A Level English Coursework planning
To enable students to succeed on this section, they need to:
• Formulate their assignment title carefully
• Have a clear focus which will demonstrate knowledge of Shakespeare plus
partner text as a performance text
• Show full awareness of the context but avoid a purely sociological/contextual
essay; or an essay which would be better suited to a drama or film studies
• Concentrate on the Shakespeare text as the core text and use the partner
text to illuminate understanding
• Ensure that integrated literary and linguistic approaches are used
• Meet the requirement to use integrated approaches to explore relationships
between texts, analysing and evaluating the significance of contextual factors
in their production and reception
• Demonstrate a full repertoire of linguistic and literary terminology
Section A: Dramatic texts in context - 40 marks
Relevant assessment objectives: AO1, AO2, AO3
1500 words approximately
The Shakespeare text selected should be the focus of students’ detailed study, as this
should be regarded as the ‘core’ text. The second drama/performance text can be by any
author other than Shakespeare, and from any time period. It can also be a screenplay/play
script for a film/play that has already been produced/performed. This text should be regarded
as the ‘partner’ text, and so the study of this text will be broader in focus and should
illuminate the Shakespeare study. To reiterate, essays should deal with the nominated
texts in terms of a two thirds/one third split in favour of the Shakespeare.
It is important to remember that AO3 is double weighted in this unit:
AO3: use integrated approaches to explore relationships between texts, analysing
and evaluating the significance of contextual factors in their production and reception
Examples of questions from WJEC
Compare how language is used to establish power relationships in King Lear and
Pinter’s The Homecoming.
Compare and contrast how dramatists use linguistic and literary techniques to
present magic in The Tempest and The Crucible.
By close analysis of linguistic and dramatic devices, explore how humour is used
in both Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead to present important
Using integrated linguistic and literary approaches, discuss how language is used
to convey attitudes to women in Much Ado About Nothing and Oleanna.
With close reference to William Shakespeare’s Much Ado AboutNothing and wider reference to
Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a HotTin Roof, explore the presentation of female protagonists.
Explore how Shakespeare uses deception to create dramatic tension in MuchAdo about Nothing, with
wider reference to Williams’ creation of dramatictension in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Tips for structuring your essay
Pinning Down the Argument
Every essay needs to have an over-arching argument that links all the strands together
in order to present a coherent answer to the question.
It needs to be clear immediately from the start of the essay what the argument will be
and how all the different points that you discuss are going to build upon and support
this point of view. The best way to start thinking about your argument is to write a
thesis statement. This is just a paragraph or so that sets out your own answer to the
question and can be used to help write the introduction and to remind you of your
central focus at every stage of the essay-writing process.
This needs to begin confidently by setting out exactly what you think the answer to the
question is and how you are going to prove it through your textual analysis. Think of it
as a signpost, telling the reader what he/she should expect from your essay. This will
help because later on if the reader discovers a point whose relevance to the question is
not immediately obvious, he/she may have a better idea of where the point will
eventually take him/her. The reader knows that you know what you are doing and right
from the beginning he/she will have a lot more confidence in your writing.
Introductions can include historical context and biographical information but only if it
is relevant to the essay question. Do not be tempted to include something just in the
hope that you will impress the reader with your knowledge of the subject.
Writing the Body of the Essay
When you move onto the main part of your essay, make sure that every paragraph
opens and concludes with a statement that shows how this point contributes to your
argument and thereby answers the question. One useful technique to check whether or
not you have actually done this is to copy and paste the first and last sentence of every
paragraph into a word document. You can then read these and check whether you can
see an argument develop through these sentences. If the sentences appear to be a
mixture of random points then it is clear that you have not used each paragraph to
structure your argument effectively enough.
Do not be tempted to ever finish a paragraph with a quotation. It might look effective
but your last sentence should always be used to link the paragraph back to the question.
Be careful with grammar, as simple mistakes here can obscure the meaning of the
sentence. It can be frustrating to read an essay where the writing does not flow
properly and this could result in lost marks. Try reading parts of your work aloud in
order to check that it is grammatically sound.
When you work with secondary criticism, make sure that you resist the temptation to
make it all fit together into one neat interpretation. What is often most interesting
about studying criticism is the way in which people can view the same texts completely
differently. Do not just skip over what appears to be complicating detail, instead look
closer into why there seems to be a contradiction between two approaches to the text.
However, what is most important with using literary criticism is to keep in mind how it
relates to your own ideas and thoughts on the text. Do not be afraid to challenge
somebody else’s opinion and remember whose argument this essay is. Having said, be
careful not to go too far in the other direction. By all means challenge an argument, but
do not insult it or question the intelligence of the person who wrote it!
Many students make the mistake of making a point, giving a quick quotation in order to
offer some form of supporting evidence, and then moving straight onto the next point.
It needs to be completely clear to the reader exactly how that quotation supports the
point that you are trying to make. Use S.E.A.L
To gain the higher marks at A Level you need to show some awareness of how language,
form and structure contribute to the text’s meaning. To do this, you need to look into
quotations on a profound level and analyse the image being created and how the
language has led you to visualise this.
If you can tease your quotations apart in this manner then you show how well you
understand the text and how in command of the evidence you are. This then gives the
reader more confidence in your argument and shows that you have thought about the
writing on a multi-dimensional level.
This part of the essay is used to draw your points together and to make it clear to the
reader the final destination that your argument has reached. He/she needs to be able
to understand why you have taken the reader through the points you have and to feel
that you have done everything you promised to do in your introduction.
However, one thing to be careful of is simply repeating everything that has already
been said. If you repeat everything again word for word then it will make your essay
sound clunky. A conclusion should not just feel like a copy and paste of your
introduction. As you bring all your points together, it is sometimes worth thinking about
how what you have done fits into a wider context and to raise other potential questions
and ideas you could explore if you had more time. The best conclusions should leave the
reader with the impression that the author could have gone on for another ten pages if
he/she had had the time because they are so confident and in command of their topic
and argument. A conclusion should show that you are aware that what you have written
can only ever be one tiny fragment of everything there is to say about a