Preparation for In-Class Essay: Instructions for analysing a passage

You can also consult the key to a good answer that Jennifer has compiled after assessing the first term's responses.


Answer the following questions in note form:


Summarise the plot up to this point in the play. Remember that plot is made up of on-stage events only.

Who is the speaker (name, age, occupation, social status, important relationships, esp. to other characters on stage or mentioned in the passage)

What has the speaker done up to this point in the play?

What time of day is it?

Where does the scene take place?

Who is on stage?

Why is everyone here? (What kind of an event is this: a wedding? A hunting party? An accidental meeting)

What happened immediately before the beginning of the speech? (On stage & off)

What happens immediately after the end of the speech? (Be sure you deal with the text I have given you.)

What is the main topic of the beat of action (immediately before+speech+immediately after)

The speech

Underline key words in the text and look them up in the OED. Mark anything odd or interesting that you notice.

What is the main topic of the speech?

Mark each time the speaker changes minor topics in the speech.

Describe the form of the language the speaker is using (register, meter, rhyme, alliteration, etc...). Mark and describe any changes in the form.

Does the speaker use figures? If so, describe them (metaphor, simile, etc...) & mark any changes in the figurative language. (Including marking points where no figures are used).

To whom is the speaker speaking? Mark points at which the speakerís audience changes, and say who the audience is (name, age, occupation, social status, relationship to speaker, actions that the speaker knows about to this point in the play, actions th at the audience knows about to this point in the play)

Mark any evidence of what is happening on stage during the speech. (What is the audience doing? Does the speaker move? Does anyone else move? Or speak? Does time pass more quickly than in life? Slow down?)

Is there anything else odd in the speech? Anything that stands out in any way?

Summarise your evidence in the form of a scenario. Put it together in the form of a story.


Answer the following questions in note form:

Character through-line

What is the speakerís biggest problem in the play (a clue to main obstacle)?

How does the speaker react to the problem (a clue to main action)?

Why is the problem a problem (a clue to super-objective)?

Name the speakerís super-objective, main obstacle and main action.

Character beat

What is the speaker doing in the speech (clue to action)?

What problem is the speaker trying to overcome by doing that (clue to obstacle)?

Why is the speaker trying to overcome this problem (clue to objective)?

Name the speakerís objective, obstacle and action for the speech.

Does the speaker achieve his or her objective?

Action beat

How does the speech respond to the event immediately before it?

How does it cause the event immediately after it?

What effect does the presence or absence of other on-stage characters have on the speaker(s)?

What happens between characters, or as a result of what the characters do to one another?

Would you like to refine your decisions about the characterís objective, obstacle, and action for the speech?

Line of Action

Identify the crisis-point, the climax, and the conclusion of the play.

Define the line of action of the play.

Say how this beat of action contributes to that journey, ie. say why this beat MUST happen in order for the final action of the play to be possible.

REMEMBER: You should be prepared to account for every single word in the speech.