and allegory in Animal Farm. In the background this is what the quiz looks like. Two topics: plot knowledge and allegory and a really simplified version of retrieval that will hopefully help students remember the plot more effectively when used over time. I’m deliberately asking more information in the question and requesting simple knowledge from the students to help them remember more effectively and meet that Rosenshine principle of achieving a success rate of 80% (for each student), so that once we have this, we can go back to more complex retrieval.
Carousel Animal Farm Quiz
This week, after we read, summarised and discussed chapter 8, I selected 10 questions from the carousel quiz that directly linked to an essay question:
How does Orwell, by chapter eight in Animal Farm, show Napoleon has taken away the animals’ freedom?
Then, I asked them to answer the individual questions from the carousel using full sentences. This meant modelling on the board what I wanted them to do with the sentence stem and answer. This also increased the cognitive load for them and meant that they were writing the events in full sentences, increasing how challenging the activity of retrieval was, as they had to think about:
1 – Initially, what is the answer?
2 – Decide: how would I phrase my response?
3 – Process the question and answer in a more focused way.
4 – Physically write the response, which I often find aids memory, as the act of writing information down is useful in making it stick.
Then, when some students had completed the ten questions, I gave them the extension:
Other ideas about how Napoleon takes away the animals freedom:
This was purely from their memories and was to try to stretch the HPA students and the students who had other ideas, outside those that I had selected from the carousel.
Then, we went through the answers. Quickly and with the power point below. (I typed these as they worked)
Then, we captured the other ideas:
After this, we discussed how we could summarise this and plan it into three ideas for an essay. The decision was: Chapter 2: the milk and Napoleon, Chapter 5: the exile of Snowball and Chapter 8: after the executions and the alcohol which was like Jones in Chapter one.
We will work on an essay using this planning, supported by continuous retrieval with the carousel quiz. I’ve written one up to use as feedback and to stretch the top end. Year 11 annotated it thinking about how the essay was composed today in advance of their mock on Animal Farm next week.
Generally, I’m hoping the continuous focus on retrieval questions that link to essay questions will strengthen their ability to understand, write about and synthesise their knowledge of the text.
The essay is below:
How does Orwell, by chapter eight in Animal Farm, show Napoleon has taken away the animals’ freedom?
Orwell, in his dystopian allegorical novel ‘Animal Farm’ presents Napoleon, who is representative of Stalin, as insidiously taking the animals freedom away from them: almost from the point they have revolted. First; he tricks them with the milk; then, Napoleon exiles Snowball who is representative of Trotsky taking control of the farm through force; finally, by chapter eight Napoleon has executed many animals and has discovered a taste for alcohol synonymous with Mr Jones who is representative of Tsar Nicholas II from the start of the novella.
The animals’ freedom, which they achieved in chapter two when they rebelled against Mr Jones, was initially seen as a utopia. However, the first act of subversion against the animals by Napoleon, also took place at the end of this chapter. When Napoleon declares ‘Never mind the milk, comrades!’, he is using the exclamatory sentence to emphasise that he will take care of the milk, that the animals don’t have to worry and ironically he sounds like he is being supportive of the animals. However, the irony is the animals go out to work and the milk is clearly drunk by Napoleon. The omniscient narrator withholds the information that Napoleon had drunk the milk, but reveals that ‘the milk had disappeared’ meaning that the animals never questioned the taking of the milk. The verb ‘disappeared’ implies that it went missing, was gone and had been lost, indicating that there was a mystery surrounding what happened to it. The animals could be considered complicit with the treatment they later receive, as their initial silence is a clear signal to Napoleon that he will not be challenged. Perhaps, Orwell is showing that corrupt regimes are able to thrive through the complacency of people and the allegory here reinforces this. In chapter three, another food related deception took place meaning that the animals are allowing their freedom to be reduced. Squealer states ‘Many of us actually dislike milk and apples.’ with this rhetoric persuading the animals that they are being unreasonable in expecting to have a share of the food. The adverb ‘actually’ makes this more persuasive, more believable and removes the ability of the animals to argue against the food being distributed evenly, because it makes it sound true. It is lies being spun as fact. Although the issue with the food does not take away their freedom, it is an act of subversion that goes almost unchallenged and allows the later more serious removals of freedom. Orwell is mimicking the Russian Revolution and the insidious removal of people’s freedom, until they no longer protested, mentioned the inequality or even recognised that their treatment was unfair and inequitable.
By chapter five, Napoleon manages to reduce the animals freedom even further, when he violently and decisively exile’s Snowball as he is a threat to his leadership. When Napoleon ‘uttered a high pitched whimper’ the auditory imagery implies he has given a clear signal to the dogs, has commanded them to do something and is using a premeditated signal, which suggests that he has planned the exile of Snowball and executes this with a deadly determination. This is clearly against the principles of ‘Animalism’ and the ‘Seven Commandments’ which are the rules and principles which everyone on the farm are supposed to adhere to. Napoleon is taking away the animals’ freedom here by exiling Snowball and the final commandment using the declarative sentence ‘All animals are equal.’ shows that not all animals are equal, as if they disagree with Napoleon they are in danger of being removed from the farm by violent means. The ‘nine braying dogs’ were foreshadowed earlier when Napoleon took them to ‘educate’ them. The verb ‘educate’ suggests to teach and learn and to understand how to behave, but Napoleon’s education has clearly been encouraging violence and intimidation, as this is how the dogs manage to exile Snowball. Napoleon’s premeditated action is a clear signal that the animals’ freedoms are being violated. Orwell might be commenting on Stalin’s corrupt regime as he deported Trotsky, represented as Snowball, in Animal Farm and this action in chapter five is reminiscent of Stalin’s behaviour. The exile is particularly brutal and intimidating and a show of power from Napoleon designed to intimidate, silence and curtail the animals freedom and voices. The chase where Snowball is being hounded off the farm is action packed and dynamic ‘ but whisked it free just in time’ with the verb indicating that Snowball was almost caught and maimed by the blood thirsty hounds that had been set free to remove him from the farm. Interestingly, Napoleon chose an opportune moment to release the dogs as the omniscient narrator reveals that ‘there was no doubt as to which way the vote would go’ showing that Napoleon is clever, watchful and manipulative in his intent, as he chooses exactly the right moment to usurp Snowball and remove him as competition for running the farm. Snowball was more eloquent and popular in the moment and Napoleon could not abide this thought. Therefore, Napoleon chose his moment well, took the opportunity presented to him and exiled Snowball further reducing the animals freedom. Particularly, as immediately after the exile of Snowball the terrified animals are informed that the meetings will stop implying that Napoleon has been planning this with precision and cunning, knowing that the meetings could be a breeding ground for discontent.
