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WJEC A Level: King Lear

Unit 4: Shakespeare

Section A: Extract Question

EJD / 2018
Unit 4: Shakespeare Extract (Section A)
Select carefully from the extract evidence of how Shakespeare presents a
character(s)/relationship/attitudes/thoughts and feelings (depending on the question).

• It is worth spending ten or more minutes preparing your response in this way before starting to
answer the question.
• Don’t start writing immediately, going through the extract line by line: this leads to errors in
understanding and irrelevant remarks.
• If the question asks for a character’s ‘thoughts and feelings’ you must consider both; ‘feelings’ alone
will not suffice.
• Do not track through the extract line by line, commenting as you go along on any device you may
spot, as this will result in a less structured and less coherent response.
• Think about the broader aspects of Shakespeare’s presentation, for example if another character in
the same extract adds to/filters the presentation of the central character in any way or use of an
aspect of staging/stagecraft.
• As well as discussing aspects of ‘language and imagery’ as required by the question, such as
metaphorical language, discussing implicit meaning is also important, as this also shows
understanding of how language shapes meaning.
• Remember this is a play, and Shakespeare’s dramatic techniques must be considered.

Section A
Shakespeare Extract
Preparing to respond
• Overview of extract : take time to
• 45 marks : AO1 (15) AO2 read carefully
(30) • remind yourself of what the audience
• Timing advice 45 minutes sees taking place in the extract ‘at
• Question only requires this point in the play’
focus on the specified • now read the extract again until you
point of the play feel reasonably confident that you
• No reward for context and understand the speech/speeches
different interpretations • next start thinking about what we
learn from it in relation to the

Look at the following examples of the opening paragraphs of candidate responses to the extract
question and identify where AO1 and AO2 can be rewarded.
Candidate response to King Lear extract – opening paragraph

Q 1. With close reference to the language and imagery in this extract, analyse Shakespeare’s
presentation of Lear’s thoughts and feelings at this point in the play.

In this extract Shakespeare presents Lear as a man on the brink of insanity. The
unravelling of his mind is clear in his confusion, nonsense threats and his
unpredictable emotions throughout.

Towards the end of the extract there is a section where Lear attempts to threaten
Regan and her sister with “revenges”; however, he says in the same breath “what
they are yet I know not”. By writing these empty threats, Shakespeare is presenting
Lear as powerless because suddenly it seems less likely that Lear’s revenges will
be “the terrors of the earth” and so his threats mean nothing to Goneril or Regan.

Candidate response to Hamlet extract – opening paragraph

Q 3. With close reference to the language and imagery in this extract, analyse how Shakespeare
presents Hamlet’s character at this point in the play.

In this extract we see Hamlet caught between action and hesitation, with him initially
seeming propelled forwards to take his revenge against Claudius claiming “Now I
might do it pat.” However, Hamlet expresses great uncertainty in the true justice
that will be achieved in Claudius’ death, whilst he is praying. He questions himself,
exploring that “A villain kills my father; and …do this same villain send to Heaven.”
Shakespeare uses the contrasting ideas of murder and heaven to emphasise that
Claudius is unworthy of an afterlife in heaven. This recurrs at the end of the extract
with Hamlet defiantly stating that Claudius’ “ heels may kick at heaven” while his
soul is “damn’d and black as hell”. This drives Hamlet’s certainty that Claudius does
not belong to heaven, therefore he cannot, and shall not, enter. Through mirroring
these images, Shakespeare emphasises that Hamlet’s mind is unchanged when it
comes to the justice his father deserves.
Candidate response to The Tempest extract – opening paragraph

Q 5. With close reference to the language and imagery in this extract, analyse how Shakespeare
presents Prospero at this point in the play.

During the extract, Prospero decides on exacting forgiveness, instead of retribution,

against his adversaries that made him endure intolerable strife. His monologue,
spoken in blank verse, illustrates that he is a commanding and formidable presence
when possessing his sorcery ability, the “so potent art” that Shakespeare
hyperbolises to accentuate Prospero’s authority.

Initially, incorporating an imperative tone, Shakespeare presents Prospero as being

decisive, instructing his spirit Ariel to “go release them”, that is the king’s company
who he has charmed as redemption for their indiscretions. The emotive verb “break”
has connotations to violence, which, highlighted by the inverted syntax in the phrase
“my charms I’ll break”, is paradoxical as Prospero is professing that he will not resort
to hostilities, but forgive those who did him wrong, “their senses I’ll restore.”
King Lear

1. With close reference to the language and imagery in this extract, analyse Shakespeare’s
presentation of Lear’s thoughts and feelings at this point in the play.

