There is an excellent book called Dyslexia: A Teenager's Guide
that has a very good and thorough chapter on how to structure an essay, with lots of examples. Don't be put off by the book's title - in the Introduction the author says that the book will be of equal use to students with dyspraxia, and she's right. It may be too late for you to get the book now, but it will come in very handy for future assignments.
'Examine the dramatic importance of act 3 scene 1 showing how Shakespeare creates tension through a range of dramatic devices.'
First of all, go through the scene very carefully and note the places where tension mounts. You should be able to feel the tension building, even if you don't understand why or how.
Shakespeare works with language. He is a master wordsmith. The answer to that essay question is buried within the way he uses words. But as you have been asked to discuss dramatic
devices, and not just linguistic ones, you need to ask yourself how those words feel and sound when they are spoken aloud onstage. Try and act out parts of the scene by yourself. Imagine yourself into the different parts. This should give you a clue.
One of the things you will notice about normal conversation is that most people take turns to speak, and when they do speak, they talk for an equal length of time. The exception to this rule occurs if one person is more knowledgeable about the subject being discussed OR is considered to be more socially important person. If this turn-taking doesn't happen, something is wrong.
I pray thee, good Mercutio, let's retire:
The day is hot, the Capulets abroad,
And, if we meet, we shall not scape a brawl;
For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.
Thou art like one of those fellows that when he
enters the confines of a tavern claps me his sword
upon the table and says 'God send me no need of
thee!' and by the operation of the second cup draws
it on the drawer, when indeed there is no need.
Am I like such a fellow?
Come, come, thou art as hot a Jack in thy mood as
any in Italy, and as soon moved to be moody, and as
soon moody to be moved.
And what to?
As the conversation goes on, Benvolio's responses become shorter (and short sentences are usually sharper!) and Mercutio's grow longer. The constrast between the two lengths, coupled with the fact that Benvolio meets Mercutio's supposedly soothing replies with angry questions, electrify the air.
A second dramatic feature that helps to create a mood is prosody
. Prosody refers to how something sounds:
By my head, here come the Capulets.
By my heel, I care not.
Mercutio's parroting of Benvolio's opening phrase ("By my head...") and the way the two lines alliterate also help to build up the tension, as alliteration and repetition make a scene sound faster. More slick. Head
alliterate, as do come
, and Capulets
As well as looking at the prosodic effects, you must look at the meaning of the words
. When Benvolio says, "By my head" he means, "By my intelligence, by my brains, by my knowledge." In referring to his feet, Mercutio is being extremely rude - feet are sweaty, unpleasant things. This is a way of showing what he thinks of Benvolio.
You must also consider stage directions
and their effects. Pause to imagine how it must look to the audience, to have Tybalt and his gang come storming on with their swords clanking, ready to meet Mercutio and Benvolio. Consider how the tension grows when the subject of the dispute - Romeo - strolls onto the stage.
Use a new paragraph to discuss each aspect of the scene. To structure your essay, divide these ideas I have given you into two groups: ideas connected to language, ideas connected to sound, and ideas connected to visual effect. Plan your essay first to make sure it flows logically. Perhaps you could ask your teacher to check your essay plans in future.