4.1 Love through the ages

The aim of this topic area is to encourage students to explore aspects of a central literary theme as seen over time, using unseen material and set texts. Students should be prepared for Love through the ages by reading widely in the topic area, reading texts from a range of authors and times.

  • The four Shakespeare plays on offer allow students to study Shakespeare's representations of love in a range of different dramatic genres: tragedy, comedy, problem play or late play.
  • The AQA anthologies of love poetry through the ages allow students to encounter a range of different types of poem as they study representations of love over time.
  • The range of comparative prose texts on offer allows students to study representations of love by a variety of authors across time.
  • Students study three texts: one poetry and one prose text, of which one must be written pre-1900, and one Shakespeare play. They will also respond to two unseen poems in the exam.

Although not an exhaustive list of aspects of Love through the ages, areas that can usefully be explored include: romantic love of many kinds; love and sex; love and loss; social conventions and taboos; love through the ages according to history and time; love through the ages according to individual lives (young love, maturing love); jealousy and guilt; truth and deception; proximity and distance; marriage; approval and disapproval.

Set texts

Core set texts: Shakespeare

Students study one of the following Shakespeare plays:

  • Othello
  • The Taming of the Shrew
  • Measure for Measure
  • The Winter's Tale

Chosen comparative set texts: poetry and prose

Students study two texts from the following list: one poetry and one prose text, one of which must be written pre-1900.

Author Text Time period
AQA ed. Anthology of Love Poetry through the Ages: Pre-1900 Pre-1900
AQA ed. Anthology of Love Poetry through the Ages: Post-1900  
Jane Austen Persuasion Pre-1900
Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre Pre-1900
Emily Brontë Wuthering Heights Pre-1900
Kate Chopin The Awakening Pre-1900
Thomas Hardy Tess of the D’Urbervilles Pre-1900
F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby  
E.M. Forster A Room with a View  
L.P. Hartley The Go-Between  
Daphne Du Maurier Rebecca  
Ian McEwan Atonement  

As with all the requirements around genre/dates in this specification, a text can fulfil more than one category. So, for example, Persuasion covers the requirement for a prose text and a text written pre-1900.

Section C of the paper for this component is open book. Students may take a copy of their prose and poetry texts into the exam. These texts must not be annotated and must not contain any additional notes or materials.

We do not expect to change texts within the first five years of the specification. However, texts will be reviewed each year starting in September 2017 and we will give at least nine months’ notice of any changes prior to first teaching of a two year course. The criteria for changing texts will be where a text becomes unavailable or where we can no longer use it in a question paper. Notice of any change will be communicated via our exam bulletins and aqa.org.uk/english