Important Ideas/Concepts to Know/Remember:
Literary Terms: Motif, Thematic Concept, Tragedy, Tragic Hero, Tragic Flaw, Catastrophe, Catharsis,Metaphor, Paradox, Inference, Imagery, Characterization, Compare/Contrast, Soliloquy, Pun, Pathetic Fallacy, Divine Right of Kings, Tone, Figure of Speech, Double Meanings, Synecdoche, Anachronism.
Vocabulary: Parley, Amorphous, Laudable, Compunctious, Indolent, Paradox, Usurper, Virulent, Ephemeral, Affect (v), Effect (v), Illicit, Elicit, Perimeter, Parameter, Classical, Classic, Evanescent, Effervescent, Farce
The Plot and other Ideas
In Macbeth, William Shakespeare's tragedy about power, ambition, deceit, and murder, the Three Witches foretell Macbeth's rise to King of Scotland but also prophesy that future kings will descend from Banquo, a fellow army captain. Prodded by his ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth, he murders King Duncan, becomes king, and sends mercenaries to kill Banquo and his sons. His attempts to defy the prophesy fail, however: Macduff kills Macbeth, and Banquo's son Malcolm becomes king.
Set in medieval Scotland and partly based on a true historical account, Macbeth charts the bloody rise to power and tragic downfall of the warrior Macbeth. Already a successful soldier in the army of King Duncan, Macbeth is informed by Three Witches that he is to become king. As part of the same prophecy, the Witches predict that future Scottish kings will be descended not from Macbeth but from his fellow army captain, Banquo. Although initially prepared to wait for Fate to take its course, Macbeth is stung by ambition and confusion when King Duncan nominates his son Malcolm as his heir.
Returning to his castle, Macbeth allows himself to be persuaded and directed by his ambitious wife, who realizes that regicide — the murder of the king — is the quickest way to achieve the destiny that her husband has been promised. A perfect opportunity presents itself when King Duncan pays a royal visit to Macbeth's castle. At first Macbeth is loth to commit a crime that he knows will invite judgment, if not on earth then in heaven. Once more, however, his wife prevails upon him. Following an evening of revelry, Lady Macbeth drugs the guards of the king's bedchamber; then, at a given signal, Macbeth, although filled with misgivings, ascends to the king's room and murders him while he sleeps. Haunted by what he has done, Macbeth is once more reprimanded by his wife, whose inner strength seems only to have been increased by the treacherous killing. Suddenly, both are alarmed by a loud knocking at the castle door.
When the drunken porter of Macbeth's castle finally responds to the noise, he opens the door to Macduff, a loyal follower of the king, who has been asked to awake Duncan in preparation for the return journey. Macbeth indicates the location of the king's room, and Macduff discovers the body. When the murder is revealed, Macbeth swiftly kills the prime witnesses, the sleepy guards of the king's bedchamber, and Lady Macbeth faints. The assembled lords of Scotland, including Macbeth, swear to avenge the murder. With suspicion heavy in the air, the king's two sons flee the country: Donalbain to Ireland and Malcolm to raise an army in England. Macbeth is duly proclaimed the new king of Scotland, but recalling the Witches' second prophecy, he arranges the murder of his fellow soldier Banquo and his son Fleance, both of whom represent a threat to his kingship according to the Witches' prophecy. The hired murderers kill Banquo but mistakenly allow Fleance to escape. At a celebratory banquet that night, Macbeth is thrown into a state of horror when the ghost of the murdered Banquo appears at the dining table. Again, his wife tries to strengthen Macbeth, but the strain is clearly beginning to show.
The following day, Macbeth returns to the same Witches who initially foretold his destiny. This time, the Witches not only confirm that the sons of Banquo will rule in Scotland, but they also add a new prophecy: Macbeth will be invincible in battle until the time when the forest of Birnam moves towards his stronghold at Dunsinane and until he meets an enemy "not born of woman." Dismissing both of these predictions as nonsense, Macbeth prepares for invasion.
