How do I learn my Shakespeare material for leaving cert English?

One of the major problems that students encounter when learning their Shakespeare material for the english higher level English paper is the overwhelming amount of quotes. They highlight them, as directed by their teachers, they may even input them into a ‘quotes notebook’ but when it comes to actually using them in their answers, they are at a loss as how to incorporate them into their essays. When I’m teaching my students how to learn their material, I make sure that I give the quotes a home by attaching them to a point – the function of a quote after all is to support a point!

The following is an example of this approach – the section in question is
‘First Impressions of Othello’

On his very first appearance, we see that he is an outstanding commander of men, as is acknowledged by the Senate. When an invasion of Cyprus is threatened Cassio tells Othello: ‘The Senate hath sent about three several quests to search you’ and informs him that the Duke ‘requires his haste-post- haste appearance’ in their attempts to quell the attack. Even Iago admits the importance of the Moor to the state. ‘Another of his fathom they have none to lead their business’.

Also, Othello himself is conscious of his own worth and integrity:
‘I fetch my life and being,
From men of royal siege, and my demerits
May speak unbonneted to as proud a fortune
As this that I have each’d’
yet shows no sign of arrogance.

Although he enjoys recalling warlike feats, he is a soldier with a difference: one who knows when forceful methods are not appropriate. It is with words not weapons that Othello remains calm and reasonable in the face of Brabantio’s racist insults and threatening behaviour, defusing a potentially explosive situation with his quiet authority, ‘Keep up your bright swords for the dew will rust them. Good signior, you shall more command with years than with your weapons’.

Our first impression of the early Othello then is that he is a master of his own emotions, admirably self-controlled, and a virtuous individual – all the desired qualities for the classical tragic hero.