Introduction to Dennis Kelly’s DNA

Dennis Kelly’s play DNA will remain on AQA’s GCSE English Literature specification – both my Year 11s and new Year 10s will need to know this play for one of their Literature exams (remember Year 10s your exam is closed book). So as a starting point here are some reviews of the play and performances…

The Guardian Review from February 2012

Dennis Kelly talks to The Telegraph (February 2012)

Review of Hull Truck Theatre Performance of DNA from April 2012

Take a look at these reviews as a starting point.

Miss O

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Message for my old Year 11s

Just want to say good luck for tomorrow. I hope you all get the results you want and need (especially in English!) Whatever your plans for September – enjoy!

Act 5 Scene 3 – Forever Love

Scene summary:

  • Romeo kills Paris when he tries to stop him entering the tomb.
  • To be with Juliet again, Romeo drinks the potion and dies.
  • When the Friar arrives, Juliet wakes up. He tries to hustle her away, but she is determined to stay by Romeo and the Friar flees. Taking Romeo’s dagger, Juliet kills herself.
  • The Prince, the Capulets and the Montagues find their children and Paris dead.
  • The Friar explains what has happened and the two fathers make peace.

screenshot_82   This scene can be compared to a number of the poems we have studied: Remember, Funeral Blues and Sonnet 18. Particularly focusing on Romeo’s soliloquy, we could focus on Shakespeare’s repetition of the word ‘death’. Shakespeare’s use of the double suicide and focus on the word ‘death’ to represent the fulfilment of Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other – their love shall live on even in death. The use of ‘kiss’ is also significant – Romeo makes reference to it, as does Juliet when she tried to kill herself. Shakespeare’s use of this ‘symbol’ of love starts their relationship in Act 1 Scene 5 but also ends in – consider what Shakespeare could be suggesting about love. Here you can make reference to how suicide was viewed in Shakespeare’s time. Shakespeare uses his plays to penetrate the stigma of suicide – a stigma that we could argue still exists to this day. Several of his most notable characters died by their own hand – this would have been viewed as shameful or disgraceful. By using the characters of Romeo and Juliet, could Shakespeare be suggesting positives as with their deaths comes a truce and an end to bloodshed. Similarly Remember by Christina Rossetti focuses on death and has a particularly morbid tone. Rossetti’s repetition of ‘remember’ suggesting that the love between the speaker and the unnamed lover lacks depth therefore unlike the characters in the play – the poem’s characters’  love isn’t strong enough to survive death. In Funeral Blues, W.H. Auden could also be suggesting that with death comes an end to love. For nothing now can ever come to any good.’ The use of time is significant in the Auden’s poem and can be linked to Romeo and Juliet – Early in the play, Romeo is painfully aware of the passage of time as he pines for Rosaline: “sad hours seem longer”. Comparing Romeo and Juliet to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 we can focus on light as a symbol.  Shakespeare is suggesting that Juliet’s beauty cannot be taken by death – ‘her beauty makes/This vault a feasting presence full of light.’ She shall forever remain beautiful to Romeo. Remember the numerous other references to light:

  • “O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!” (1.4.46)
  • “It is the east and Juliet is the sun!” (2.2.3)
  • “The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars/As daylight doth a lamp” (2.2.20-1)

The lightness of love disguises the darkness of night  – think about their relationship and the need to hide their love. Romeo and Juliet can only declare their love for each other at night when they are hidden from everyone else. Link this to the 1600s and family loyalty, arranged marriages and the problems love causes.  In Sonnet 18 light could also be seen as symbolic for the speaker’s love for his beloved.  ‘The eye of heaven shines’ – the poet’s speaks about saving beauty by ensuring that his friend be forever in human memory, saved from the oblivion that accompanies death. The use of the metaphor “eye of heaven” can be linked to the use of “sun” in the play – consider why this is important given what we know about the 1600s. Also consider the significance of “heaven”. Further links to help you:

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Act 3 Scene 1 – love as a cause of violence

This scene sees the deaths of both Mercutio and Tybalt. We can explore the idea of love as cause of conflict – firstly, how Romeo and Juliet’s love may be considered the cause of Mercutio’s death. Secondly how the love between Romeo and Mercutio ultimately causes violence and conflict.


