What's the difference between analysing Shakespeare in Year 9 and Year 10 English? Read this article to find out more.
By now, you would have had your fair share of analysing Shakespeare. So, you’re probably wondering if the process for how to analyse Shakespeare in year 10 is any different from what has come before, right? So, is it? Yes! Let’s look at how!
As you move from Year 9 to Year 10 English, your analysis of Shakespeare needs to be more complex.
You need to take a deeper look at the themes and context and critically think about meaning.
This means identifying how Shakespeare’s textual decisions reflect his society’s values and perspectives and how it relates to our modern society’s context.
Read THEMES IN SHAKESPEARE to see how Shakespeare’s context is reflected in his work and how to analyse it.
The reason why we still study Shakespeare today is because it is still relatable to us.
The human experience is the sequence of events and situations that we all go through and makes us human. This includes love, conflict, death, motivations etc.
We study Shakespeare to learn more about the human experience and how our understanding of it changed over time.
He has captured what we think, how we feel and why we act a certain way.
So, when you analyse Shakespeare, you need to see how he represents the human experience and how people behave or react to it. You must take note of similarities and differences to how we would react to these situations today.
Shakespeare is written over 400 years ago, so his context is vastly different from ours today.
When we study Shakespeare, we also need to look at social values.
Some social values and perspectives change over time whilst others are maintained. It is a good idea to take note of the values explored in Shakespeare’s plays and see how they reflect the society he lives in.
For example, acceptance of diversity was not a big deal in Shakespeare’s time. In fact, his society was openly racist. However, today, we value diversity and look down upon discrimination and racism.
When you look at all of Shakespeare’s dramas, we can see recurring themes running across them. It is important that you are comfortable with them, so you can easily identify and discuss it in your analysis.
Here is a list of Shakespeare’s most common themes that you must know:
Ambition is the strong desire, eagerness or determination to achieve something personally advantageous like power, fame or wealth.
Today, Western society values ambition because we live in an individualistic (idea of being independent and achieving your best) society. However, when we look at Shakespeare’s texts, we see that ambition is rejected in their society.
This is because they lived in a highly religious society. They worshiped God, and believed in fate. Click here to read more on FATE VS FREE WILL.
So, when someone is being ambitious, it is a sign that they are rejecting their destiny and subsequently, rejecting God’s power.
That’s why, all of Shakespeare’s ambitious characters suffer a great downfall.
Here are some examples:
Shakespeare commonly explores the idea of appearance and reality.
This refers to the way appearances appear to be something they are not.
We see evil, manipulative and cunning characters appear loyal, honourable and trustworthy to the other characters. These two-faced characters hide their true colours so well, that the other characters are oblivious to the reality.
We also see characters in disguise, pretending to be men, lawyers,
This is not all. Shakespeare also creates illusions and different realities.
Here are some of Shakespeare’s dramas that explore the themes of appearance vs reality:
However, most of these conflicts represent deeper issues within society like racial and gender conflicts and even good vs evil.Shakespeare explores many different types of conflicts. There are rivalries between families, friends, countries and so much more.
It is important that you identify these deeper social conflicts when you analyse Shakespeare to deepen your discussion.
Let’s take a look at some of Shakespeare’s plays that explore different types of conflicts:
Remember, Shakespeare’s society is highly religious.
They believed that everyone’s future is already determined by God and that people do not have free will.
So, when individuals try to challenge their destiny and enact their free will, they usually suffer from God’s retribution (punishment).
Here are a few plays:
Today, we live in an individualistic society. So, an individual’s actions will affect themselves and immediate people.
However, Shakespeare’s society believed that every individual’s actions affected the whole of society. This is because they believed in fate. So…
An individual’s decision to act on their free will will cause disorder in society.
In Shakespeare’s plays, there is always a restoration of order when things go out of hand. This solidifies their religious belief in God’s power and fate.
In tragedies, the ambitious individual suffers from His retribution and the rightful King takes the place.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
In our How to Analyse Shakespeare in Year 9: The Basics, we went through how to understand and analyse Shakespeare texts.
Matrix students learn how to analyse texts using these simple steps:
We will quickly summarise the steps now.
