Presentation of Characters

Presentation of Characters

It is very likely that the question will ask you to focus on a particular character or characters within the extract.

  • Which character am I supposed to write about?
  • What is the dramatic function of the character in this scene?

You must read the question carefully. If you do not, you may find that you spend twenty minutes writing about a character who appears in the extract but is not mentioned in the question. This will invariably waste time and lose you marks.

It is essential to remember that you are writing about a play. While you may have read the scene several times before, you must consider how the audience would respond to the character and events in the scene for the first time.

  • How does the audience's response to the character change or developas result of this scene?
  • Do the events in the scene build on previous events in the play or alter preconceptions?
  • What do the audience learn about the character specifically in this scene?

A common error, whether writing about plays or novels is that students are inclined to write about the characters and events as if they were real. Obviously, within the context of a play, the audience is supposed to suspend their own disbelief and imagine that it is real. The purpose of the actors is to convince the audience that what takes place on stage is real.

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However, as a good exam candidate and student of literature you need to see beyond this. You need to acknowledge that Shakepseare wrote this scene for a purpose. What is the function of the character in the scene? What might Shakespeare have intended? To get a grade C or above you need to show an awareness of the writer.

One of the major mistakes that many students make in extract questions is that they spend too much time giving a plot summary of the events in the scene. When writing about a character, don't merely recount what happens in the extract and paraphrase their speeches. Show an analysis of their character.

Be wary of talking generally about the character without giving focused examples. This will inevitably lead to your losing sight of the question, and writing about the characters as if it were a case study rather than a dramatic textual study. Close analysis will get higher marks.

Use character profiles to help you revise:

Write notes and support these with relevant quotations for each character. This will help you prepare for the whole text question, but will also help you to focus on scenes for specific characters.