identify the text and author use words from the beginning of the question and explain why the chosen text is a suitable one to choose for the question include a sentence or two summarising the text (but no more than a sentence or two) and identify the central concern(s) refer to the words which set the task in the second sentence of the question give an idea of how the rest of the essay is going to develop in order to fulfil the task
Here are some introductory paragraphs written by Higher English candidates in answer to the following question: Choose a play which you feel has a memorable opening section.
Show how the content or the atmosphere of the scene or section provides an effective starting point for the development of the characters and the theme of the play. (Write the question down; you’ll need it later)
The question paper also contains the following instructions: Answers to questions on drama should address relevantly the central concern(s)/theme(s) of the text(s) and be supported by reference to appropriate dramatic techniques such as: conflict, characterisation, key scene(s), dialogue, climax, exposition, dénouement, structure, plot, setting, aspects of staging, soliloquy, monologue . . .
ACTIVITY Discuss how effective each of the following seven examples would be as the opening paragraph for an essay in answer to the question above. Summarise your findings in a table as follows.
1 A play that has a memorable opening section is ‘Romeo and Juliet’. The memorable opening section is the prologue. The prologue tells the reader of the outcome of the play in advance. This provides an effective starting point for the development of the characters and the theme of the play.
2 A play that has a memorable opening section is ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by William Shakespeare. The opening section takes the form of a prologue which summarises the whole play by telling the audience that it traces the story of two young lovers, Romeo and Juliet, who belong to opposing families, the Montagues and Capulets, who are locked in a bitter feud in the medieval Italian city of Verona. By announcing in advance that the play will end with the death of the lovers, the prologue introduces the theme of fate which determines the development of the tragedy.
3 ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a tragic love story about two young lovers who lived in Verona in Italy in the Middle Ages. Romeo belongs to the Montague family while Juliet is a Capulet and their parents would not allow them to associate with each other as the families are bitter enemies. The opening of the play is memorable because there is a fight. The feud between the families has lasted for centuries. One member of the Capulet family, Tybalt, wants to keep the feud going but Romeo is not interested because he is in love with Juliet. One of the turning points in the play is in Act Three where Romeo is drawn into a fight against his will and kills Tybalt. This is also a memorable part of the play.
4 ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by William Shakespeare tells the story of a feud between two families, the Montagues and the Capulets. However, some of the Montagues gatecrash a party at the Capulets’ house and there Romeo falls in love with Juliet. They fall in love immediately but keep this secret as their parents disapprove. Fights between the two opposing families are constantly breaking out and Romeo kills Tybalt, leading to him being banished from Verona as a punishment. The two lovers were secretly married by Friar Lawrence and they turn to him for help. He gives Juliet a special drug that makes it look as if she has died but Romeo arrives before she wakes up and kills himself because he thinks she is dead. She then wakes up and commits suicide too.
5 ‘Macbeth’ has a memorable opening because he meets the witches. He is a very ambitious man and his wife persuades him to kill King Duncan and make himself king. However, he feels guilty about this and his conscience troubles him: ‘Macbeth shall sleep no more.’ Later he hires murders to kill his friend Banquo and, towards the end of the play, has MacDuff’s family killed too. At the end of the story King Duncan’s son Malcolm becomes king. The play was written by William Shakespeare.
6 After seeing the film of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ starring Leonardo diCaprio and Claire Danes I couldn’t wait to read the play itself. ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is one of the world’s most romantic love stories. Although Shakespeare wrote it in the sixteen century it can still be enjoyed by an audience today.
7 A play which has a memorable opening is William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’. By introducing the audience to three witches, the first scene immediately establishes an atmosphere of evil, confusion and mystery. The fact that the witches mention Macbeth already implies that they will have some connection with this character and foreshadows the development of evil within him that is a key theme of the play.
Could YOU do better? Write your own, using the 5-step formula: identify the text and author use words from the beginning of the question and explain why the chosen text is a suitable one to choose for the question include a sentence or two summarising the text (but no more than a sentence or two) refer to the words which set the task in the second sentence of the question give an idea of how the rest of the essay is going to develop in order to fulfil the task