The scene starts with a conversation between Mercutio and Benvolio. The mood and particularly the line “…for now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring” hints at what is to come. Although the background of the feud is revealed in the prologue, Shakespeare gives us hope that the union of Romeo and Juliet and their marriage may mend the rift between their families. The audience believes that it is possible that all may be well. However, the fight that occurs in Act 3, Scene 1 could be interpreted as a turning point in the play.

The inclusion of violence in Act 3 Scene 1 is a reminder that although love and beauty are key ideals the play takes part in a masculine world where pride, status and the family name are hugely important. Remember to focus on this to cover AO4 – context.

  • Tybalt confronts Romeo but does not get the expected response: “Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee/Doth much excuse the appertaining rage/To such a greeting. Villain am I none./Therefore, farewell. I see thou know’st me not.” Romeo is saying that he has a reason to love Tybalt and therefore he’s going to overlook the insult. The use of “villain” is significant because at this point of the play we see Romeo’s happiness destroyed, ultimately by him, an interpretation that is perhaps not always explored.
  • Romeo’s cry, “O, I am fortune’s fool!” refers specifically to his unluckiness in being forced to kill his new wife’s cousin, thereby getting himself banished, ultimately resulting in both his and Juliet’s death. It also links back to the prologue and the sense of fate that hangs over the play. This could link to Keat’s sonnet – Bright Star but also Auden’s Funeral Blues poem.
  • Romeo blames fate in contrast Mercutio blames both families – a significant change in the relationship between Romeo and Mercutio. The use of a “a plague on both your houses” suggests connotations of illness (perhaps linking with Sonnet 147 and “Love is as a fever”) but also religion. The Plagues of Egypt were ten calamities that, according to the biblical Book of Exodus, Israel’s God inflicted upon Egypt to persuade Pharaoh to release the ill-treated Israelites from slavery. Why is this significant – could it link to Blake’s The Garden of Love? The Elizabethan era was a significant time in terms of religion with both Catholic Church and the newly created Church of England exiting together- remember to mention this to cover AO4.
  • In Act 3, Scene 1, Mercutio shows that while he often chastises people for being aggressive and violent that he himself is disgusted by Romeo’s refusal to fight Tybalt – Mercutio is portrayed by Shakespeare as a character who is bitter, angry and vengeful. This is clear in the line, “O calm, dishonourable, vile submission.” This line shows that audience that Mercutio’s love for Romeo has altered. This could be compared to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 147 whereby the speaker in the sonnet changes from an obsession over his beloved to describing her as “black as hell, as dark as night”.
  • Elizabethan society generally believed that a man too much in love lost his manliness. Romeo clearly subscribes to that belief, as can be seen when he states that his love for Juliet had made him “effeminate.” Perhaps one interpretation that his new found feminine qualities is what ‘kills’ the love his has with Mercutio. He places Juliet before Mercutio, albeit without Mercutio’s knowledge.

Use the following to help:

How does Shakespeare present love as a cause of violence in Act 3 Scene 1?

  • Point: In Act 3 Scene 1 Mercutio and Romeo’s love for each other ends. And/or explain how Romeo and Juliet’s love causes the death of Mercutio.
  • Quote: Use a quote from this scene.
  • Explain: Explore how love is a cause of violence. Consider how we feel as a modern audience. Also consider how Shakespeare’s audience may have viewed this. Remember that honour, family name and masculinity were important during the 1600s.
  • Language: Zoom in on one or two key words – what are the connotations? Can you make any links to the 1600s? Does Shakespeare use any techniques such as metaphors or pathetic fallacy?

If you feel confident enough to compare this scene to one of the poems we have looked at then offer a linking sentence such as :

  • Similarly love is a cause of violence in ….
  • In contrast love prevents violence in ….

Then produce a PQE on the poem.

We will work on this in today’s lesson.

Miss O

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Lord Capulet and his love for Juliet

In our first week together we have looked at the presentation of Lord Capulet in Act 3 Scene 5.


In Act 3 Scene 5:

  • Lord Capulet enters and finds Juliet in tears.
  • He initially things Juliet is crying over the death of Tybalt. Capulet compares Juliet’s tears to rain and her to a conduit (pipe from which water always flows) – suggesting she cries too much.
  • After fiding out his wife has already delivered the news of the imminent marriage of Juliet to Paris, Capulet explodes with rage, when told Juliet is refusing to marry Paris.