When he is told that Macduff has deserted him, Macbeth begins the final stage of his tragic descent. His first move is the destruction of Macduff's wife and children. In England, Macduff receives the news at the very moment that he swears his allegiance to the young Malcolm. Malcolm persuades him that the murder of his family should act as the spur to revenge. Meanwhile, in Scotland, Lady Macbeth has been taken ill: She walks in her sleep and seems to recall, in fragmentary memories, the details of the murder. Now, in a series of alternating scenes, the action of the play moves rapidly between the advancing army of Malcolm and the defensive preparations of Macbeth. When Malcolm's army disguise themselves with sawn-off branches, Macbeth sees what appears to be a wood moving towards his stronghold at Dunsinane. And when he finally meets Macduff in single combat, his sworn enemy reveals that he came into the world by cesarean section; he was not, precisely speaking, "born of woman." On hearing this news, Macbeth rejects one final time the Witches' prophecy. With a loud cry, he launches himself at Macduff and is slain. In the final scene, Malcolm is crowned as the new king of Scotland, to the acclaim of all.
Shakespeare's Macbeth remains one of his most popular plays, both for classroom study and performance, and with good reason. Here we have the playwright's shortest play, but arguably his most intense, in terms both of its action and its portrayal of human relationships. The "butcher and his fiend-like queen" are among the most attractive villains in stage history, and the profound psychology with which Shakespeare imbues them is deliciously pleasurable for theater audience and student alike.
Macbeth was a real king of eleventh-century Scotland, whose history Shakespeare had read in several sources, principally the Chronicles of Holinshed, to which he referred for many of his other historical dramas. In Holinshed's account, Banquo and Macbeth combine to kill King Duncan after winning his favor in a battle against the Danes. The original story is full of wonderful details that show the cunning of the Scots and Macbeth, who slaughtered an entire Danish army not by brute force, but by cunning: first mixing a sleeping potion and sending it, like the Trojan horse, as a gift to the enemy army. Once they were asleep, Macbeth was able to kill them easily. Presumably from this incident, Shakespeare derived his idea of having Lady Macbeth administer a sleeping potion to the guards of King Duncan's chamber.
In Holinshed's account, however, although we learn that Macbeth's wife is ambitious to become queen, Lady Macbeth does not feature as an accomplice. Instead, Banquo joins forces with Macbeth in killing Duncan. As we shall see later, this particular confederacy of murderers presented Shakespeare with a problem.
Holinshed did not simply provide Shakespeare with a good story; Macbeth contains many examples of imagery and language that Shakespeare borrowed directly from his source, a practice common to all writers. For example, compare these words of Holinshed with Shakespeare's words.
"What manner of women (saith he) are you, that seeme so little favourable unto me, whereas to my fellow heere, besides high offices, ye assign also the kingdom?" "My noble partner / You greet with present grace, and great prediction / Of noble having, and of royal hope . . . to me you speak not." Banquo
Macbeth is afraid "lest he should be served of the same cup, as he had ministered to his predecessor." Macbeth knows that, all too often, " . . . even-handed Justice / Commends th' ingredience of our poison'd chalice /To our own lips"
There are many more such examples. What does Shakespeare add, then? Primarily, the dialogue form of a play allows Shakespeare to examine the emotional relationships between characters with much greater realism. An audience going to Shakespeare's play would see ambition, accusation, fear, grief, courage, anger, and madness at first hand instead of via a narrator.
Secondly, as in his other plays, Shakespeare's genius lies in the human treatment that each character receives. The audience is made to feel that this awful tragedy could actually happen precisely because the characters are so three-dimensional. Lady Macbeth cannot sustain her mask of cruelty; Macbeth is racked with a tormented conscience. Banquo, in Shakespeare's version a good man, is nevertheless ambitious, too.
