This GCSE English Literature quiz is about language in William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. The language of this play, like its themes, is dark and violent, with frequent references to blood, death, treason, fate and guilt. Observe the language as characters wrestle with their consciences, test the loyalties of others and attempt to persuade people into action.
Macbeth is concerned with deceit, treason, and the difference between appearance and reality. Language is one of the means through which deception is carried out, as well as providing the means through which these themes are discussed. You will need to question the underlying meaning of the language, remembering that words can be used to disguise and that misunderstandings can arise through making assumptions, too. Macbeth understands the witches’ prophecies to promise more than they do, misinterpreting their literal meaning.
Pay attention to words and phrases which are repeated throughout the play. In which scenes and by which characters are they used? Does this repeated language help you to understand the themes of the play? One very useful revision technique is to collect examples of vocabulary related to the different themes. Think about the language assigned to each character as you list your examples and consider how the language adds to characterisation.
Authors choose their words with great skill. Shakespeare, of course, is famous for this! Beyond the literal meaning of the language used lie a number of symbolic meanings and associations. Shades and layers of meaning are conveyed through the use of literary devices such as metaphor, simile and personification.
Always pay close attention to the language of the texts you study. Look beyond the most obvious surface meaning in order to become aware of the subtext. Try to be alert to the subtle effects, in addition to those which are immediately noticeable. Authors use language with precision. You, too, should spend time and care on the language. Practise working on the multiple meanings contained in a text’s language; this will help you to understand texts better.
Answer the questions below to develop your understanding of the way language choices affect our interpretation of Macbeth
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