Planning your answer
Before you begin writing your essay, it is important that you plan it properly so the essay is crafted and structured to suit the question. You must also refer to the assessment objectives to ensure you've met the criteria.
Below is a structure that you could use for your answer.
- Introduction to the topic and question.
- Point 1: Juliet refuses to marry Paris.
- Point 2: Capulet and Paris deciding on Juliet's marriage.
- Point 3: Capulet hearing the news of Juliet's death.
Consider the following example answers about Point 1 (Juliet’s refusal to marry Paris and Capulet’s response).
Sample answer 1
Capulet is horrified when Juliet tells him that she won't marry on the Thursday and she won't marry Paris. I know that he is horrified because Shakespeare has him saying 'disobedient wretch' to his daughter, Juliet. This is a horrible thing to say because he is saying that his daughter is a 'wretch', which basically means she's a nightmare and a plague on his life. Shakespeare has used this word to describe Juliet to highlight Capulet's anger that Juliet won't obey him, the male and master of the Capulet household.
Feedback comments – not bad but room for improvement!
- This candidate shows that they've got an understanding of the text, main characters and plot. They use evidence to support their points. To develop this further, they should focus on Capulet's emotion and why Shakespeare has presented his emotion in this way.
- There's some analysis of language here as the candidate has explored the use of 'wretch'. However, this should be developed. They should also look at the structure and form of the text.
- There's a mention of Capulet's role as the 'master of the Capulet household', which indicates a little understanding of the social and historical context. This should be developed and discussed with the question.
- The candidate writes accurately, using correct spelling and punctuation. Their phrasing could be more concise and clearer at points.
Sample answer 2
In the extract above, Shakespeare presents Capulet's horror and disgust at his daughter, Juliet, because she defies him. Capulet cannot believe this is happening and this is evidenced when he repeats the word, 'Fie'. Shakespeare highlights how Capulet cannot understand what Juliet is saying and needs time to digests her defiance. The use of several commas in this line also suggest this. This lack of understanding and amazement quickly turns into disgust and horror, as he calls Juliet a 'wretch!' The use of the noun 'wretch' shows Capulet's anger towards his daughter.
Feedback - much improved!
- The candidate demonstrates a good understanding of the plot and characters, and uses evidence to support the main points. To develop this further, the candidate could explore their own personal response - highlighting what they think about Capulet's attitudes towards his daughter.
- The candidate discusses Shakespeare's use of language, repetition and punctuation - focusing on what Shakespeare has done and why he has done it. However, the candidate hasn't discussed the form and how the audience would've felt at this point in the play.
- There's no social and historical context in this answer. There are many opportunities to develop this.
- A well written answer, focusing on the rules of spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Using the skills you've learnt in this section, now write an essay responding to the Romeo and Juliet essay question. Time yourself and make sure you are meeting the assessment objectives.
Writing the first draft
Once you have planned your answer, you can start to write the first draft. Remember, this is coursework, so you might be able to write a number of drafts, making each one better as you develop your answer. However, many people worry about starting their answer - they are not sure where to start - so they include a lot of information which is not asked for or needed. For instance, you might know a lot about the background to the play or Shakespeare's life, but is it really relevant? Let's compare two ways of starting to answer the question: 'What is the role of the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet?'
Romeo and Juliet is a play by Shakespeare. It is set in Verona, Italy, and is about two families, the Capulets and the Montagues, who are constantly feuding, and what happens when Romeo, a Montague, and Juliet, a Capulet, fall in love. The play was probably first performed at the Globe Theatre in London in 1595. The theatre was very different then because no females were allowed to act, so all of the female roles, including Juliet, were played by males.
At first sight this looks OK. It is all correct and about Romeo and Juliet. However, the person marking the essay already knows the play and all the background details, and this introduction could be for any title. In fact, most markers would not give any marks so far, because nothing about the question has been given. We think there is a much better way to start your essay or talk, so let's look at version two.
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