Thirdly, drama allows events to be linked and patterned in ironic ways. The idea of sleeplessness, for example, the punishment of a guilty mind, is shown literally in Act V, when Lady Macbeth sleepwalks and confesses her involvement with the murder of Duncan.
Finally, Shakespeare's mastery of the soliloquy, or solo speech, gives the audience the opportunity to see inside a character's mind, to witness, with some psychological accuracy, the intentions, hopes, and fears of these historical characters, something that a chronicler of history cannot do.
Cast of Characters
Group of characters in Macbeth, supernatural beings who encourage Macbeth with evil inclinations.
Though their appearances are brief, the Witches have an important function in Macbeth. The play opens with their grim and stormy meeting, and this contributes greatly to its pervasive tone of mysterious evil. Moreover, they offer another important theme of the play, the psychology of evil. The Witches are an enactment of the irrational. The supernatural world is terrifying because it is beyond human control, and in the play it is therefore symbolic of the unpredictable force of human motivation.
Their deceptive pictures of the future-- both in their initial predictions of Macbeth's rise, and in the future prophecies of the Apparitions-- encourage in Macbeth and Lady Macbeth a false sense of what is desirable or even possible.
The magic of the Witches is thus an image of human moral disruption. Through their own uncertain nature, they demonstrate--and promote--the disruption of the world of the play.
Many people in Shakespeare's day believed in the reality of the supernatural world, but at the same time, a recognition that many folk were merely superstitious had arisen as well.
City in northern Scotland, the site of Macbeth's castle and the location of several scenes. Inverness is associated with the planning, execution and aftermath of the assassination of King Duncan.
Historically, the inclusion of Inverness in the play is an anachronism. There was not a castle at this location until almost a century later...so the killing of the king most certainly, in actual history, did not happen here.
Title character and historical figure, a Scottish nobleman who kills King Duncan of Scotland and rules the country until he is killed in combat by Lord Macduff.
The evil of Macbeth's deed, and its effects on him and on Scotland, are the central elements of the play. He is conscious of the evil his ambition gives rise to, but he cannot overcome temptation. This is combined with his ambition, the urging of the equally ambitious Lady Macbeth, and the encouragement given him by the Witches.
One of the play's manifestations of the power of evil is the collapse of Macbeth's personality. His behavior during and after each of the murders committed is different and is the heart of the drama.
Macbeth's basic strength is demonstrated in his capacity to face and withstand the ugly truth about himself. He sees the evil to which he has subjected himself and his world. He recognizes his own immortality, and he is not satisfied with the position he attains, but he nevertheless defends this position with continued murder. He is aware of this irrational phenomenon; one of his most fascinating features is that he is conscious of the goodness that he abandons.
Historical figure and character in Macbeth, the wife of Macbeth.
Lady Macbeth shares her husband's lust for power, and it is her fierce goading that fills Macbeth with the necessary intensity to overcome his scruples and commit this assassination.
Her principle importance lies in her ability to influence her husband early in the play, and greeting Duncan with hypocritical charm when he arrives at the castle.
Lady Macbeth's viciousness has horrified generations of readers and audiences. However, her grim fervor not only makes her fascinating--the role has consistently attracted major actresses of all periods--but it also illuminates the most important element of the play: Macbeth's relationship to evil. He clearly would not have carried out the regicide, although he had already considered it, without the impetus from her. She, on the other hand, willingly commits herself to evil. The contrast makes clear the potential goodness in Macbeth that he abandons when the murder happens. Lady Macbeth thus functions as a symbol of evil until she falls victim to it herself.
The relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth withers in the atmosphere of mistrust and emotional disturbance that is unleashed with Duncan's murder. Though she seemed much stronger than her husband, in the end she lacks the animal strength he uses to bear the aftermath of their deed to its fatal conclusion.
Friend and later victim of Macbeth.
Banquo is a decent and honorable nobleman who senses that the Witches are evil and thus not to be relied on. Thus, we see that Banquo's fate will be sealed by his virtue, just as Macbeth's is determined by his villainy.
