How should I approach an essay question on Greek/ Roman Theatre?

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First step: don't panic. You'll have studied the play or piece you've been given in class, so it's impossible you won't know at least something about it. The exam isn't expecting you to do anything innovative or hugely creative: you'll have likely gone over most of the main points you'll make in class.

Start out by identifying which play it is, and (if applicable) what section, if you're being asked to analyse a specific scene. What does the question ask you? For instance, if you're begin asked about the forms of comedy in Aristophanes' The Birds, then talking about its dramatic elements aren't going to help you much.

Once you've orientated yourself, start thinking. Why have they asked the question? What do you think the examiner wants you to explore? Don't be afraid to make a five/ten minute plan at the beginning of your answer, detailing your points, their evidence and how it relates to the question.

Remember, as historical documents as well as pieces of entertainment, Greco-Roman plays are hugely affected by what was then "current events". Use your wider knowledge of the ancient world to your advantage. What social commentary are these plays making? Why are certain scenes funny, or tragic, based on what happened outside of the theatre?

Try making each paragraph a self-encapsulated point, some evidence and a piece of analysis. This is a neat and simple way of illustrating your point. You may also want to leave space at the beginning and write your introduction last, just to make sure it matches your essay. There's nothing worse than losing marks because your introduction doesn't quite match up with your conclusion.

 

Jacob C. A Level English tutor, GCSE Maths tutor, A Level Classical C...

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