By chapter eight, unfortunately for the animals their freedoms have been completely eroded and they don’t seem to recognise this. They have been brainwashed into believing that they still have their freedom, despite it being obvious to the reader that this has been completely taken away. When Napoleon is hungover, but the animals believe he is dying ‘A cry of lamentation went up’ with the collective nature of this sorrow and upset implying that all the animals are sad and unhappy about the imminent death of Napoleon. This reinforces how brainwashed the animals are as they don’t recognise that Napoleon’s drunken behaviour is exactly the same as Mr Jones from earlier in the novel. It appears that the leadership style of Napoleon is now mimicking Mr Jones more and more as the novel progresses. Prior to the drinking of the whisky in chapter eight the animals had recollected that one of the commandments was ‘No animal shall kill any other animal.’, but when they looked upon this commandment ‘without cause’ had been added indicating that the animals have been convinced by the words on the wall that now exist and don’t fully believe in their own memories any more. This brainwashing means that even though they do remember what the original commandments were, the animals’ freedom has been reduced to the point where even the most heinous executions don’t trigger any questioning of Napoleon’s actions. The executions were similar to Stalin’s show trials where the outcome had already been decided, but the deaths or sentencing were carried out publicly to frighten, intimidate and prevent any further questioning of the regime. By chapter eight the animals are fearful of any retribution and have begun to call Napoleon titles instead of just his name implying he is the greatest leader, deserves accolades and is revered by all the animals on the farm. They call him ‘Father of all animals’ and ‘Terror of Mankind’ implying that he is a great leader and protector on the farm. This is instead of the reality that he is a tyrant and dictatorial force, whose paranoia and deviousness have caused the animals to have their freedoms compromised and taken away from them. The noun ‘Father’ has connotations of being a parent, being in charge and biblical references to God, which is interesting as Napoleon seems to have taken on a God like status on the farm and the animals are allowing him to behave in this way, as they rarely challenge his behaviour. Orwell may be highlighting the hypocrisy evident on Animal Farm and showing us that although the communist (animalism) regime is supposed to make life and conditions better for the animals, but in reality make them worse.
It seems clear that the animals freedom have been gradually and insidiously reduced across the novel from: Napoleon testing the animals in chapter two; the exile of Snowball and the lack of retaliation from the animals in chapter five; until the animals have been completely brainwashed and indoctrinated into believing that their society is at least no worse than it was under Mr Jones’ leadership. Orwell stated ‘Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution, one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.’ showing that he believed that it was inevitable after the Russian revolution that a dictatorship would follow, which is perhaps cynical, but also true. The allegorical novel Animal Farm reinforces the dictatorial regime and shows how the animals freedoms were reduced, removed and redacted, partially due to their complicity and the manipulation of them throughout the novel.
Over the years, I’ve emphasised like every other teacher of English, the importance of explicitly planning for the Literature essays that will come up in exams. I’ve honed the approach over time and through discussion with colleagues and found a structure that I like and that is transferable to all essays with minimal tweaks.
First, I always recommend a chronological approach to an essay, considering the start, middle and end of the text. In this way students are covering the whole of the text and know that they have to do this to aim for the Band 6 responses. It also lends itself to a 3 ideas structure too. So, I’ll ask students to plan their 3 ideas thinking about the key focus in the question.
I get students to underline the key focus as the starting point for the planning. Then, I ask them to number ideas for their planning.
E.g: How does Orwell present totalitarian power in Animal Farm?
They know that the key focus is going to be totalitarian power.
1 – Mr Jones at the start in Chapter 1 has control of the animals
2 – Napoleon in Chapter 5 exiles Snowball allowing him to have totalitarian power
3 – By the end, in Chapter 10 Napoleon has ruled through a system of fear and manipulation and the pigs have morphed into human-like characters. Circular ironic structure.
After they have done this, I ask them to quickly note down any references to the text with the methods used in the direct quotations next to the 3 ideas. These are either direct quotations and methods or references and methods. I ask for the methods alongside the quotations as part of the planning process because this is often not remembered in an essay. I explain to the students that if they have written this down as part of the planning, they have reduced the cognitive load for when they are writing the essays. If students have the quotations or moments from the text written down that they want to use in each section as their quick planning (all done in 5 minutes), then they are more able to create a coherent line of argument.
I will ask to quickly note down the context they want to embed, just one or two ideas. For some, this is a reminder that they need to include context and for others it helps to clarify what they want to say in the essays that this is relevant for. The planning then looks like this:
E.g: How does Orwell present totalitarian power in Animal Farm?
They know that the key focus is going to be totalitarian power.