Analysing Shakespeare might seem intimidating, but these steps break it down and make it so much easier.
If you want to see a detailed guide, then CLICK HERE.
Shakespeare’s dramas usually follow the 5 Act Structure:
Each genre will have different ways of approaching these Acts.
Before we go into detail about their structures, we need to know what the genres are:
Now that we know what the genres are, let’s see their similarities and differences
|Tragedy / History||Comedy||Late Romances|
|Exposition||Introduces characters story world and a social issue. These issues usually disrupt social order.||Introduces characters, story world and a tragic event. This is usually a lovers’ complications or separation.||Introduces characters, story world and a tragic event, like a conflict, seperation or jealousy.|
|Rising action||Protagonist strives to achieve their goal, driven by their hamartia (tragic flaw). They succeed but also begin to suffer from inner conflicts.||Character’s go on a journey to overcome the issue. Things go downhill.||The protagonist commits a bad deed in response to the issue. This is usually an act that harms / kills their wives.|
|Climax||There is no turning back for the protagonist. They usually realise the effects of their actions and are ridden with guilt.||A point of change for the protagonist. Events seem like they can turn positive or negative.||This is a point of change for the protagonist. They realise the effects of their actions and are given a chance to redeem themself.|
|Falling action||The protagonist’s suffers the consequences of his actions. His downfall seem inevitable||Events start to become positive. There is usually a reconciliation or reunification.||Protagonist repents their ‘evil’ actions and becomes a new person.|
|Resolution||The protagonist slightly redeems themselves but is killed. Social order is now restored.||It is a happy ending. The protagonist is better than they were at the start of the play. People are coupled together.||The protagonist is redeemed and lives. People reunify / coupled together. It is a happy ending but they are still affected by the tragic past.|
Texts are a reflection of the context that they are written in. This includes society’s values and perspectives, society’s economic status, historical events and even the composer’s personal life.
These factors change depending on geographic location and time. For example, a person who lives in 21st century Australia will have a different context compared to someone living in 21st century China or 19th century Australia.
This is why it is important to look at context when we are analysing texts.
We not only see how context influence they way a text is written, but we can also learn about these different contexts and compare it to ours. It helps us see what the composer’s message in the text.
We know that context is very important when it comes to analysing texts. Let’s take a look at a few key events that influenced Shakespeare’s works.
When you learn about Shakespeare, you will usually be asked to compare the original with a remake or reimagined version of it. This is called a comparative study.
This means that you have to look at the similarities and differences between the two texts and draw contextual connections.
To do this, you have to be comfortable with both contexts.
Usually, the composer’s decision to change or keep certain aspects of Shakespeare’s work is influenced by their context.
It is up to you to to figure out why. Think about social values, perspectives, cultures etc.
There is no doubt that Shakespeare is difficult to read and study. But if you put in the effort, you will find it very worth it.
Shakespeare is known for the way he writes. He uses metaphors, puns, double entendre, and vivid imagery to describe feelings, actions, behaviours and the human experience.
This helps us better understand the human experience because we aren’t just told what it is, we are shown it through his language.
Shakespeare also made a major contribution to the English language.
“Bubbles, addiction, bedazzled, assassination, eyeball, dishearten, uncomfortable“… just to name a few!
However, he didn’t just create around 1700 everyday English words, he also coined phrases.
“Dead as a doornail“, “Good riddance“, “Wild goose chase“, “Heart of gold” and so much more!
Some may argue that Shakespeare is no longer relevant today. But this is just a superficial understanding of the text.
When we look deeply into Shakespeare, we can see an exploration of universal and timeless experiences. He shows us the truth about human experiences and human nature like love, corrupt politics, conflicts etc.
Everyone in any time and space can relate to these experiences. And this is why Shakespeare will always be relevant.
When you discuss Shakespeare, it is not enough to just analyse the techniques.
You have to link your analysis with themes and context to bring it to the next level.
This means that you have to:
Now that you know how to analyse Shakespeare for Year 10 English, it’s time to look at the most common text form that is used to reimagine Shakespeare’s texts; film!
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