The following clips shows this section of the play:

Act 3 Scene 5 questions Lord Capulet and Juliet’s relationship, particularly his love for his daughter. We may also question the love he has for himself – in what would have been a male centred patriarchal society.

The following offer some key points for language analysis:

  • Shakespeare uses some negative language choices such as ‘green-sickness carrion’, ‘tallow-face’ and ‘hang’. Consider the use of macabre language and what this could perhaps foreshadow.
  • The use of the metaphor “baggage” suggesting Juliet weighs Capulet down and she is a burden. An alternative interpretation presents Juliet as a possession of Lord Capulet’s – links can be made to the patriarchal society and the women’s rights during the 16th century. Could the use of this word choice suggest a love-less relationship between the two?
  • Shakespeare’s use of the personal pronoun ‘I’ and the possessive pronouns ‘my and ‘mine’ are used repeatedly by Capulet in Act 3 Scene 5. This further demonstrates the dominance males had in the 16th century. Perhaps suggesting Lord Capulet only has love for himself?
  • As the play was written to be performed, take note of the stage directions. In Act 3 Scene 5 we see Juliet ‘Kneeling’. Consider the positioning of the actors and what this could suggest about the hierarchy of the characters.
  • Shakespeare also makes reference to ‘God’, and Lord and Lady Capulet being ‘blest’. Consider the importance of religion during the 16th century. Remember in Act 2 Scene 2 we see a lot of religious imagery too.

I’ll mark your work for Monday and as you to make amendments/redraft for homework.

Miss O

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Year 11 GCSE English Language Resit

Year 11 – if you are resetting the Unit 1 exam (same as last November), the exam is on Tuesday.

Take a look at the following advice in preparation for the exam:

Also take a look at the old blog posts from last September, October and November – take a look here:

Finally keep-calm-and-remember-your-timings

Miss O

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Romeo and Juliet – Act 2 Scene 2

In Act 2 Scene 2 we looked at the start where Romeo is below Juliet’s balcony:

Key Ideas:

  • Looking up at Juliet as she appears at the balcony, Romeo compares her to the “sun“. Consider why Shakespeare has used such a metaphor? What are the connotations of the sun? How do we as a modern audience view the sun? What do you know about the Elizabethans beliefs in the sun/stars/astrology? Perhaps take a look here Elizabethan beliefs and
  • Romeo also mentions the ‘envious moon’ – remember in Roman mythology Diana was the goddess of the moon. ‘Dian’s wit’ is mentioned in Act 1 Scene 1 – to who is Romeo referring to at this point? Investigate the Roman goddess and begin to think about how this links to love.
  • Think about the following quote and how you could compare this to other parts of the play but also the sonnets?      

‘Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,

Having some business, do entreat her eyes

To twinkle in their spheres till they return.’

  • In this part of the play Shakespeare continues to use light and dark to symbolise their romance. Romeo is in the shadows, Juliet is compared to the earth’s natural light source – the sun. This scene also takes place at nighttime – their love flourishes at nighttime. Perhaps this links to their love being a ‘sin’?

Can you add any references to Act 2 Scene 2 or could you write a separate paragraph on this?

Miss O

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Thursday’s exam

Big well done for today guys. I’ve had a look at the exam paper and it looks quite nice. You’ll have aced it!

Attention now turns to Thursday’s poetry exam. I will be running two revision sessions:

Tomorrow – 3.35 until 4.30 in E1.
Thursday – 12.45 until 1.15 in E1.

Spend time looking at poems you feel u certain about. Look at the past posts. Attempt essay questions.

My predictions are:

Higher – Out of the Blue, Come on or Belfast Confetti
Foundation – The Right Word or Come on.

Hopefully see you at one of the revision sessions!

Miss O

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Impromptu Revision 8.15am tomorrow in E1

Guys –  I will be running a last minute revision session tomorrow for the Woman in Black/Of Mice and Men exam. Feel free to come along from 8.15am. Cereal bars and water to tempt you.

Revise hard tonight. Remember books tomorrow.

Miss O


Great Of Mice and Men Revision Guide

Take a look at the following Of Mice and Men revision guide. Loads of great stuff to do with context and great chapter by chapter guide if you still feel uncertain of the plot. A brilliant resource.

Miss O

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