Assertive Paragraphs: Helpful Notes and Don’ts for Macbeth and the Future



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Assertive Paragraphs: Helpful Notes and Don’ts for Macbeth and the Future

  • Ms. Mathews
  • English 10 Honors

Tips for BEFORE you start writing…

  • Consider the question carefully, and ask yourself:
    • What is the question asking you to do? (Make sure you understand each part of the assignment!)
    • What themes/symbols/motifs are involved?
    • Can you answer this question intelligently?
    • Can you find textual support for your argument?
  • Brainstorm for a few minutes!!
  • Look up quotes in the text; consider how to piece them together to form a strong argument
  • Make an outline of your ideas
  • THEN you can begin writing

Problem Areas from the Past:

  • Write in Literary Present Tense!! (LPT)
  • Indicate the title of the play correctly.
    • OTHERWISE: YOU WILL LOSE A POINT FROM NOW ON.
  • Avoid contractions and weak words! 
  • Couch quotations with adequate CONTEXT!
    • Who is speaking? To whom? At what point in the play? Do not just say in II.ii; explain what is going on.

Review of Assertive Paragraph Format

  • 7 sentences only because we have to start somewhere
  • Assertion: (if only writing one paragraph, this is the THESIS)
  • Evidence: (a couched and cited quote—with adequate CONTEXT)
  • Commentary: (TWO sentences of analysis—not plot summary!)
  • Evidence: (another couched and cited quote with CONTEXT)
  • Commentary: (TWO sentences of analysis—again, not plot!)

Assertions = MEGA Important!

  • A strong assertion is the MOST IMPORTANT part of your paragraph.
  • Make sure your assertion is worded CLEARLY!
  • If you 1) do not have an assertion, 2) have an unclear assertion, or 3) have a weak assertion, your argument WILL SUFFER.
    • If you do not have a strong assertion to guide you, you will not have anything substantial to say, and you will most likely flail around in different directions without arguing anything concrete.

Assertion Tips

  • If you are only writing ONE assertive paragraph, your assertion is your THESIS.
  • Thesis statements must be defendable—they cannot be FACTUAL:
    • Macbeth kills a lot of people is not a thesis—it is a FACT!
    • Macbeth is not responsible for his actionsnow that is an opinion!
  • A thesis should contain a TAG: Title, Author, Genre
    • In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, yadda yadda yadda…
    • …blah blah blah in the play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare.
    • If you are referring to a specific part of the play, indicate that in your TAG: In Act II of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, . . .

Remember:

  • IF you are only writing one paragraph (not a full essay), the ASSERTION functions as your thesis. In this case, include a TAG in the assertion.
  • IF you are writing an assertive paragraph as a body paragraph in a larger essay, make sure each assertion (topic sentence) relates directly to the thesis you have presented in the first paragraph.
  • You will encounter BOTH of these situations throughout the school year. Pay attention to the DIRECTIONS so you know what you are being asked to do and how to format your writing.
    • If you are ever unsure, ASK!

More Assertion Tips

    • More Assertion Tips
    • DO NOT simply repeat the question in your assertion.
    • For instance, if the question is What are the symbolic functions of blood in Act II of Macbeth? your assertion should NOT be:
      • The symbolic functions of blood in Act II of Macbeth are…
        • Instead, a strong assertion might be:
      • Blood (does this) and (that) to (do this) . . .
      • Example: In Act II of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, blood symbolizes not only Macbeth’s guilt, but also the significance of family lineage in relation to the murder of King Duncan.

EVEN More Assertion Tips

    • EVEN More Assertion Tips
    • DO NOT compose an empty sentence; make sure you have something to say!
      • For instance: In Act II of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, the motif of blood symbolizes many different ideas.
      • My Response: I know that! I am the one who told you so. Tell me WHAT it symbolizes!!!!
      • DO NOT simply jumble up the words from the prompt, cross your fingers, and HOPE they mean something.
        • For instance: In Act II of the play Macbeth by Shakespeare, there are several symbolic significances of the important and recurring motif of blood which present important information about the events of the play.
        • My Response: Huh??? What does this mean?

Last Word on ASSERTIONS

    • Last Word on ASSERTIONS
    • Pay attention to what different “English class” words mean and how to use them effectively.
    • For instance, you should know how to use the following:
      • Symbol
      • Symbolic
      • Symbolism
      • Symbolize
        • There is sometimes confusion about how to word assertions clearly. Students might write something like “guilt symbolizes blood.” Does that make any sense??

