This GCSE English Literature quiz tests your ability to recognise dialogue quoted from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. With rare exceptions, drama consists almost entirely of dialogue. This quality, which distinguishes drama from other forms, such as the novel, can make a play more difficult to read and understand. Whereas a novel will often describe the scene in which a conversation takes place, drama requires a reader to imagine a performance. Whenever you have the opportunity, try to watch performances or film adaptations of plays to see how directors and actors have interpreted the text. One benefit of reading a play, however, is that it gives you the chance to go slowly, to re-read and to think carefully about the dialogue.
Dialogue conveys meaning both through content and through language choice, including the use of dialect and even interruptions and pauses.
As you read Macbeth, consider the following questions: Are different characters distinguished by their speech? Do different characters use different vocabularies? How does any character’s speech change over time or by circumstance? When reading Shakespeare, think about whether dialogue is written in poetry or prose. Does it make a difference whether characters speak in poetry?
Characterisation is partly accomplished through dialogue. Each character’s beliefs, intentions and preferences are conveyed through dialogue, but that is not its only function. Dialogue also gives the audience practical information, for example by explaining events which have taken place off stage, or in the past. In Macbeth, the murder of Duncan takes place off stage and the audience learns of it from the dialogue between Macbeth and his wife, as well as by observing the reactions of those who witness the aftermath.
If you want to impress your teacher, you can memorise some lines from Shakespeare. Making such an effort will also help you to prepare for writing about the play. Collect lines of dialogue from each character, aiming to find the most significant lines which exemplify the character or represent important stages in the plot.
The quiz below asks you to recognise who is speaking each of these lines. Consider the significance of the quoted dialogue before answering. What do the lines tell you about the speaker? Can you imagine another character speaking those words? If so, why? Think about the subtext of the lines. What information besides the practical is also being conveyed? Do you recognise foreshadowing, for example? Can you spot any other interesting effects or techniques?