english macbeth act 1

archetypes a recurrent symbol in literature
tragedy a play dealing with tragic events and unhappy endings
tragic hero a character who makes a judgement error that ultimately leads to their downfall
catastrophe the final part of the play where matter are explained
tragic flaw error in judgement or character defect leading to their downfall
dramatic irony audience knows more than the characters, creates suspense
soliloquy speech given by character revealing their feelings and motivation
aside a character’s remark to the audience of another character, giving the audience the character’s secrets.
Who is Duncan? Who is Macbeth in relation to Duncan? How will understanding this relationship help you as you read? What might you predict based on the character descriptions? Duncan is the King of Scotland. Macbeth is a noble and general in Duncan’s army. Macbeth owes loyalty to his King.
Sc. 1, Line 10: What do the three witches mean? Make a prediction about the significance of this statement to the drama as a whole. Things are not as they seem or appear. “Fair is foul and foul is fair.” What seems to be fair or good could turn out to be foul or bad. This seems to foreshadow that the witches could have an influence on the events of the play. We know that witches are evil so things may turn out badly.
Sc. 2, Lines 8-9: Identify the figurative language in these lines and explain what comparison Shakespeare is making. What idea is Shakespeare trying to communicate through this figure of speech? The two armies are like exhausted swimmers barely holding on. They are exhausted and the battle could go either way. Shakespeare is saying it is a close battle.
Sc. 2, Lines 16-23: explain what the Captain says Macbeth has done to Macdonwald. Make inferences about Macbeth using details in the Captain’s description of the act. how does your inference compare to the description of a tragic hero in the introduction to Shakespearean tragedy that appears on pages 210-212? Macbeth killed macdonwald, the rebel. He sliced him from naval to the chin. Macbeth is brave, good with weapons, and ruthless and violent. He beheads Macdonwald and puts his head on the battlements. We see Macbeth is a person of noble birth and high rank. he is brave and loyally wins the battle for his king.
Sc. 2, Lines 66-70: Summarize the exchange between Duncan and Ross. Why is Macbeth given this reward? King Duncan condemns the traitor, the Thane of Cawdor, to death. Because Macbeth bravely won the battle, King Duncan is going to reward with Macbeth with the Thane of Cawdor’s lands and title.
Sc. 3, Lines 4-25: What are the witches discussing? What does the act they are discussing suggest about the witches? The first witch is mad a woman wouldn’t give her chestnuts. The witch is going to curse the woman’s husband so he can’t sleep on the voyage and the other witches offer to help her. We can see the witches are evil and vindictive.
Sc. 3, Line 38: Why does Macbeth call the day both foul and fair? Explain how the line relates to the theme and why it is relevant that Macbeth is saying this line. Macbeth says the weather is foul and the deaths of the battle are foul but the victory in the battle is fair. If things are not all good or all bad, then perhaps Macbeth isn’t as good a person as we have thought. he is cruel and violent in battle. Since witches are approaching him, perhaps he has a dark side.
Sc. 3, Lines 48-61; 65-76: What do the witches say to Macbeth? How does Macbeth respond? Explain what Macbeth’s response reveals about his character. The witches hall him as Glamis, Cawdor and king to be. Macbeth seems fearful at first, but the witches get his attention and he is interested in their prophecies for him. Macbeth’s response reveals he may have already though about being king and being powerful.
Sc. 3, Lines 48-50; 70-76: how could the witches’ greeting and Macbeth’s reaction to it foreshadow his tragic flaw? Macbeth may be ambitious and want to be King. The witches encourage him and he may take his ambition to be king to fatal consequences for Duncan. This could lead to Macbeth’s tragic downfall if he allows his ambition to override his loyalty to the king and his morality.
Sc. 3, Lines 79-85: Summarize the exchange between Banquo and Macbeth. What do these different reactions suggest about their characters? Banquo wonders if the witches were really there or if he and Macbeth were insane. Macbeth seems to believe the witches were there and believe their prophecies Banquo thinks it was a weird experience and dismisses it.
Sc. 3, Lines 89-100: what does Ross say in these lines? Do you think this is a fair and accurate assessment o Macbeth? Why or why not? The king and all the Scottish people are all grateful that Macbeth won the battle and saved the kingdom. They see Macbeth as a noble hero, but we know he is thinking about being king after talking to the witches.
Sc. 3, Lines 118-126: Contrast Banquo’s and Macbeth’s reactions now that the first part of the witches’ prophecy has come true. What do these reactions tell you about Macbeth’s ambition? Macbeth thinks it is a good experience and believes the witches. Banquo warns Macbeth that sometimes powers of darkness do nice things to convince people to believe them when they really have evil motives. Banquo warns Macbeth of consequences of listening to witches. Macbeth wants it all and doesn’t seem worried about possible consequences of dealing with witches.
Sc. 3, Lines 143-144: What is another thee that has emerged involving Macbeth specifically? What does Macbeth mean in these lines and how does this help establish the theme? If chance can crown me king, I may not have to do anything. Macbeth thinks something could happen to Duncan and because of his victory and popularity, Macbeth could be chosen king. (In Scotland, the kingship often went to powerful nobles, not just to members of a noble family). A possible theme could be once a person’s fate is decided, the person can’t change it. Macbeth may feel he is destined to be king and must pursue that goal.
Sc. 3, Lines 146-147: What do these lines reveal about Macbeth’s beliefs? The future will arrive no matter what. Macbeth believes the future will come no matter what and people can plan but it often doesn’t matter. Macbeth seems to believe in fate.
Sc. 4, Lines 11-14: What does Duncan say about the former Thane of Cawdor? Explain how Duncan’s first line supports the theme about appearance vs. reality. Duncan says he trusted Cawdor but he must not be a good judge of character form looking at a person’s face. we can’t always tell what people are really thinking based on their faces. Appearances can be deceiving. This is ironic because Duncan is praising Macbeth and giving his honors while Macbeth is thinking about he can become king.