1 – Mr Jones at the start in Chapter 1 has control of the animals.: ‘too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes’ declarative sentence, ‘Beasts of England’ song, repetition, ‘seized the gun’ verb, ‘let fly’ colloquial language
2 – Napoleon in Chapter 5 exiles Snowball allowing him to have totalitarian power. ‘The two disagreed at every point where disagreement was possible.’ foreshadowing, ‘urinated over the plans’ verb, insulting tone, ‘casting a peculiar sidelong look’ noun phrase, ‘uttered a high pitched whimper’ description, ‘nine braying dogs’ adjectives
. 3 – By the end, in Chapter 10 Napoleon has ruled through a system of fear and manipulation and the pigs have morphed into human-like characters. Circular ironic structure. ‘Years passed.’ short declarative sentence, ‘It was a pig walking on its hind legs.’ visual imagery, ‘From pig to man, man to pig, and from pig to man again, but already it was impossible to say which was which’ ironic, repetition.
Context – Napoleon = Stalin; Snowball = Trotsky – allegorical representation of Russia. The exile of Trotsky from Russia. The dogs as the Secret Service.
The point of planning like this is to help them structure that coherent line of argument. Obviously, within the essay for the most capable students they can link ideas across the play and move away from the strictly chronological structure we’ve planned for. For the students who don’t write enough, they know that they have to cover three ideas in detail and this planning process helps them to remember this.
The planning feeds into the introduction too, as I encourage them to use their three ideas in their introduction to drive forward their argument and remind them of what they are going to say in the rest of the essay. The introduction uses the three ideas from the planning to set up the rest of the argument.
How does this transfer across all texts?
Obviously, for the Shakespeare and 19th Century text, we have an extract. I ask students to do exactly the same planning process after reading the extract and deciding where in the chronology of their essay it will ‘sit’. So, if it was act 1/2 or chapter 1/2 it would be paragraph 1, so idea 1, etc. Then, I would ask them to plan their other two ideas and underline in the extract the evidence they will use and annotate this for the methods they will explore.
For the Unseen Poetry, I recommend annotating the poems and coming up with the three ideas, using the same structure for the planning. For the comparison element, choosing two similarities or differences in the structure and language and exploring these for AO2 by going straight into the comparison of methods used for effect.
For the poetry anthology, I posted this structure, which echoes what I’ve said I think.
This year, as in years gone by, we have taught the poems in clusters as discussed and decided upon by a formal colleague. We have split the anthology into four clusters and concentrated first on: Soldiers in conflict; then, on Civilians in conflict.
For the Soldiers in conflict we teach: Charge of the Light Brigade, Bayonet Charge, Exposure and Remains and I taught them in this order. For the Civilians in conflict we teach: Poppies, The Emigree, War Photographer and Kamikaze, again in this order.
For each cluster of four we also explored connections and comparisons and worked on essay skills too.
This year, more than any other year, I needed students to take responsibility and be more independent and think hard for themselves (with structured guidance).
We have been trialling as a school the use of a note taking model that is similar to Cornell notes. So, with this in mind, I decided to teach each poem in exactly the same format, so that the students would know what to expect.
First, we laid out the page, like this:
Then, I read the poem twice to the students. With Q&A from the class I would ask them – What is the story of the poem? Then, I would capture in note form on the board their thinking. Using Rosenshine’s principles of Cold Calling and Probing questions to elicit answers from the students.
Then, I would ask them to silently complete the summary of what the poem was about. Using class charts random selector, I would then chose 3 – 4 students to read out their summaries, so that the other students could embellish and check their understanding. For the students who still needed extra support, I wrote my summary and asked them to add to theirs anything they had missed. This was in an exercise book that I flashed under the visualiser. A couple of times, I forgot to get the class input and a couple of students who found this useful reminded me.
The point of doing it like this was to get them to a) feel confident that their thoughts on the poem were valid b) to demystify poetry c) to get them independently thinking about the poems d) to help them think hard and strengthen their own understanding.
Next, I would walk them verbally through different context points, linking them to the summaries that they had completed. I write the summarised points on the board and they copy this information. At this point, the lesson is didactic on purpose, as I carefully select the contextual points that I know can add meaning and understanding to specific stanzas, lines or even quotations, so later they can make explicit links to context in their writing.
Now, the onus is on them. I gave them three big ideas about the poem (ignore the context information) as I wrote the ideas on the board one by one and this was a catch up resource that inspired how I taught this unit. Then, as I wrote the ideas, I asked them to retrieve quotations, link them to methods (a list of which they have at the back of their books for easy reference) and to explain in the main notes the meaning, effect and anything else they noticed about the quotation.
Then, we would do idea 2/3. As they were working, I was constantly circulating and supporting them in their choices, looking at the work and offering suggestions live as they were working. They were discussing in pairs and adding to their notes as they went along. As it is a mixed ability group, there were students who needed more scaffolding and I would give how many quotations to find, where to find them as pointers to support.
When they finished the three ideas, we would have feedback and make sure that the ideas had stuck for everyone.
Then, we did independent annotations and guided annotations to consolidate. Those who were confident would use the guidance sheet and create annotations both with the guidance and independently. Those that were less confident were with me, under the visualiser making annotations through question and answer.
The independent annotation sheets looked like this:
In the past, I have used the visualiser and discussed through Q&A the poems and had very heavily annotated anthologies with little notes in exercise books. With this model we have a hybrid of notes and annotations. It took a lot of guidance initially, but they were very used to the process and asked when we started Animal Farm if I wanted them to lay out their books like they did for the Anthology.
These are my notes on The Charge of the Light Brigade, which are useful for absentees.
At the culmination of teaching content, I then taught exam skills and did explicit modelling of planning, introductions, main paragraphs and conclusions. This is an example paragraph that I went through with the students on the board, as I wrote it prior to them coming into the room to allow me to explain and get them to express what was happening in it.
Then, as part of feedback I finished the essay and used it as feedback. I did it at the same time as they were completing an assessment, as I was able to sit at my desk and write it, while they worked.
Compare how conflict affects civilians in ‘The Emigree’ and one other poem of your choice.