Tips about EVIDENCE

    • Tips about EVIDENCE
    • The quotes you find must make sense when used together.
    • Consider the best order in which to integrate your quotes. (Chronological order is usually best)
    • Do NOT abbreviate quotes in shorthand to save time.
      • You MAY, however, add clarifying info in [brackets] or remove unnecessary info by inserting an ellipsis ( . . . )
    • Remember to COUCH and CITE each quote appropriately. Include adequate CONTEXT too!
    • Analyze (explain the significance of) each quote AFTER you have couched/cited it, not before.
    • Tips about COMMENTARY (the most challenging step)
    • After you have introduced a quote, write at least TWO sentences of commentary.
    • Commentary is NOT a summary of the plot.
    • Commentary is YOUR ANALYSIS of the significance of the quotes you have presented in the context of the entire work.
      • Do not simply spit out my class discussion points verbatim; use your OWN brain, your OWN words, your OWN thoughts!
    • If you are using two quotes that work well together, there should be a natural progression from the commentary about one into the introduction for the next.

Commentary is NOT Plot Summary!

  • Plot Summary BAD
  • Macbeth is worried about the blood on his hands because he thinks it will never be washed away, even by the ocean. He has just killed Duncan and is feeling uneasy.
  • Commentary GOOD
  • Macbeth’s concern is not actually for the physical blood on his hands; rather, his remorse is a result of killing Duncan. The blood on his hands symbolizes this guilt, a feeling that will take more than water to wash away.
  • After murdering Duncan, and returning to his chamber with bloody hands, Macbeth exclaims, “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?” (II.ii.78-9).

Review of Assertive Paragraph Format

  • 7 sentences
  • Assertion: (if only writing one paragraph, this is the THESIS)
  • Evidence: (a couched and cited quote—with adequate CONTEXT)
  • Commentary: (TWO sentences of analysis—not plot summary!)
  • Evidence: (another couched and cited quote with CONTEXT)
  • Commentary: (TWO sentences of analysis—again, not plot!)

Sample Assertive Paragraph

  • Writing Task: Compose an insightful assertive paragraph explaining the significance of the bird motif in the first two acts of the play.
  • Break down the task—What is it asking you to do?
    • Write ONE assertive paragraph
    • Explain ONE significance of the bird motif, supported with TWO examples
    • Address both Act I and Act II

Sample Assertive Paragraph

  • In William Shakespeare’s tragic play Macbeth, the motif of birds represents Macbeth’s transformation from a brave war hero to a cold, calculating murderer. Early in the play, the bloody captain explains the Norwegian troops dismayed Macbeth and Banquo as much “as sparrows [would scare] eagles” (I.ii.39). Macbeth, a valiant and heroic general in the Scottish army, would never be afraid of enemy troops. The symbolism of the eagle shows Macbeth as honorable, majestic, and powerful. Later in the play, however, when Macbeth has become relentlessly power hungry, he is represented as a “mousing owl” (II.iv.16) that has killed a falcon. Macbeth is no longer an eagle, but an owl, a bird of darkness and death. In killing Duncan, the falcon, Macbeth has upset the natural order of anointed rule in the kingdom.

Let’s break it down… Assertion Evidence Commentary

  • In William Shakespeare’s tragic play Macbeth, the motif of birds represents Macbeth’s transformation from a brave war hero to a cold, calculating murderer. Early in the play, the bloody captain explains the Norwegian troops dismayed Macbeth and Banquo as much “as sparrows [would scare] eagles” (I.ii.39). Macbeth, a valiant and heroic general in the Scottish army, would never be afraid of enemy troops. The symbolism of the eagle shows Macbeth as honorable, majestic, and powerful. Later in the play, however, when Macbeth has become relentlessly power hungry, he is represented as a “mousing owl” (II.iv.16) that has killed a falcon. Macbeth is no longer an eagle, but an owl, a bird of darkness and death. In killing Duncan, the falcon, Macbeth has upset the natural order of anointed rule in the kingdom.

Let’s break it down . . . Assertion Evidence Commentary

  • In William Shakespeare’s tragic play Macbeth, the motif of birds represents Macbeth’s transformation from a brave war hero to a cold, calculating murderer. Early in the play, the bloody captain explains the Norwegian troops dismayed Macbeth and Banquo as much “as sparrows [would scare] eagles” (I.ii.39). Macbeth, a valiant and heroic general in the Scottish army, would never be afraid of enemy troops. The symbolism of the eagle shows Macbeth as honorable, majestic, and powerful. Later in the play, however, when Macbeth has become relentlessly power hungry, he is represented as a “mousing owl” (II.iv.16) that has killed a falcon. Macbeth is no longer an eagle, but an owl, a bird of darkness and death. In killing Duncan, the falcon, Macbeth has upset the natural order of anointed rule in the kingdom.

  • Now it is your turn!

Macbeth Assertive Paragraph

  • Writing Task: Compose an insightful assertive paragraph analyzing the thematic significance of darkness in the first three acts of Macbeth. Refer to the passages below for ideas. You will have 30 minutes to complete this task.
    • Act I scene iv – Macbeth’s comments after hearing Duncan’s announcement at end of scene
    • Act I scene v – LM’s second soliloquy in the scene
    • Act III scene ii – Macbeth’s monologue at end of scene
  • Please SKIP LINES and write NEATLY!!!
  • This is an OPEN BOOK assignment. You may also refer to any writing notes you require; however, be aware of the clock as you do so.


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