Banquo's ancestry with King Duncan makes him an apt choice to stand in opposition to Macbeth as a pointedly virtuous comrade. That this is true is marked by Shakespeare's disregard for Fleance's fate or for the question of Banquo's descendants, once Fleance's survival ensures that he could have had some.
In Act I, Scene 3, Ross brings information to Macbeth. Macbeth has been named Thane of Cawdor by Duncan. This proves the witches' prophesies.
Later in the play, after Duncan's death, Ross makes note of the strange things he has seen, which he believes to be a result of the king's assassination.
Other than these two specific examples, Ross' main purpose is to deliver messages of death to the effected families.
Malcolm, Duncan's eldest son
In the early part of the play, he is scarcely present, but overall he has one of the three main speaking parts, the other two being Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Like Macduff, the young prince is a figure of goodness placed in opposition to Macbeth's evil, and as such is somewhat two-dimensional. He is clever when he devises a form of camouflage that proves significant in Macbeth's downfall.
However, Malcolm is most distinctive when he tests Macduff's patriotism, in 4.3.1-139. The prospective king describes himself as an intemperate and dishonest degenerate, certain to be bad for the country. Malcolm only reveals his true self after seeing the despair in MAcduff for Scotland, as that of a virtuous prince who then asks for Macduff to lead the invasion of his army. This portrait also presents Malcolm as a sensible, cautious young man who seems likely to be a successful ruler.
Donalbain, Duncan's younger son
Donalbain appears in a few early scenes in the play as a silent member of his father's entourage. He speaks only in 2.3 when, after his father's murder, he decides to flee Ireland. His brother decides to seek refuge in England. Donalbain tells Malcolm that their "separated fortune / Shall keep us both the safer." With his father and brother, Donalbain represents moral order in the play, and contributes to the father/son motif of the play.
Like his fellow thanes Ross and Angus, Lennox' chief significance lies in his rebellion, which demonstrates the extremity of the nation's disorder once evil has been permitted to flourish.
Though his character is not developed, Mentieth's presence helps strengthen the political aspect of the play. The rebellion of nobles indicates the extent of political and social disruption in Scotland due to Macbeth's evil.
He marches to join the army led by Malcolm and Macduff in 5.2 of the play. This Scottish soldier helps to suggest the play's national scope, for the rebellion of which he is a part results in the restoration of good government and social stability in Scotland.
The historical Caithness was in fact a viking lord, the powerful and independent ruler of the Orkney and Hebrides Islands, and parts of mainland Scotland. Known as Thorfin the Mighty. His daughter later married Malcolm, son of Duncan.
A minor follower of King Duncan, helps to convey the news of Macbeth being given the title of Cawdor.
He speaks very little, though gives telling descriptions of Macbeth (5.2.20-22). His mere presence in Malcolm's army is significant, for the rebellion of the nobles demonstrates the extreme disorder in Scotland caused by Macbeth's evil.
The historical Thane of Angus ruled a small territory in eastern Scotland.
Some critics and scholars think Shakespeare may have intended the name to be a pun on 'Satan', a reference to Macbeth's last loyal servant that stresses the king's depravity as he approaches his end.
The doctor witnesses Lady Macbeth's hallucinations during her sleep-walking, and understands the allusions to the murders she has on her conscience. This emphasizes the play's connection of evil with psychological disorders.
Further, the doctor points up the atmosphere of fear and distrust that surrounds the rule of Macbeth, and he reveals to Macbeth that Lady Macbeth continues to suffer from mental disturbances; he confesses that he cannot cure them and incurs Macbeth's disdain.
The gentlewoman confers with the Doctor on her mistress' somnambulism, and together they witness Lady Macbeth's hallucinatory manifestations of guilt during an episode of sleep-walking.
She refuses to tell the Doctor what she has heard previously-her mistress' obsession with Macbeth's murders-without a witness to back her up.