Both Rumens and Weir in ‘The Emigree’ and ‘Poppies’ discuss the way conflict affects civilians negatively. Both poems reflect on loss, feelings of affection and not being able to go back or get what they have lost.
Both poems reflect how civilians discuss loss in different circumstances. In Rumen’s poem ‘The Emigree’ the persona discusses the loss of her home country when she emigrated as a ‘child’. The modal verbs ‘It may be at war, it may be sick with tyrants’ reflects this loss, as the country she remembers is engaged in fighting, taken over by dictators and no longer the same as when she left. Her loss is clear in the verb ‘branded by an impression of sunlight’ showing her bright, joyful and happy memories, which reinforces the loss of something special and good. However, in Poppies by Weir loss is emphasised differently through the persona’s son being remembered. The ‘poppies’ are symbolic of remembrance, loss during conflict and a sign that those left behind are forever impacted by the loss, in this case of a child who has presumably died in conflict. Rumens is writing from the perspective of someone displaced from home, a common theme in today’s society, while Weir is discussing personal loss, another societal issue as a result of conflict. Both civilians suffer from loss in their poems and are affected emotionally by this.
Another way conflict is shown for civilians is the different ways they show affection. Rumens loves her home country as the metaphor ‘cannot break my original view, the bright filled paperweight’ suggests she idolises the country she left, she sees it stuck as a beautiful memory frozen in time. The memory means her affection is a biased and unrealistic view given the circumstances of what was now there. She repeats the motif of ‘sunlight’ creating imagery of joy, warmth and happiness, which again reinforces her strong affection for the country. In contrast, the persona – a mother – in ‘Poppies’ also shows affection, but through repetitive tactile imagery in contrast to the visual imagery depicted in ‘The Emigree’ the mother uses multiple verbs in the first person ‘I pinned’ and ‘smoothed’ and ‘I rounded’ to show how her affection manifests itself through her desire to touch her son in a way that could reassure her he is there. She recognises her affection is perhaps overwhelming, unlike the persona in ‘The Emogree’ whose affection seems wistful. The mother ‘resisted the impulse to run my fingers’ showing she knows this might be a step too far for her son. The civilians here are the mother and grown up child and both have been affected by conflict so that they have to use memories to explore the affection they feel for their original home and their son.
Finally, the civilians are affected in different ways as neither persona can go or get something back. In ‘The Emigree’ she is not welcome with the declarative statement ‘I have no passport’ implying she had to leave and is no longer recognised as a person from this country indicating a sense of loss of identity as this has been taken from her through no fault of her own. The persona was once a civilian who belonged to her country, but due to the regime this has been taken from her. Likewise, in ‘Poppies’ the persona is longing to hear her son, although in ‘The Emigree’ the persona desires to see her country. The verb in ‘I listened’ with the first person reflection indicates that she wants to hear her son. The poignant tone in ‘hoping to hear’ indicates a sense of longing for the son she has lost, but is something that can’t be recovered. Weir reflects on how mothers of sons who have lost a child in conflict feel, while ‘The Emigree’ reflects on wider political corruption in the world that allow people to be ‘banned’ from their original country for political or ethnic reasons. The impact on civilians of conflict is horrible as both feel they can’t go back or regain the loss of something.
Rumens and Weir might be trying to show the lasting impact of conflict on ordinary people as a warning or reminder that we need to be humane in the way that we treat people.
As a school we are trying to encourage students to take notes that support them in revising content that will be useful in their GCSE exams. So, with this in mind, I chose the Anthology as a way of using the note taking system and modelled under the visualiser what the page would look like.
Then, we read the poem as a whole class. Before writing a summary I question the class and write notes up on the board about what they have said. I gave them the prompt – What is the story of the poem? as a starting point and then I’m using targeted cold calling questioning to target students and probing questions to elicit development of thought and understanding of what the poem is about. When I’m questioning the students, I’ll iron out any misconceptions and get them to explain what they think is happening at different points in the poem and how the ‘story’ progresses. Then, I will ask them to write their own individual summary. As we are completely mixed ability I will write a sentence starter to guide the students who need it. As they are doing this, I’m also doing the same in my notes book. After I’ve done my summary, I’ve been circulating the class and prompting students who are still finding it difficult to articulate what they need to say to summarise the poem.
When the class has completed this, I’ve been randomly selecting 3 to 4 students to read out exactly what is in their summaries using the class charts tool for this. I’m insisting that they read word for word what they have written down as I’ve noticed that some of the students elaborate on what they have written, but don’t have this in their books. If they do this, I ask them to add what they’ve said to their summaries. Although, I am only checking 3 – 4 students responses at this point, verbally I am confirming that they understand the poem and then checking with the rest of the class to see if they agree with what the students has said. The similarities in understanding begin to come through in this part of the lesson and students are able to see that they too have said something similar in their summary, therefore confirming they know what is happening in the poem and confirming that they have been successful.
Next, I’m telling them the context of the poem and asking them to write these bullet points down verbatim. I write these on the board and explain why we need the context information. I just tell them this information, as they need to know it and they need to be able to link it to their analysis later, so there is no point in getting them to discover this. It’s facts about the poem/poet and having this information will help them later when thinking about context and writer’s intentions.
At this point in the lesson I am ready to get them to find quotations against three big ideas from the poem. I originally created this resource as a catch up on the Anthology poems for Year 11 tutor sessions, and am using it for the Year 11 classes, but also for Year 10 teaching. I reveal each idea individually to reduce cognitive load and get them to specifically think about 1 idea first. Then, I tell them how many quotations I want them to select to support the idea. They select the quotations and link it to the method. If they don’t know the method, as I’m circulating the class, we discuss it and they write it in the margin with the quotation. Then, in their main notes they explore the quotation for meaning and effect thinking about how it links to the big idea. I’ve modelled this first using the visualiser, so that they know what this looks like and then, as they create their notes they can discuss the poems while they make the independent notes. Then, I reveal the second and third idea and they repeat the pattern.
