Adding Depth by Sweating the Small Stuff

Most students can confidently recall that Lady Macbeth is an ambitious, ruthless character.  They’re likely to be able to zoom-in on her soliloquy at the start of A1S5 and then focus on her manipulation of Macbeth in A1S7.  However, largely because it’s easier to see Lady Macbeth solely as a cruel and monstrous villain, students often forget to comment on the subtler aspects of her characterisation.  For example, she remarks at the start of A2S2 that she would’ve killed Duncan herself had he not resembled her ‘father as he slept’.  It’s an easy bit to miss and, considered in isolation, is relatively insignificant.  However, looked at alongside the concern she feels about her husband’s increasing tyranny in A3S2, a more complex picture starts to emerge of Lady Macbeth as a character who, in addition to everything else, is also insecure and vulnerable.  This is where the ‘High Five’ postcards come in (sorry about the name, but I couldn’t think of anything less naff).

Each postcard contains five points that I want my students to memorise.  The points themselves aren’t particularly striking, but they’re useful to know because they can help to convey a depth of understanding that might otherwise be lacking in a typical essay.  For example, irrespective of which aspect of Jekyll and Hyde they’re asked to focus on in the summer, it’s inevitable that my students will write about the theme of duality in the novel.  And when they do, I want them to remember that Enfield ‘coming home from some place at the end of the world’ isn’t a throwaway detail. It’s actually a really important one to know because his mysterious appearance on a dingy backstreet in London hints at a sort of double life – typical of the one enjoyed by another notable and outwardly respectable Victorian man.

The postcards aren’t meant to undermine the importance of the notes that students have accumulated over the years or to signal that the information contained on them represents the sum total of knowledge that needs to be retained.  They’re just a simple resource – an aide-memoir – to help students remember some of the seemingly smaller details. When the summer comes, I’ll probably print them out, possibly laminate them, and make my wards carry them about with them wherever they go.  Sure they’ll appreciate that.

Click here to access what I’ve done so far.  Screenshots below.

Finally, before I sign-off, I’ve got to credit my Head of Department.  It’s because of his expertise and leadership that I keep gaining fresh insights on texts that I’ve taught for years and years.  Many of the points I’ve included on the postcards have stemmed from great discussions and debates I’ve had with him.

Thanks for reading –




High Five Macbeth

High Five Jekyll and Hyde

High Five An Inspector Calls

Recommended Reading:

Find my blog post on Top 5 Teaching Resources for Jekyll and Hyde here

teaching resources jekyll and hyde

My blog post on Top 5 Teaching Resources for Macbeth is here

5 teaching resources macbeth