Macbeth Study Guide

The witches’ refrain serves as foreshadowing, as an example of paradox, contradiction and as one of the themes of the drama. Quote it. (line 10) “Fair is foul, and foul is fairHover through the fog and filthy air.”
What is the meaning of this refrain? Goodness is really unclean – Things might be opposite than they appear.(Although Macbeth appears brave – he might be the opposite on the inside.)
What quality of Macbeth does the Sergeant mention? (line 16) Bravery
What had Macbeth done to earn this praise? (lines 16-23) Macbeth is the hero of the day for killing the rebel, Macdonwald, in hand-to-hand combat and helping to defeat the Norwegians
What reward is bestowed upon Macbeth? (line 65) The traitor, Thane of Cawdor, his title will be given to Macbeth
List the witches’ predictions that are given to Macbeth. (lines 48-50) Macbeth will be Thane of Cawdor and later King
What effect do those predictions have on Macbeth? What might this reveal about Macbeth? (lines 70-78) “Wait! You only told me part of what I want to know. Stay and tell me more” He’s ambitious
List the predictions that are given to Banquo. (lines 65-67 and line 86) Your descendants will be kings, even though you will not be one.(Your children shall be kings.)
What warning does Banquo give Macbeth in lines 108, 123-126? This is strange. The agents of evil often tell us part of the truth in order to lead us to our destruction.
How is Macbeth affected mentally, emotionally, and morally by the realization that one of the predictions has come true? (Read the asides in lines 116-146 without the intervening comments to get the full impact of Macbeth’s secret thoughts. Macbeth realizes the witches’ prediction coming true about his becoming Thane of Cawdor suggests that the other prediction – that he will become king – is true and this frightens him because he is already thinking about murdering King Duncan.
What does King Duncan mean by lines 12-14? There’s no way to read a man’s mind by looking at his face. I trusted Cawdor completely.
What dramatic irony might be in Macbeth’s entry immediately after this speech by Duncan? King Duncan says that he owes Macbeth more than he could ever repay him, but of course we know that King Duncan says that he owes Macbeth more than he could ever repay him, but of course we know that
What public announcement does Duncan make as to his successor on the throne, the Prince of Cumberland? (lines 37-39 “I want you to witness that I will bestow my kingdom on my eldest son, Malcolm. Today I name him the prince of Cumberland.”
In the aside, lines 48-53, what is Macbeth’s reaction to the announcement? What might be his “black and deep desires”? Macbeth secretly wants to be king, but Duncan has named his son, Malcolm, as his successor, which suggests Malcolm is in Macbeth’s way.
How does Lady Macbeth analyze Macbeth’s character? In what way does she present the ambivalence of his character? (lines 15-22 She is suggesting that although she knows that Macbeth is ambitious and wants to be king; at the same time he is too soft and not ruthless enough to do what he will need to do (murder Duncan) in order to be king.
Why does she want him home soon? (lines 22-25 She is suggesting that although she knows that Macbeth is ambitious and wants to be king; at the same time he is too soft and not ruthless enough to do what he will need to do (murder Duncan) in order to be king.
What does Lady Macbeth plan after hearing that Duncan is to arrive? What is she asking for? (lines 38-54 the will to commit murder.
Why does Lady Macbeth tell Macbeth to “Look like the innocent flower”? (lines 62-66 You should look like an innocent flower, but be like the snake that hides underneath the flower, so that nobody will suspect you have murder on the mind.
What does she mean by “Leave all the rest to me”? (lines 66-70 If Macbeth kills Duncan – Lady Macbeth will take care of the details surrounding the murder.
Explain the dramatic irony in Duncan’s statement: “This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself Unto our gentle senses” (lines 1-3 Duncan is saying that Macbeth’s castle smells sweet when in fact we know that it smells of murder.
Explain Macbeth’s soliloquy from line 1 through line 10. He is having regrets about killing Duncan.
List three reasons that Macbeth considers for not killing Duncan. (lines 13-20 Macbeth is his kinsman, and duty bound to protect him, he is in his home and therefore a guest, Duncan is kind and will be dearly mourned and missed.
What does Macbeth say is the only spur that drives him to murder? (lines 25-28 His ambition is driving him to commit a disastrous act (murder).
24. When Lady Macbeth enters, how had Macbeth’s intentions changed? What reason does he give his wife for this change? (lines 31-35 Macbeth has changed his mind. The king and everybody have honored him, so he is feeling guilty about the proposed murder
What are Lady Macbeth’s reproaches and arguments in her attempts to persuade Macbeth? (lines 39-45 She calls him a coward; and unmanly wimp, a chicken because he can’t follow through on the murder
What plans for the murder does Lady Macbeth outline? (lines 61-72 While Duncan is asleep, she’ll get the two guards drunk and everybody will think they killed the king. Macbeth adds that they will cover the guards with blood.
