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Guide to Analyze and Write on a Passage in a Play

A. Analysis
1. Make sure you have read the entire play first. Often the consequences of an
action aren't clear until the end of the play.

2. Re-read the passage you're analyzing and answer the following fact questions:
Who are the characters on the stage?
What is the central issue the characters are discussing?
What background information does the scene provide?
What are the views of the characters in the scene? Since drama is based on
conflicts, at least two of the characters will differ in their viewpoints.
Remember that there may be more than two sides to the issue.
What lessons do the various characters learn by the end of the play? Does
their understanding suggest some sort of theme?
Given your understanding of the entire play, what is the theme of the

3. Answer the following process questions:

Why is the passage significant to the text as a whole? Does the action that
follows suggest that one or more of the characters were right? That one or
more characters were wrong?
How does the passage achieve its effectiveness?

How do characters use language? (Diction, rhythm, pace, pauses, etc)

How is suspense/ tension built?
What is the tone of the passage? How is this achieved? (Is there any
irony in word or deed? In general, irony results from a discrepancy
between someone's actions or beliefs and the reality of the situation.
For example, if someone who claims to be against violence hits her
opponent in a debate, then her action may be termed ironic; dramatic
irony emphasizes the discrepancy between what a character does or
thinks and what the audience knows to be the case. What register do
they use formal, informal-?
What is the mood of the passage? How is it created? Is there humour?
To what effect?

B. Writing an essay
With your answers to the process questions above, offer a thesis statement indicating a basic
observation or assertion about the text or passage.

Write an introduction including: a context for the passage; your hypothesis; an explanation, if
necessary, of your categories of analysis it could be necessary to discuss what happens in the
passage and why it is significant to the work as a whole - ; your axes of analysis.

Then write the paragraphs of the body of your essay (topic sentence; enlargement and illustration;
concluding sentence) following a detailed analysis of the passage, in order to prove your

Consider what is said, particularly subtleties of the imagery and the ideas expressed.
Assess how it is said, considering how the word choice, the ordering of ideas, sentence
structure, etc., contribute to the meaning of the passage.
Explain what the passage means, tying your analysis of the passage back to the significance
of the text as a whole and to your hypothesis.

Always remember you are providing support for your thesis or topic sentence.