This assignment is an exercise in close textual analysis, so you should begin by reading the subsection ‘Textual analysis’ in Section 4.2 of this Assessment Guide.
There are three parts to this question, but make sure you present your TMA as an essay written in continuous prose; that is, although your TMA will inevitably fall into three sections, you should not number them or include sub-headings.
Consider carefully how much space you allocate to each part of the question. With the first part – identifying why the passage is important – avoid just telling the story of the play. Think about why the passage is important; what dramatic function does it serve? Where does the extract occur in the play and in what way is it significant for the play as a whole? It is important to present this first section clearly and concisely.
You will want to spend most your time considering the second part of the assignment: the distinctive features of the language. Here you will find it useful to go back to Chapters 3 and 4 of The Renaissance and Long Eighteenth Century and remind yourself of the different aspects of Webster’s language examined there. Then re-read the extract carefully, and think about the use of, for example, metre and rhythm, sound patterns, registers of language, imagery and figurative language. You may feel after studying the passage that there are other features that should be mentioned, but remember that your tutor does not want a simple list of poetic and linguistic devices. You should not only identify the distinctive qualities of the language but also say why you think the passage is written in this particular way. What effect is created by Webster’s use of particular poetic techniques? How do these contribute to his creation of character? How does the language of the extract help to create and convey particular meanings? You will find it very helpful while doing this to refer to relevant sections of the ‘Skills tutorial: drama’ (2.1 ) and ‘Skills tutorial: poetry’ (1.5, 2.1. 2.2, 3.1).
After discussing the distinctive features of the language and the ways in which this shapes the meanings of the extract, try to identify TWO ways in which this could be translated into performance. For example, if the language of the passage creates a particular mood or tone, how would you try to get this across to the audience if you were staging the play? You might think about lighting, or about how the actors’ delivery of the lines could help to convey the mood of the scene. If the language works to evoke a particular character’s personality or emotions, how would you go about conveying those to the audience through performance? How might the position and movement of the characters on the stage underline the meanings created by the language of the passage? Does the mood or tone change at any point? Does the language contain clues about how the passage should be performed? Are there any dramatic pauses or sudden breaks in the rhythm? You will find it helpful to watch the video ‘John Websters The Duchess of Malfi: from text to performance’ again for specific guidance on performance issues.
Your job is to focus on what the language itself tells us about how the passage should be performed. Remember that you only need to identify TWO ways in which the meaning of the extract might be related through performance, so the bulk of your TMA should be devoted to the analysis of the language.