This demonstrates the distrust that permeates the play's world, one of Macbeth's important themes.
The Thane of Fife. Quasi-historical figure and the rival and vanquisher of Macbeth.
After the murder of King Duncan, Macduff joins Duncan's son Malcolm in exile in England. There he learns that Macbeth has massacred his family and when he and Malcolm lead an army against Macbeth, he seeks out the usurper himself at Dunsinane to exact his personal vengeance.
Shakespeare painstakingly builds up Macduff as the play's agent of retribution, placing his virtue in clear opposition to the villainy of Macbeth. As a symbol of triumphant good, Macduff is a somewhat stylized character. He rejects Macbeth, he proves himself dedicated to Scotland, he is able to overcome the magic that Macbeth relies on, and in the end he kills the villain. A multifaceted persona is not required for such a character, and generally we do not see one.
Wife of Lord Macduff and a victim of Macbeth's hired Murderers.
Though a minor figure, this pathetic character--created only to be unjustly killed--is a striking example of the well-crafted small role of which Shakespeare was a master. In her brief appearance she is vivid enough to contrast powerfully with Lady Macbeth. As a loving mother, domestic life is more important ot her than politics, and she is everything in a woman that Lady Macbeth is not.
As she is the only other female character in the play (except the Witches), the contrast is firmly impressed on the readers. She also affects in another way, for her helpless bewilderment is another of the many instances of the nation's disorder. The terror she experiences in the last moments of her life constitutes the depths of the play's horror. Her death is an important turning point, for it motivates Macduff to exact revenge and fight with a stronger will than politics alone could prompt.
A third murderer joins them in the woods (Polanski uses Ross in the movie version), but we are never told who that person is other than they were bid there by Macbeth.
They fail to complete the full deed, and are another example of Macbeth's failings.
His reference to being "the porter of Hell-gate" alludes to two thoughts: one, the evening acts carried out by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth; and secondly, the low-class humor in his conversation with Macduff and Lennox describing the activities that were on-going that night.
Thane of Cawdor
This noble, as one of the closest advisors to King Duncan, attempted to overthrow Scotland by assisting a Norwegian invasion with King Sweno. Due to the impressive fighting abilities of Macbeth, this attempt was quashed and Sweno even reimbursed Duncan with 10,000 dollars in compensation.
