Updated: Jun 27, 2020
***NOTE: Due to the Covid-19, the GCSE exam timetable and exams for 2020 has changed. Please contact your relevant exam board online for further up-to-date information regarding your next steps.***
Zeitgeist: noun (Origin) German
The spirit of the time; general trend of thought or feeling characteristic of a particular period of time. Source: https://www.dictionary.com/
Try to use this word in your GCSE essays; it may help to boost your vocabulary knowledge and possibly even your grades!
Synonyms for zeitgeist: climate, outlook, spirit, trend, atmosphere, disposition, feeling, mood, inclination, movement, tendency, tone
How it could be used in a GCSE essay
An Inspector Calls: It could be argued that when setting An Inspector Calls in 1912, Priestley was attempting to capture the zeitgeist of the time. The play takes place right before the First World War, during a moment of rising international tensions and significant industrial expansion. It also marked the end of the Victorian era, and the consequent loosening of the formerly rigid class system.
Macbeth: The fact that Macbeth was written around 1606, during the reign of James I; who was a patron of Shakespeare’s theatre company. This could conceivably mean that when writing Macbeth, he was influenced by a zeitgeist thought process and may have been paying homage to the king’s Scottish lineage in the play. During Macbeth, the exploration of the witches’ prophecy of Banquo breeding a line of kings is a clear nod to King James and embraces the theme of bad versus good kingship, embodied by Macbeth and Duncan, respectively and would have resonated highly within the royal court at the time.
Jekyll and Hyde: Stevenson embodies the essence of the zeitgeist through Dr Jekyll and his experiment which culminates in developing Mr Hyde, who relishes in an exploration of self-indulgence, rather than restraint. The novel is set in the Victorian era which at the time was experiencing a period of scientific, economic and social change.
Poetry: London (William Blake): Blake effectively taps into the zeitgeist by noting in his poem beliefs that suggests the society in which he lives is extremely restricted and does not help those who are poor or destitute. “Near where the charter’d Thames does flow. And mark in every face I meet. Marks of weakness, marks of woe.”
In General: It could be argued that a zeitgeist viewpoint is what (Name of playwright/poet/novelist) was conceivably writing about when (he/she/they)say/s _________________ . This suggests _________________ .
In General: In Romeo and Juliet/Macbeth Shakespeare could conceivably been going against the zeitgeist, which was to be for; as opposed to against a patriarchal society. Therefore by making Juliet/Lady Macbeth a strong female character was perhaps seen as being somewhat controversial at the time.
When Juliet challenges her father and disagrees with him when he wants her to marry Paris, is the ultimate act of defiance. “Hang thee, young baggage! Disobedient wretch!” (Lord Capulet).
When Lady Macbeth uses phraseology that has connotations of a chant, is the ultimate act of defiance and attempting to relinquish her sex, by not behaving in a feminine way. “Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here.” “Take my milk for gall.” This language suggests that her womanhood, represented by breasts and milk, usually symbols of nurture and being a female impedes her from performing acts of violence and cruelty. Therefore in order to carry out wicked deeds, she needs to associate with the manliness of aggression.
Phraseology: This word is also a good WORD to use in order to elevate your writing! Look at the context and try to add it into your work.