Once the students have completed the notes independently, I get feedback from them about how they have supported each big idea from the poem and further check their understanding.
My only issue with this approach was the fact that all the notes they have on the poems are in their books, so I wanted to further consolidate their knowledge and understanding with some annotations, but rather than me telling them I have created a series of independent annotation worksheets that they use to annotate. As you can see the annotations are guided by stanza, identifying the method and then explaining the meaning/effect next to it. Again, as they are doing this they can discuss what they are noticing in the poem and I circulate to support them. For this part of the lesson, I have also worked with a group of students as well going through and supporting them in making the annotations if they have struggled with it.
So far this structure has encouraged them to:
A) engage with and understand the poem
B) be more independent
C) Come up with their own thoughts as we go along
D) have independent annotations in their anthology that they have thought about without me telling them everything.
This first run through was heavily guided, but as they have progressed through the poems they are becoming far more independent in their approach and are able to select the quotations, explore the methods, meaning and effect more independently and in more depth.
I haven’t taught the anthology like this previously, generally, I will use the visualiser and do a lot of whole class questioning and me annotating with them copying the notes, so this is a bit out of my comfort zone. Hopefully, though it will help them think more.
This weekend, like many other English teachers, up and down the country (I’m sure) I’ve been marking essays from mock exams. Our students have given it a good go and there is lots to praise and lots to learn too.
I’ve done complex feedback on this. This will take at least two lessons, but one of my CPD foci for this term is using Walkthru’s and considering Feedback that Feeds Forward, so this will hopefully be a useful exercise for the students and enable them to understand several different elements of essay writing that they can apply in the future.
First, we will look at their PLCs and rag rate where they are.
Then, we will look at specific targets and what this looks like in real examples.
Then, students will be asked to apply their targets with a ‘new’ question, meaning that they are immediately applying this knowledge in deliberate practice.
What will this look like?
Below the picture is a download of the PowerPoint here:
Once students have completed the target paragraph using the examples that they have been given above, we will look at a full male relationships example essay. First we’ll read it as an essay. Then, we’ll look at how it has been made up. The metacognitive approach will hopefully help students see what to include and how this can vary across the essay, but also how there are certain elements that can help them be successful. I’ve included the planning so that they can see what this also looks like.
1 – Extract – A1 S1 – Antonio and Bassanio paternal love ‘In sooth I know not why I am sad’, ‘tossing in the ocean’, ‘Why then you are in love’
2 – A1 S3 & A3 S1 – Shylock’s mistreatment / lack of male relationships ‘cut-throat dog’ ‘misbeliever’ ‘rheum upon my beard’ ‘hath a jew not eyes’
3 – A5 S2 – Antonio, Bassanio and majority of male characters are reunited – Christian comradery – ‘All your ships have been saved’ ‘my soul upon the forfeit’ ‘Fair ladies you do drop manna in the way of starv’d people’
In Shakespeare’s problematic romantic comedy, The Merchant of Venice the relationships between male characters are supportive juxtaposed with combative, depending on the religion of the character. First, we see a strong supportive and caring paternal relationship between Anotonio and Bassanio; then, we are introduced to the venomous, unkind and anti-Semitic relationships between male Christian characters and the Jewish antagonist, Shylock; finally, we see male comradery at the end of the play, when all characters return to Belmont, except Shylock.
During the exposition of the play, in Act 1 Scene 1, we are introduced to the main protagonist and titular figure Antonio, the Merchant of Venice. He is sad and melancholic for no good reason with the introductory line ‘In sooth, I know not why I am sad’ suggesting he is unsure about his reasons for feeling this way. Male relationships are established here as being supportive as his friends immediately question and reassure him, while also guessing the reasons for his unsettled feelings. Towards the end of the first scene, Bassanio comes into the scene and discusses his problems, which Antonio listens carefully to, despite his own melancholy. Anotonio states ‘therefore, speak.’ in a kind and considerate tone to Bassanio, offering him the opportunity to unburden his worries. When Bassanio reveals he would like to court Portia, but needs money to do so, Antonio immediately seems regretful with ‘Thou know’st that all my fortunes are at sea:’ explaining that his current funds are tied up in his merchandise on ships. However, he also immediately uses the declarative sentence ‘Try what my credit can in Venice do’ reinforcing that he is willing to borrow money, to ensure that Bassanio is successful in his quest to marry Portia. This shows an extremely close bond between these characters as Bassanio has already been unable to pay back money that was lent to him by Antonio previously. A modern audience might think that Antonio is being overly generous and suspect his motivation for ensuring that Bassanio is able to make his way to Belmont. They could suspect that Antonio is wishing to have a relationship with Bassanio and therefore will do anything for him. The Elizabethan audience would have been unsurprised by the close male bond, as this would have been a usual occurrence in society of the time, as unmarried men and women would rarely have socialised with each other, therefore close male relationships were normal. Shakespeare could be commenting on how close Christian males were at the time and how they stuck together and helped each other out when it was within their means.
