3.1 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 will study four texts: one Shakespeare play, one poetry anthology and two prose texts. They will also respond to an unseen prose extract 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

Shakespeare and poetry

Students study one of the following Shakespeare plays:

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

Students study one of the following anthologies:

  • AQA anthology of love poetry through the ages pre-1900
  • AQA anthology of love poetry through the ages post-1900

The paper for this component is closed book. Students are not permitted to take a copy of their set text(s) into the exam.


Students study two texts from the following list:

Author Text
Jane Austen Persuasion
Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre
Emily Brontë Wuthering Heights
Kate Chopin The Awakening
Jonathan Coe The Rotters' Club
George Eliot The Mill on the Floss
Thomas Hardy Tess of the D’Urbervilles
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

The paper for this component is open book. Students may take a copy of their set 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