How to write a critical essay

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Your essay will be marked against four criteria:

Understanding: you know what the main concerns of the text are.

Analysis: you can describe the writer’s techniques

Evaluation: you can show the effect of or how effective these techniques are.

Technical Accuracy: you can write correctly and fluently, using appropriate critical terminology.

Getting Started

The first paragraph of your essay is an introductory paragraph in which you tell the reader the text and author you are going to write about, relate that text to the wording of the question, and explain what aspect of the text you are going to examine:

Choose a play in which there are female characters who are important in conveying the theme of the play, and show in what way(s) this is the case.

One play in which there are female characters important to the theme of the play is Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The characters I am going to examine are Gertrude and Ophelia.

The second paragraph should be a very brief account of the text or, in the case of the question above, the role and importance of the characters within the text:

Gertrude, the wife of Claudius, widow of Old Hamlet and mother of Hamlet, is something of a problem character in the play, while the nature and importance of Ophelia, daughter of Polonius and erstwhile lover of Hamlet,


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