Questions for further Understanding
Act I, scene i
1. How could a battle be both lost and won (302)?
2. What does the statements, lines 5-7, suggest about the witches?
3. The statement in line 10 proves proverbial in this story, and references a major theme. What is the theme?
Act I, scene ii
1. What is the significance of the image of blood at this point in the play?
2. How does the paradox, lines 27-8, fit a theme that was already mentioned (303)?
3. What are your first impressions of Macbeth (304)?
4. Why does Duncan give the title of Cawdor to Macbeth?
5. How might the final line of the scene relate to line 4 of scene one?
Act I, scene iii
1. What are the types of things that make people sleepless (305)?
2. What might lines 24-6 suggest about the witches powers?
3. How is the spectacle of all the witches saying these lines different from just one saying them (306)?
4. Wyrd is an Old English word meaning what?
5. What is the dramatic irony in the pronouncement of the second prophecy to Macbeth (307)?
6. Why might Macbeth "start" and "seem to fear"?
7. How could the paradoxes given in Banquo's prophecies actually be true?
8. How does the image in line 80 contribute to the mood of the scene?
9. Compare and contrast Macbeth and Banquo's reactions to the witches (308).
10. King James I publish a book about witches in 1597. What was it called?
11. A clothing metaphor is shown again in this segment. What do lines 108-9 mean?
12. An aside lets the audience know what Macbeth and Banquo are thinking. What are they thinking (309)?
13. According to Banquo, what might be the witches motives? Why does he choose to say this?
14. What are the two different ways Macbeth imagines he could be crowned king?
Act I, scene iv
1. What does Duncan's statement, lines 11-14, mean (310)?
2. What might Macbeth make of the thoughts given in 20-21?
3. Describe the Law of Tanistry and the effect it has on the announcement given by Duncan (311).
4. How does Macbeth react to the news, lines 48-53?
Act I scene v
1. Who is the letter from that Lady Macbeth is reading (312)?
2. What is the writer's attitude toward the witches' words?
3. Do you agree with Lady Macbeth's interpretation of Macbeth's character? Why or why not (312-13)?
4. Why is Lady Macbeth so shocked by the Messenger's statement (313)?
5. Why does Lady Macbeth ask the spirits to "unsex" her?
6. How is line 60-64 relative to Duncan's statement in scene 4, lines 11-12 (314)?
7. What does Lady Macbeth think will happen after Duncan's murder?
Act I, scene vi
1. In what way does Duncan show that he is naive?
2. From what Duncan says at the end of this scene, summarize what you know about his character (315).
Act I scene vii
1. In lines 12-28, what comparison is Macbeth using here (316)?
2. How does Lady Macbeth turn a clothing metaphor against Macbeth?
3. Discuss what Lady Macbeth means in lines 54-59 (317).
4. What convinces Macbeth to go ahead with the murder?
5. What do the final words of this Act mean? What do they show about Macbeth's character?
Act II scene i
1. Who is Fleance (319)?
2. Why does Banquo not want to sleep?
3. Do you think Macbeth is telling the truth about the witches?
4. What does Banquo's response in 26-28 mean?
5. Identify the conflict in Macbeth's soliloquy. What insight do you gain from his torment (320)?
6. How does Macbeth's attitude toward wicked dreams in lines 49-51 differ from Banquo's given in lines 7-9?
7. What do lines 60-61 mean (321)?
8. In what way does Macbeth displace his own desires onto external beings and objects?
9. If the play is a conflict between grace and evil, how does Macbeth reject himself and turn to evil in his soliloquy?
Act II scene ii
1. Why does Shakespeare choose not to show Duncan's murder?
2. What is Lady Macbeth's state of mind at the beginning of the scene?
3. How is the deed of killing Duncan different from the deed of killing Macdonwald? Are the acts similar (322)?
4. What is happening to Macbeth, as display in lines 30-32?
5. Identify the metaphors that describe sleep, lines 34-39 (323).
6. What is so horrible about "murdering sleep"?
7. What is the difference between the reactions of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to the murder of Duncan?
8. What does line 72 mean (324)?
Act II scene iii
1. Discover who Father Henry Garnett was and the connection to the Porter's speech.
2. What explicit details in the Porter's speech might support the idea that the castle is hell (325)?
3. Why does Macbeth phrase his words in the fashion he does in line 47 (326)?
4. How do the events of nature mirror that of human society?
5. What other bird mentioned earlier might line 53 call to mind?
6. Line 62-3 is a reference to the divine right of kings. Whose pet theory did this idea come from?
7. How are the purposes of Macbeth and Macduff similar? How is the bell used in each passage?
8. How do Macbeth 's and Macduff's announcements of Duncan's death to the king's sons differ (327)?
9. Macbeth has done something not in the plan. What is it? Was this wise?
10. Why does Lady Macbeth cry out (328)?
11. Is Banquo satisfied with the groom's guilt?
12. What does each of the following characters seem to think of the evidence: Lennox, Banquo, Macduff, Lady Macbeth, Macbeth, Malcolm and Donalbain?
13. What does Donalbain's parting comment mean?
Act II scene iv
1. How does the dialogue between the Old Man and Ross relate to Lennox's speech in the last scene (329)?
2. How does the horses behavior parallel Macbeth's actions?
3. Macduff could appear to be speaking plainly. How would this be different if he were speaking ironically? Why would he not speak clearly about his thoughts?
