No/No, Not Exactly; Maybe; Perhaps; Negative Sign (-)

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Examples)

These are all negative replies.

When you receive any one of these comments on your paper, it means that you are functioning solely on assumptions. Professors are more prone to give you credit for an idea if you support it with in-text evidence. If you suggest that a character has not been very nice to the other characters within the work, then add a quote illustrating this point.

Any quote that demonstrates a character’s tone or attitude or even perception represents evidence.  The following sample excerpt represents assumptions about the witches’ attitude and treatment toward Macbeth.

Sample Excerpt

And since the Sisters shape Macbeth’s destiny, their act seems hostile, because both Macbeth and his wife are terribly destroyed (Rosenberg 20).  But their act seems hostile from the very beginning when the witches refuse to answer Macbeth’s questions regarding the prophecy (Wills 45). They take Macbeth’s life into their own hands, so to speak, but never give him a reason for doing so.  History suggests that [b]attlefields were magnets for witches—for the same reason that shipwrecks were, or gallows, or prostitutes’ lairs.  They were all good places for collecting the most vital ingredient for witches’ work—dead body parts, and especially dead bodies outside consecrated ground.  (Wills 38) So their presence on the battlefield when they first issue the prophecy is called “necromancy” (Wills 39) and this is used in Act Four, “. . . which helps delude Macbeth . . .” (Wills 42) into believing that his fate is secure.  The witches never tell Macbeth about the consequences.  Instead, they take his passion of ambition and turn it around to fit what they want accomplished. And they do this by first setting Macbeth’s ambition free to make it seem that destiny is on his side.

Figure 28: Essay Excerpt on the Sisters and Macbeth, Macbeth

Margin Comment

Well, no, not exactly was the actual comment the professor wrote within the margins of this paragraph.


1) Do the Sisters shape Macbeth’s destiny?

2) Do the Sisters contribute to the destruction of Macbeth and his wife?

3) Why does the act of the witches seem hostile? Where is the in-text evidence?


The first cited quote is not an example of the witches taking Macbeth’s life into their own hands.

Macbeth doesn’t need the witches to delude him. He deludes himself. He is determined to do what he wants. It is not the job of the witches to tell Macbeth about the consequences.


The keywords in the quote are “ingredient” and “dead bodies.” The witches do not equate a live person as an ingredient. Macbeth takes his own ambition and turns it around to fit what he wants to accomplish. It is difficult to keep facts straight and examine the implications of a text when you project something onto a character that is not quite present. Don’t project assumptions. If the thing you are discussing is not actually happening in the text, don’t use it. Here is a universal phrase, mostly discipline-specific to refer to English: If you have doubt, throw it out.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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