This is the first of two GCSE English Literature extract questions for William Shakespeare's Macbeth. It takes place during the first act of the play, after Duncan has honoured Macbeth with the title of Thane of Cawdor. Here we see how Lady Macbeth reacts to her husband’s news as well as to the imminent arrival of the King. Duncan intends his visit to be received as a gracious act, a bestowal of honour upon suitably loyal and grateful subjects. Instead Macbeth and his wife see the visit as a unique opportunity to advance their own ambitions and to seize power. Read the passage through at least twice before tackling the questions. When answering, pay close attention to details while also bearing in mind the themes of the play as a whole.
When approaching an extract question in an exam, always read through the passage more than once.
Reading the passage the first time, you should try to develop a general understanding, considering especially how the extract relates to the question or questions you will be answering. While reading through the second time, you can begin to pay closer attention to details, making annotations as you read. Think about reasons why this specific passage has been chosen: what is its significance? Can you describe how it relates to the rest of the text? Where does it fit in the plot or the structure of the text? Which significant characters or themes are introduced or developed? What happens next? Are future events foreshadowed? Is there any reason why the extract ends where it does? What significance can you see in its final line?
Consider also the question you have been asked to answer. Are you expected to discuss the mood and atmosphere of the extract, a theme, or a particular character? Or will you be writing about dialogue, behaviour or feelings? Compare your notes and annotations to the expectations of the question, considering how the evidence from the text can be used in your answer. Remember to explain the passage’s immediate context: what has already happened by this point in the text? How do these prior events relate to the events which take place in the extract? Think about setting and characterisation. As you write, try to group related ideas together, but be sure that your answer discusses the entire passage. Careful use of time will enable you to produce a thorough answer rather than one which only discusses part of the passage in detail while neglecting the remainder.
Read the passage below carefully before answering the questions.