What thought could be preventing Banquo from sleeping? (lines 6-9, 20 He dreamt about the witches – part of their predictions have come true
How is Macbeth’s hypocrisy shown in his remarks: “I think not of them [the witches]….We would spend it [time]in some words upon that business”? (lines 22-24) He says he doesn’t think about them which is a lie. Then, Macbeth tells Banquo they can discuss the witches prophecies in more detail later.
How does Banquo respond to Macbeth’s proposition of lines 25-26? (lines 27-29) I’ll do whatever you say, as long as I can do it with a clear conscience
What causes Macbeth to “see” a dagger? What does this imaginary dagger reveal about Macbeth’s state of mind and character? (lines 33-49) He is about to kill Duncan, so Macbeth is haunted by the treacherous murder he is about to perform. He is already being driven to madness by his evil act.
To what extent does Lady Macbeth assist in the murder? What stops her from committing the murder? (lines 6, 12-14) She drugged the servants who are guarding Duncan. She would have killed the king herself but he reminded her of her father
Locate the quotations that indicate Macbeth is disturbed by his deed. (lines 22-73) (looking at his[bloody]hands) This is a sorry sight””List’ning their fear I could not say ‘Amen,’When they did say ‘God bless us!’ “”Methought I heard a voice cry, ‘Sleep no more!Macbeth does murder sleep’ “
Why does Lady Macbeth return to the murder scene? What does she do to the guards? (lines 48-57) She has to return the bloody daggers to the crime scene and smear the guards with blood.
How do Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s reactions to the blood on their hands differ? (lines 60-61, 64-69) Macbeth is overwhelmed with remorse whereas Lady Macbeth is calling him a coward.
What is Shakespeare’s purpose in having the Porter scene at this point in the play? Comic relief; the porter is drunk and making jokes about being the gatekeeper to hell (language shifts from verse to prose usually reserved for low ranking characters)
List the strange events of nature that had occurred during the night. What belief of the era do these events represent? (lines 53-60) Macduff discovers the murder; Lennox: “It seems that the guards who were supposed to be protecting his chamber did it. Their hands and faces were all covered with blood.”
Who discovers the murder? Who is accused, why, and by whom? (lines 63-68, 100-104) Macduff discovers the murder; Lennox: “It seems that the guards who were supposed to be protecting his chamber did it. Their hands and faces were all covered with blood.”
Report Macbeth’s excuse for killing the guards. Was that part of the original plan? Was it wise or foolish? Why? (lines 105-116 Maybe she did not expect Macbeth to kill the guards or maybe she is faking Macbeth claims he was overwhelmed by violent rage when he saw the innocent dead king next to the bloody bodies of the guards which provides a plausible excuse for killing the guards which Macbeth had to do to keep them from testifying that they did not kill the king.
Speculate on what causes Lady Macbeth “to faint” at this particular time. (line 118 Maybe she did not expect Macbeth to kill the guards or maybe she is faking to continue her coverup.
Where are Malcolm and Donalbain going? Why are they leaving Scotland? (lines 143-145) They are afraid whoever killed their father will kill them too
Where are Malcolm and Donalbain going? Why are they leaving Scotland? (lines 143-145 They are afraid whoever killed their father will kill them too.
What unnatural event is occurring? (lines 5-10 It’s unnaturally stormy weather to symbolize the unnatural state of things due to Duncan’s murder.
What is the symbolic meaning of the falcon-owl incident? (lines 12-13 An owl killed a falcon – less powerful animal kills more powerful animal – Macbeth (less powerful) has killed the king (more powerful).
What is suggested as the guards’ motive for murdering Duncan? Why are Malcolm and Donalbain suspected? (lines 24-27 Bribed by Malcolm and Donalbain because they have fled the country.
Speculate as to reasons Macduff might have for not attending the coronation He is going home to Fife where Macduff’s castle is which distances him somewhat from his allegiance to the new king, Macbeth.
1. What thought is troubling Banquo? (lines 1-3) Macbeth has become king as the witches predicted, but Banquo suspects Macbeth came by it unfairly
2. Speculate as to why Banquo has not told anyone about the witches’ prophecies. (lines 4-10 Perhaps he doesn’t want anyone to know that the witches have predicted that Banquo’s children will become king which could make him a suspect in the king’s murder.