The closeness of the Christian male relationships is then directly juxtaposed by the antagonist relationship that Anotonio has with Shylock. Shylock, as a Jew is derided, belittled and insulted continuously throughout the play. We first hear of his mistreatment at the hands of Antonio when Shylock speaks in a monologue cataloguing the misdeeds that have been committed against him. In the past, he has been spat on with the verb ‘rheum on my beard’ showing this is a disgusting, offensive and insulting gesture, which dehumanises him and makes him seem like he is worthless to the Christian perpetrator. Furthermore, ‘spat on my Jewish gaberdine’ is said by Shylock with the verb again reinforcing this insult. Another example of his mistreatment is the metaphoric insult ‘cut-throat dog’ which reinforces how disliked Shylock is. The adjective ‘cut-throat’ implies that he is a murderer or someone who holds people to ransom, perhaps due to his use of usury. Usury was forbidden to Christians, due to their religion, so although the insult is given the Christian characters who have been rude to Shylock may in fact be jealous of his ability to easily make money from lending it and getting this interest back: something they were prohibited from doing. Later on in the play, in Act 3 Scene 1, we see Shylock appeal to the audience’s humanity with his ‘Hath a Jew not eyes’ monologue. During this speech Shylock uses repetition and listing to show that he has the same human body parts ‘eyes, hands, dimensions, senses…’ which reinforces that he is a person worthy of respect, worthy of being treated well and worthy of friendship, but unfortunately for him he is not listened to and instead the speech appears to fall on deaf ears. This shows that male relationships between Christians and Jews are incredibly difficult, increasingly anti-Semetic and that Christians perpetuated hatred and prejudice towards the Jews, without considering them to be a part of humanity. This is emphasised by the use of the noun ‘dog’ as this was a hugely insulting term, as Jewish people believe that dogs are unclean animals, therefore this would be a terrible term to say to a Jewish man.
By the end of the play, in Act 5 Scene 1, we return to the close male relationships that were displayed at the beginning of the play. Antonio, Bassanio and Gratiano have travelled to Belmont, after the trial. We see clear comradery between the males here, as Antonio immediately takes the blame for Bassanio giving away the wedding ring. He states ‘I am the unhappy subject of these quarrels.’ which shows that he does not wish to bring trouble and strife into the lives of Portia and Bassanio, as he was the one who persuaded Bassanio to give the ring to the lawyer. At this point, the dramatic irony is that nobody is aware, other than Portia and Nerissa that they were at the trial. Antonio reassures Portia that Bassanio is a good man, again showing that he loves and cares for Bassanio and his marriage to her. As well as Antonio and Bassanio’s relationship being reflected on here, Lorenzo is given good news that he immediately celebrates. Portia tells him that he and Jessica will get all Shylock’s money upon his death and he responds with the exaggerated biblical reference ‘Fair ladies you do drop manna in the way of starv’d people’ which is ironic, as the money will come from his estranged father in law, who will be dead in order for him to benefit. Again, this reinforces the strained male relationships that are evident between any Christian character and Shylock. There is no thought for the pain and suffering of Shylock, instead the celebration is all to do with Lorenzo winning over Shylock. A Shakespearean audience may be pleased that Lorenzo has been rewarded so well, however a modern audience would perhaps feel more sympathetic towards Shylock, as he is losing everything to those that have lied, cheated and tricked him. Shakespeare could be commenting on how religion creates division in society and is a cause for concern due to this clear prejudice and injustice. At the time, Jews were shunned and exiled from Britain so the only representation the audience would have been aware of was from plays and constructed characters, such as Shylock and they would have been amused by the stereotypical presentation of the Jewish character.
It is evident that male relationships are vitally important to the plot of ‘The Merchant of Venice’. Bassanio is only able to marry Portia due to the close relationship he has with Antonio, meaning that he is able to travel to Belmont to win her in the lottery. Shylock is treated with contempt and has no close male relationships which could be a deliberate juxtaposition by Shakespeare to highlight how easily certain groups of people can be marginalised in society. Finally, we see the comradery of the male Christian characters when they are brought together at the end of the play. Shakespeare’s message may be to reinforce the injustice in society and to show people that we should treat everyone humanely. However, the treatment of Shylock would have been seen as comedic in the time period and this message may have been missed.
In Shakespeare’s problematic romantic comedy, The Merchant of Venice the relationships between male characters are supportive juxtaposed with combative, depending on the religion of the character.
Introduction sentence one – Name of play, author name, form of the play, main overall idea answering the question
First, we see a strong, supportive and caring paternal relationship between Anotonio and Bassanio; then, we are introduced to the venomous, unkind and anti-Semitic relationships between male Christian characters and the Jewish antagonist, Shylock; finally, we see male comradery at the end of the play, when all characters return to Belmont, except Shylock.
Introduction sentence two – Three ideas introduced through connectives (first, then, finally) idea one and two uses triplets to develop the idea, idea three links to the scene in the play that will be discussed.
During the exposition of the play, in Act 1 Scene 1, we are introduced to the main protagonist and titular figure Antonio, the Merchant of Venice.
Paragraph One sentence one – reference to the scene, use of methods, explanation of character
He is sad and melancholic for no good reason with the introductory line ‘In sooth, I know not why I am sad’ suggesting he is unsure about his reasons for feeling this way.
Paragraph One sentence two- development of what is being discussed, evidence, methods, analytical verb to drive meaning linked to the evidence
Male relationships are established here as being supportive as his friends immediately question and reassure him, while also guessing the reasons for his unsettled feelings.
Paragraph One sentence three – link to the question, reasons why?, link back to the meaning of the evidence
Towards the end of the first scene, Bassanio comes into the scene and discusses his problems, which Antonio listens carefully to, despite his own melancholy.
Paragraph One sentence four – Linking phrase, reference to where in the play, link to another character, link back to previous idea
Anotonio states ‘therefore, speak.’ in a kind and considerate tone to Bassanio, offering him the opportunity to unburden his worries.
Paragraph One sentence five – evidence embedded with method and explanation of meaning.
When Bassanio reveals he would like to court Portia, but needs money to do so, Antonio immediately seems regretful with ‘Thou know’st that all my fortunes are at sea:’ explaining that his current funds are tied up in his merchandise on ships.
Paragraph One sentence six – further evidence embedded to develop upon the previous piece of evidence, analytical verb, with explanation of meaning.
However, he also immediately uses the declarative sentence ‘Try what my credit can in Venice do’ reinforcing that he is willing to borrow money, to ensure that Bassanio is successful in his quest to marry Portia.