4. What is ironic about Ross's comment in 27-30?
5. Why is Macduff not going to Macbeth coronation (330)?
6. What warning does Macduff convey using the clothing metaphor (331)?
7. Is this final line an appropriate end for this bloody act? Explain.
Act III scene i
1. What does Banquo think of Macbeth now (334)?
2. Do you think people would believe in Malcolm and Donalbain's guilt? Why or why not?
3. In the historical writings of Holinshed, Banquo shares complicity in the murder of Duncan. In this play, how has he acquiesced and done nothing, despite his vow to fight against malice (335)?
4. What does Macbeth fear from Banquo?
5. How do Macbeth's speeches reveal his own tyranny and attempt to deflect blame (336)?
6. What is the point of Macbeth's extended comparison of men and dogs?
7. What do you think the murderers mean in lines 108-114 (336-7)?
8. Do you feel any sympathy for the two murderers?
9. Summarize Macbeth's final instructions (338).
10. How is the closing couplet like the closing couplet in Act 2, scene 1 (339)?
Act III scene ii
1. What do lines 16-22 mean? How do these lines relate to Lady Macbeth's speech earlier in the scene (l.4-7)?
2. How have Macbeth and lady Macbeth changed (340)?
3. Why do you think that Shakespeare closes this scene with a pair of couplets, instead of just one (341)?
Act III scene iii
1. Much has been written about the identity of the third murderer. Who is he (341-2)?
2. The deaths of the traitors and the first three murders are all committed offstage. Why does this one happen onstage (343)?
3. Why is this a turning point for Macbeth?
Act III scene iv
1. Define nonpareil (344).
2. Do you agree with Macbeth's claim that he would have been "perfect" if only Fleance had been killed?
3. Why is line 25 ironic?
4. Who or what is the snake?
5. In what way is Macbeth's statement, lines 50-51, true? In what way is it false (345)?
6. What does Lady Macbeth think is causing Macbeth to cry out?
7. Lady Macbeth has resumed his earlier goading role, taunting Macbeth for being womanly. What is her motivation (346)?
8. The "overthrow of order" might be called a theme in Macbeth. What other lines, like 109-110, might be classified as building on this theme (347)?
9. What do you think Macbeth thinks of Macduff?
Act III scene v
1. Why is Macbeth "wayward" in Hecate's eyes (349)?
Act III scene vi
1. What is Lennox's tone here? What does he now think about Duncan's murder? Why?
2. Why did Macduff go to England (350)?
3. In what way is line 49 the source of the Collection theme?
Act IV scene i
1. What are the witches doing at the opening of this scene (352-53)?
2. What various apocalyptic events does Macbeth mention in lines 52-60 (353-54)?
3. What is Macbeth's only interest at this point?
4. Why will Macbeth kill Macduff despite the prophecy (355)?
5. Macbeth speech has changed now. What difference can you find?
6. Why might the witches initially refuse to answer his question and then give in?
7. Why is Lennox still attending Macbeth, despite his earlier speech (356)?
8. Why are lines 138-39 ironic?
9. What can you make of Macbeth's rejection of "sights" (357)?
Act IV scene ii
1. How would you feel if you were Lady Macduff? Why might Macduff have fled without telling her?
2. How do you feel about Lady Macduff and her son after their exchange of dialogue (358)?
3. What is the point of having a messenger arrive to warn of danger?
4. What is your response to the outcome of this scene (359)?
Act IV scene iii
1. Why is Malcolm wary of Macduff (360)?
2. What is Macduff about to do in lines 34-37? Why (361)?
3. How does Macduff respond to Malcolm's self-accusation (362)?
4. Why do you suppose Macduff reacts as he does to Malcolm's "confessions"?
5. Why do you think Macduff cannot stomach the statement in lines 102-104, although he could deal with the others?
6. What differences does this scene show between Malcolm and Duncan (363)?
7. Describe Malcolm's character. How does he differ from his father?
8. What good news has Malcolm been withholding?
9. Compare this entrance with Ross's first entrance in the play (364).
10. How does the speech between Ross and Macduff play upon the different meanings of words (364-65)?
11. What does "your ears" stand for? What does "my tongue" stand for? How could you rephrase the statement from line 201 in literal language?