Sc. 4, Lines 27-30: What does Duncan plan to do: Why is he doing this/ given Duncan’s earlier statement, what does this reveal about Duncan’s nature? How do his words help develop the plot or hint at future events? Duncan wants to find more rewards for Macbeth to express his gratitude that Macbeth won the battle, Duncan is a kind, generous man who loves and trusts Macbeth. He calls him “a peerless kinsman.” Duncan has no reason to be suspicious of Macbeth.
Sc. 4, Lines 48-53: Paraphrase these lines. How do the lines contrast with Macbeth’s earlier thoughts about his destiny? How do Macbeth’s thoughts help develop the theme? Macbeth realizes Malcolm is Duncan’s heir and an obstacle to Macbeth getting the throne. Macbeth has to hid his desire to kill Malcolm form Duncan and other nobles. Macbeth realizes he will have to take actions to gain the throne and realizes one’s fate can’t be left to chance.
Sc. 5, Lines 12-27: What can you infer about Lady Macbeth based on her soliloquy? Lady Macbeth believes her husband deserves to be king and wants her husband to act on the witches’ prophecy. She also feels she is more ruthless than her husband and she will have to convince and encourage Macbeth to act.
Sc. 5, Lines 12-27: What “nature” of Macbeth does Lady Macbeth fear? Based on Macbeth’s words and actions so far, do you believe Lady Macbeth has reason to be concerned? Explain. She fears he is too good (full of the milk of human kindness) to just take the throne by killing Duncan. Based on Macbeth’s actions and words, he seems pretty convinced and is thinking about it. However, Lady Macbeth will probably be able to reinforce Macbeth’s ideas and convince him if he starts to change his mind.
Sc. 5, Lines 35-50: Which words and phrases in Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy have strong connotations? What mood to these words create, and what do they reveal about Lady Macbeth? “fatal battlements” “mortal” “direst cruelty” “remorse” “murdering mischief” “thick night” “dunnest smoke of hell” Her words create a dark, terrifying mood. She is calling on evil spirits to unsex her so she can convince Macbeth to kill Duncan.
Sc. 5, Lines 60-33: How do these lines reflect one or more of the themes? How do these themes relate to each other? Lady Macbeth is telling Macbeth to appear as an innocent flower with the serpent concealed underneath. She wasn’t him to appear as a welcoming host grateful to King Duncan for the honors Duncan has given him. Underneath this welcoming exterior, Macbeth is secretly planning to kill Duncan for the throne. Appearances can be deceiving.
Sc. 5, 62-63: What does Lady Macbeth tell her husband to act like? Why is a serpent an appropriate comparison? who do you think is more like a serpent–Macbeth or Lady Macbeth? Why? She wants him to appear as an innocent flower concealing the deadly serpent underneath. Serpents are associated with evil and treachery. In the Bible of the serpent (the Devil) tempted Eve and Adam and they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. The witches have tempted Macbeth to consider killing Duncan and he and Lady Macbeth will lose their innocence if they commit this murder. I think each one is like a serpent. Macbeth because he is betraying a man who loves and trusts him strictly for ambition. Lady Macbeth calls on evil spirits to make her evil so she can convince her husband to kill Duncan.
Sc. 6, Lines 24-31: how does the way the king addresses Lady Macbeth show dramatic irony? He calls her fair and noble hostess and thanks her for her hospitality. He says he loves Macbeth and wants to reward him more for saving the kingdom. We know that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plan to kill Duncan and take his kingdom.
Sc. 7, Lines 1-28: What change has occurred in Macbeth’s character? Macbeth is aware the only reason that he has to kill Duncan is his ambition. He knows Duncan is a good king, he is a relative and a guest in Macbeth’s home, and that he doesn’t deserve to be killed. Macbeth considers killing Duncan so he can be king.
Sc. 7, Lines 25-28: Predict what lines 25-28 foreshadow. Although Macbeth has only his ambition to convince him to act, Lady Macbeth will be his spur and she won’t give up until he murder Duncan and is king.
Sc. 7, Lines 30-35: What do Macbeth’s thought and his declaration to Lady Macbeth reveal about his motivation and internal conflict? Macbeth realizes evil deeds don’t justify their ends and wants to call off Duncan’s murder. He has internal conflict between his ambition and his morals. Macbeth wants to be king but he doesn’t want to murder Duncan who is a good person and king.
Sc. 7, Lines 36-45: What is the effect of the sarcasm in Lady Macbeth’s lines? Lady Macbeth mocks Macbeth’s misgivings, his manhood, and his love for her. She is determined to convince him to kill Duncan.
Sc. 7, Lines 72-74: Paraphrase what Macbeth says to Lady Macbeth. Explain how this lines reflects Lady Macbeth’s earlier request (Scene 5, line 38) that the dark spirits “unsex her.” Macbeth admires her strength and ruthlessness. He says she should only bring forth men children because she is so hard and cruel, hardly a mother for sweet little girls. Lady Macbeth has dropped all her feminine qualities.
Sc. 7, Lines 77-82: How does the dialogue between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth reflect one of the themes of the play? As they plan Duncan’s murder, they will hide their violent murder plot by making others look guilty. They will hide their guilt under a show of convincing grief so no one will suspect them of any part in the king’s death. This reflects the them of appearances can be deceiving.
Macbeths’ plan to kill Duncan Lady Macbeth plans to drug the guards. While the guards are passed out, Macbeth will go in and kill Duncan. They will plant the knives with the guards and smear Duncan’s blood all over the guards. When they find Duncan’s body, the Macbeths will act in grief.