Paragraph One sentence seven -connective to build on meaning, method, further evidence, analytical verb, with explanation of meaning.
This shows an extremely close bond between these characters as Bassanio has already been unable to pay back money that was lent to him by Antonio previously.
Paragraph One sentence eight – analytical verb, explanation of meaning and why, link to wider idea from text.
A modern audience might think that Antonio is being overly generous and suspect his motivation for ensuring that Bassanio is able to make his way to Belmont.
Paragraph One sentence nine – modern audience reaction exploring the effect and why?.
They could suspect that Antonio is wishing to have a relationship with Bassanio and therefore will do anything for him.
Paragraph One sentence nine – tentative style in developing the modern audience reaction exploring the effect and why?.
The Elizabethan audience would have been unsurprised by the close male bond, as this would have been a usual occurrence in society of the time, as unmarried men and women would rarely have socialised with each other, therefore close male relationships were normal.
Paragraph One sentence ten – Elizabethan audience effect with link to context and reason why?
Shakespeare could be commenting on how close Christian males were at the time and how they stuck together and helped each other out when it was within their means.
Paragraph One sentence eleven – Shakespeare’s intentions and a reason why?
The closeness of the Christian male relationships is then directly juxtaposed by the antagonist relationship that Anotonio has with Shylock.
Paragraph Two sentence one – Link back to previous paragraph, methods/subject terminology and link to idea 2 from introduction.
Shylock, as a Jew is derided, belittled and insulted continuously throughout the play.
Paragraph Two sentence two – Use of triplets to say what happens to the character, reference to structure.
We first hear of his mistreatment at the hands of Antonio when Shylock speaks in a monologue cataloguing the misdeeds that have been committed against him.
Paragraph Two sentence three – Reference to structure, focus on the story, methods and explanation.
In the past, he has been spat on with the verb ‘rheum on my beard’ showing this is a disgusting, offensive and insulting gesture, which dehumanises him and makes him seem like he is worthless to the Christian perpetrator.
Paragraph Two sentence four – reference to structure, explanation of what has happened, methods, evidence, analytical verb, triplet of meaning and reason why linked to other characters.
Furthermore, ‘spat on my Jewish gaberdine’ is said by Shylock with the verb again reinforcing this insult.
Paragraph Two sentence five – Connective, evidence to support previous evidence and methods, link to analysis of meaning.
Another example of his mistreatment is the metaphoric insult ‘cut-throat dog’ which reinforces how disliked Shylock is.
Paragraph Two sentence six – Connective, evidence to support previous evidence and methods, link to analysis of meaning.
The adjective ‘cut-throat’ implies that he is a murderer or someone who holds people to ransom, perhaps due to his use of usury.
Paragraph Two sentence seven – Close word analysis zooming into the specific meaning or alternative meaning, with a reason why?
Usury was forbidden to Christians, due to their religion, so although the insult is given the Christian characters who have been rude to Shylock may in fact be jealous of his ability to easily make money from lending it and getting this interest back: something they were prohibited from doing.
Paragraph Two sentence eight – Link to contextual information, reason why this might link to the evidence.
Later on in the play, in Act 3 Scene 1, we see Shylock appeal to the audience’s humanity with his ‘Hath a Jew not eyes’ monologue.
Paragraph Two sentence nine – Further links to structure, link to what is happening in the play, evidence and method.
During this speech Shylock uses repetition and listing to show that he has the same human body parts ‘eyes, hands, dimensions, senses…’ which reinforces that he is a person worthy of respect, worthy of being treated well and worthy of friendship, but unfortunately for him he is not listened to and instead the speech appears to fall on deaf ears.
Paragraph Two sentence ten – Methods, evidence, analytical verb linking to previous analysis, triplets of meaning, reason why?
This shows that male relationships between Christians and Jews are incredibly difficult, increasingly anti-Semetic and that Christians perpetuated hatred and prejudice towards the Jews, without considering them to be a part of humanity.
Paragraph Two sentence eleven – Link to the question, triplet to explore how the evidence previously used links to the question, effect created and context.
This is emphasised by the use of the noun ‘dog’ as this was a hugely insulting term, as Jewish people believe that dogs are unclean animals, therefore this would be a terrible term to say to a Jewish man.
Paragraph Two sentence twelve – Analytical verb, Focus on single word analysis, meaning and reason why?
By the end of the play, in Act 5 Scene 1, we return to the close male relationships that were displayed at the beginning of the play.
Paragraph Three sentence one – Structure of the play, link back to previous idea in the essay.
Antonio, Bassanio and Gratiano have travelled to Belmont, after the trial.
Paragraph Three sentence two – Explanation of what is being discussed.
We see clear comradery between the males here, as Antonio immediately takes the blame for Bassanio giving away the wedding ring.
Paragraph Three sentence three – Link to idea 3 from the introduction, explanation of what is happening.
He states ‘I am the unhappy subject of these quarrels.’ which shows that he does not wish to bring trouble and strife into the lives of Portia and Bassanio, as he was the one who persuaded Bassanio to give the ring to the lawyer.
Paragraph Three sentence four – Evidence, analytical verb, meaning and why?
At this point, the dramatic irony is that nobody is aware, other than Portia and Nerissa that they were at the trial.
Paragraph Three sentence five – method, explanation.
Antonio reassures Portia that Bassanio is a good man, again showing that he loves and cares for Bassanio and his marriage to her.
Paragraph Three sentence six – Further exploration of meaning, linked to the question.
As well as Antonio and Bassanio’s relationship being reflected on here, Lorenzo is given good news that he immediately celebrates.
Paragraph Three sentence seven – Link to what has been discussed and link to the next idea being discussed.