ALBANY Pray, Sir, be patient.

LEAR [To GONERIL] Detested kite! thou liest.

My train are men of choice and rarest parts,
That all particulars of duty know,
And in the most exact regard support
The worships of their name. O most small fault,
How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show!
Which, like an engine, wrenched my frame of nature
From the fixed place; drew from my heart all love,
And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear!
Beat at this gate, that let thy folly in,

[Striking his head]

And thy dear judgment out! Go, go, my people.

ALBANY My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorant

Of what hath moved you.

LEAR It may be so, my lord.

Hear, Nature, hear! dear Goddess, hear!
Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend
To make this creature fruitful!
Into her womb convey sterility!
Dry up in her the organs of increase,
And from her derogate body never spring
A babe to honour her! If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen, that it may live,
And be a thwart disnatured torment to her!
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth;
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks;
Turn all her mother's pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt, that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child! Away, away!


King Lear

1. With close reference to the language and imagery in this passage, examine how
Shakespeare presents Lear’s state of mind.

Regan. I pray you, father, being weak, seem so.

If, till the expiration of your month,
You will return and sojourn with my sister,
Dismissing half your train, come then to me.
I am now from home, and out of that provision
Which shall be needful for your entertainment.

Lear. Return to her,and fifty men dismiss’d?

No, rather I abjure all roofs, and choose
To wage against the enmity o’ th’air;
To be a comrade with the wolf and owl
Necessity’s sharp pinch! Return with her?
Why, the hot-blooded France, that dowerless took
Our youngest born-I could as well be brought
To knee his throne, and, squire-like, pension beg
To keep base life afoot. Return with her?
Persuade me rather to be slave and sumpter
To this detested groom. (Pointing to Oswald)

Goneril. At your choice, Sir.

Lear. I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad.

I will not trouble thee, my child; farewell.
We’ll no more meet, no more see one another.
But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter;
Or rather a disease that’s in my flesh,
Which I must needs call mine; thou art a boil,
A plague-sore, or embossed carbuncle
In my corrupted blood. But I’ll not chide thee;
Let shame come when it will, I do not call it;
I do not bid the Thunder-bearer shoot,
Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove.
Mend when thou canst; be better at thy leisure;
I can be patient; I can stay with Regan,
I and my hundred knights.
(Act 2 Scene iv)

King Lear

1. With close reference to the language and imagery in this extract, examine Shakespeare’s
presentation of Cordelia at this point in the play. [45]

FRANCE. This is most strange,

That she, whom even but now was your best object,
The argument of your praise, balm of your age,
The best, the dearest, should in this trice of time
Commit a thing so monstrous to dismantle
So many folds of favour. Sure her offence
Must be of such unnatural degree
That monsters it, or your fore-vouch’d affection
Fall into taint — which to believe of her
Must be a faith that reason without miracle
Should never plant in me.
CORDELIA. I yet beseech your Majesty —
If for I want that glib and oily art
To speak and purpose not, since what I well intend
I’ll do’t before I speak — that you make known
It is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness,
No unchaste action or dishonoured step,
That hath depriv’d me of your grace and favour;
But even for want of that for which I am richer —
A still-soliciting eye, and such a tongue
That I am glad I have not, though not to have it
Hath lost me in your liking.

(Act 1 Scene i)

Section A: Shakespeare extract

Answer one question in this section.
In your response, you are required to analyse how meanings are

King Lear

1. With close reference to the language and imagery in this extract, analyse Shakespeare’s presentation of
Lear’s thoughts and feelings at this point in the play. [45]

REGAN What need one?

LEAR O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars

Are in the poorest thing superfluous.

Allow not nature more than nature needs,

Man’s life is cheap as beast’s. Thou art a lady;

If only to go warm were gorgeous,

Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear’st,
Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true need -
You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need.
You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,

As full of grief as age; wretched in both.

If it be you that stirs these daughters’ hearts

Against their father, fool me not so much

To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger,

And let not women’s weapons, water-drops,

Stain my man’s cheeks! No, you unnatural hags,

I will have such revenges on you both

That all the world shall – I will do such things –

What they are yet I know not; but they shall be

The terrors of the earth. You think I’ll weep.

No, I’ll not weep. [Storm and tempest.

I have full cause of weeping; but this heart

Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws
Or ere I’ll weep. O fool, I shall go mad!
[Exeunt Lear, Gloucester, Kent and Fool.

(Act 2, Scene iv)