12. What do you think of the way Ross breaks the news to Macduff?
13. To whom is Macduff referring when he says "He" (366)?
14. Malcolm's last line suggests that nature will be restored -- possibly Macbeth's reign has seemed like a long night, but morning is coming. How does this fit with all Macbeth's references to night (367)?
Act V scene i
1. The connection between nature and unnatural events is one of the themes of the play. Find another quotation from earlier in the play that focuses on this theme (370).
2. Sleep and sleeplessness are other themes of the play. What do you think Lady Macbeth's disturbed sleep represents (371)?
3. How are Lady Macbeth's assumptions from Act II proved incorrect in this passage?
4. To which events and people does Lady Macbeth refer? What clues let you know?
5. How do you think the doctor feels as he realizes what Lady Macbeth has just confessed?
Act V scene ii
1. Do you think Macbeth is "small and ignoble" or full of "grandeur and sublimity"? Explain (372).
2. Do you think Macbeth senses his impending downfall from power, as these characters imply (373)?
3. Is Macbeth's fall that of a tragic hero, or is he a villain?
Act V scene iii
1. What prophecy does Macbeth neglect to mention?
2. How does Macbeth's treatment of his servant reveal his character?
3. How do lines 21-28 compare with Shakespeare's Sonnet 73 (374; 226)?
4. What does Macbeth's disjointed speech at the end of this scene reveal about his state of mind?
5. In lines 47-56, what role does Macbeth seem to be playing in the 'health and wellness of Scotland' theme?
6. The doctor does not help Lady Macbeth and does not satisfy Macbeth. What do you think is the purpose of having him appear in the play (375)?
Act V scene iv
1. As the camouflaged forces move on Dunsinane, how will they look to an observer on the castle?
Act V scene v
1. What earlier scene does lines 2-4 echo? What strategy is Macbeth planning to use (376)?
2. Line 17 has a meaning that is constantly debated. What is your impression (377)?
3. Why might Macbeth's speech in Act II, scene 3 come back to haunt him now?
4. How do lines 43-46 reflect the motif of paradox?
Act V scene vi
1. What is the purpose of this scene (378)?
Act V scene vii
1. What does Macbeth's use of the bear-baiting image reveal about his state of mind (379)?
2. How does Macduff's motivation contrast with Macbeth's?
Act V scene viii
1. What do you think is Macbeth's motivation in saying lines 5-6 (380)?
2. What support could you offer for the argument that it is fitting for Macbeth to be tricked by "paltering...in a double sense" (381)?
3. Do you think Macbeth's determination to fight it out shows bravery, or does he have other motivations?
4. What role does Ross repeatedly play in the action? Compare and contrast his speech in lines 39-43 to Siward with what he says to Macduff in Act IV, scene iii. What does Ross think it means to be a man?
5. What earlier event in the play does Macduff entering with Macbeth's head mirror (382)?
6. Is Macbeth a tragic hero?
Motifs from the Play
1) Sleeplessness 2) Blood 3)Animal/Bird Imagery 4) Clothing (Poorly Fitting or Borrowed)
5) Darkness/ Light 6) Demons 7) Reality/ Illusion 8) Parent-Child relationships and facsimiles
Full Script and Study Guide
http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/macbeth/ (Analysis, Summary, Critical Commentary)
http://library.thinkquest.org/2888/ (An in-depth analysis...if you forget your book and study guide!)
http://nfs.sparknotes.com/macbeth/ (For those who just can't wrap their brains around the Bard)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZQOyiHDptU&feature=relatedAct2.1-3.3 (including parts from 4.1)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8riYRDFp7A&feature=relatedAct 3.4-Act 5.8