Portia tells him that he and Jessica will get all Shylock’s money upon his death and he responds with the exaggerated biblical reference ‘Fair ladies you do drop manna in the way of starv’d people’ which is ironic, as the money will come from his estranged father in law, who will be dead in order for him to benefit.
Paragraph Three sentence eight – explanation of the next idea (what), evidence, method, meaning.
Again, this reinforces the strained male relationships that are evident between any Christian character and Shylock.
Paragraph Three sentence nine – analytical verb, link to the question.
There is no thought for the pain and suffering of Shylock, instead the celebration is all to do with Lorenzo winning over Shylock.
Paragraph Three sentence ten – effect created and why?
A Shakespearean audience may be pleased that Lorenzo has been rewarded so well, however a modern audience would perhaps feel more sympathetic towards Shylock, as he is losing everything to those that have lied, cheated and tricked him.
Paragraph Three sentence eleven – Shakespearean and modern audience reaction, exploring of effect, triplets to explain this.
Shakespeare could be commenting on how religion creates division in society and is a cause for concern due to this clear prejudice and injustice.
Paragraph Three sentence twelve – Shakespeare’s intentions and why?
At the time, Jews were shunned and exiled from Britain so the only representation the audience would have been aware of was from plays and constructed characters, such as Shylock and they would have been amused by the stereotypical presentation of the Jewish character.
Paragraph Three sentence thirteen – Context linking to Shakespeare’s intentions and why?
It is evident that male relationships are vitally important to the plot of ‘The Merchant of Venice’.
Conclusion sentence one – Link to opinion and question focus, play name.
Bassanio is only able to marry Portia due to the close relationship he has with Antonio, meaning that he is able to travel to Belmont to win her in the lottery.
Conclusion sentence one – Explanation of the first idea linked to the question.
Shylock is treated with contempt and has no close male relationships which could be a deliberate juxtaposition by Shakespeare to highlight how easily certain groups of people can be marginalised in society.
Conclusion sentence one – Explanation of second idea and how it links to the question, focus on method and Shakespeare’s intentions.
Finally, we see the comradery of the male Christian characters when they are brought together at the end of the play.
Conclusion sentence one – Focus on the third idea from the introduction.
Shakespeare’s message may be to reinforce the injustice in society and to show people that we should treat everyone humanely.
Conclusion sentence one – tentative conclusion opinion linked to Shakespeare’s intentions.
However, the treatment of Shylock would have been seen as comedic in the time period and this message may have been missed.
Conclusion sentence one – connective, link to context, link to audience reaction and opinion.
Finally, we will look in detail at another thematic essay question and apply targets, planning and the knowledge gained from this process to another essay.
After Covid we took the difficult decision, in consultation with the English team, the Headteacher, SLT and the governors of the school to change the curriculum design at KS4. Prior to covid we had a split entry model, which we were happy with: it reduced the cognitive load for students in Year 11; it gave the whole cohort the opportunity to sit an exam and understand what that experience was like; it gave students the opportunity to practice their revision skills with a much lower cognitive load than they would experience in Y11. Students would sit their Literature exam in Year 10 and then Language in Year 11. Again, this was beneficial to the students, as they could have a really focused experience in Year 11 on the Language exam. All of these reasons for split entry are still valid and I still believe in. We also will look at the results impact and may revert to split entry in the future. For now though we are doing Year 11 dual entry.
Why is this?
When students came back from Covid, the most noticeable area of impact was sustained written responses. Students are still recovering from being at home and mainly working online and on screens. Writing was the area that suffered most through covid, as a lot of students didn’t really do much physical writing. So, a main target for us is to improve writing skills, stamina and students ability to create sustained responses under timed conditions. To do this, we needed more time, hence the decision to dual enter as opposed to split entry.
So what does the curriculum now look like?
We have kept discreet units of Language and Literature and because the decision to split was made part way through the year, we have a Literature heavy start to Year 10, which we are going to continue with for now as this links into our Key Stage 3 progression well.
Term 1 – Shakespeare teaching extract to whole essay skills (We do Macbeth or Merchant of Venice). Unseen Poetry interleaved throughout the year. Single poem to start with and then onto comparison when confident with approach.
Term 2 – 8 of the 15 Anthology poems with comparison essay skills (We do AQA Power and Conflict).
Term 3 into Term 4 – Animal Farm with essay question only skills
Term 4 continued – Language GCSE – Focus on Paper 2 skills – reading and writing interleaved. Throughout the unit for the Language GCSE keep the Literature skills and knowledge alive with interleaved revision lessons fortnightly on the Lit content, home learning carousel quizzes to link to Literature and revision tasks and Lit starters.
Term 5 – Continue with Language GCSE – Focus on Paper 2 skills. Continue with the keeping Literature skills and knowledge alive focus, as per term 4.
Term 6 – Anthology – complete the Power and Conflict poems that remain. Speaking and Listening assessment linked to the non-fiction Paper 2 skills and content that has been taught. Continue with the keeping Literature skills and knowledge alive focus.
Term 1 – Language GCSE Paper 1 skills. Two weeks revision of Language paper 2 skills and Literature Shakespeare and Unseen.
Term 2 – Start with the Mock Exams: Paper 2 & Shakespeare/Unseen. Continue with Paper 1 skills and knowledge.
Term 3 – Start the 19th Century text. (We do A Christmas Carol or The Sign of Four)
Term 4 – Complete the 19th Century text. Start revision of the content for Literature and Language.
Term 5 – Continue the revision of content for both Literature and Language.
This curriculum plan is not all my own work. Katie Sutherland who is the second in department also works on this with me and we consult with the team. We also as a team, continuously discuss the curriculum and how much time units are taking, what we need to do, whether we can take a week off or add a week, depending on how things are going. As with everything in teaching, we have to be proactive and reactive depending on what arises.
At the moment, this is what the curriculum map looks like. We’ll discuss, assess, adapt and review once we have the results of the first run through on this model.