3. What motives for Banquo’s and Fleance’s murders does Macbeth reveal in his soliloquy? (lines 50-74 Macbeth is very afraid of Banquo. There’s something noble about Banquo that makes Macbeth fear him. Banquo is willing to take risks, and he is smart.
4. What argument does Macbeth use to convince the murderers to kill Banquo? (lines 76-78, 116-126 Banquo is responsible for all their sufferings.
5. From Macbeth’s manner, what change has taken place in him? He is bolder and determined to do whatever is necessary to remain king, liking killing Banquo and his son.
6. How are Lady Macbeth’s views expressed in her soliloquy in contrast to the philosophy which she expresses to Macbeth ( lines 4-7, 11-12 This is a turning point for Lady Macbeth. She is starting to regret her actions and feels tormented, but she does not admit this to Macbeth.
7. What is suggested about Macbeth’s state of mind? (lines 13-22 He anxiety over killing Duncan will not allow him to rest. The dead king sleeps better than Macbeth.
8. What statement does Macbeth make that suggests Lady Macbeth is unaware of Macbeth’s plan to kill Banquo and Fleance? (lines 45-46 They are talking about Banquo and she asks him what he is going to do? He replies: “Be innocent of the knowledge” It’s better you don’t know about it until after it’s done.
9. What does this statement by Macbeth indicate about the change in their relationship as co-conspirators? He no longer needs her to encourage him to commit murder.
10. The climax occurs in this scene; the fortunes of the tragic hero Macbeth irreversibly turn for the worse. Specifically state the climax. Explain how this development affects Macbeth’s state of mind. (lines 21-25 Macbeth discovers that only Banquo was killed. The idea that Fleance still lives leaves in him fearful that the witches predictions about Banquo’s children will come true. Also, this is the first time one of Macbeth’s plans has gone wrong, and worse someone has lived to tell of an attempted murder which could unravel the truth about Duncan’s murder.
11. Why does Macbeth think the seating at the table is full? Banquo’s ghost is in his chair.
12. How does Lady Macbeth explain Macbeth’s strange actions and words? What aspects of her personality are revealed by her manner? (lines 53-58, 117-118 She makes up an excuse-that Macbeth has been plagued by convulsions since childhood.
13. Who is absent from the feast? (lines 128-129 .Banquo and Macduff
14. What is revealed about Macbeth’s state of mind by his keeping “a servant feed” (paid a spy in each subject’s house? (lines 131-132) He pays a servant to spy for him. He’s controlling and paranoid.
15. Why does Macbeth plan to see the witches? (lines 134-135 He wants to find out about his future safety.
16. What are Macbeth’s feelings about his situation? What are his intentions as revealed in the lines beginning “I am in blood”? (lines 136-140 He is so deep in blood (murder) that he can not escape it. He must follow through on more murderous schemes quickly.
17. What is Macbeth’s explanation for his agitation and sleeplessness? (lines 142-144 His sleeplessness comes from inexperience. They’re still just beginners when it comes to crime.
18. What characteristic of Macbeth does Hecate refer to when she says he “Loves for his own ends:? (line 13 Macbeth is in it for himself.
19. In what specific ways has Macbeth already fulfilled Hecate’s prophesy that “He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bear/His hopes ‘bove wisdom, grace and fear”? (lines 30-31 Macbeth has thrown all caution, morality, etc, to the wind in order to get what he wants which has only led him down a bloody path of murder after murder that will sure lead to his own destruction.
20. What according to Hecate is man’s “chiefest enemy”? Is this true in Macbeth’s case? Explain. (lines 32-33 Macbeth has proven that overconfidence is his greatest enemy.
21. What is the indirect suggestion of Lennox’s true feelings/meanings in his remarks in lines 1-17? The case against Macbeth is started to add up and now Macbeth will probably try to kill Macduff. Macbeth will probably face an English army accompanied by unhappy Scots.
22. Why is Macduff in disgrace? (lines 21-23 Macbeth suspects his allegiance since he did not come to the feast plus he has spies that suggest he warrants suspicion
23. Why has Macduff gone to England? (lines 24-39 To align himself with Malcolm and the English king
24. What condition is Scotland in under Macbeth’s rule? (lines 33-37, 48-49 Suffering under the tyrant Macbeth
1. Why is the witches’ refrain, “Double, double toil and trouble,” appropriate for Macbeth? Double evil produces double trouble
2. How had Macbeth’s attitude toward the witches changed since their first encounter in Act I? What character change might be indicated? (line 48 He insults them calling them hags and demands they tell him his future at all costs.
3. List the three apparitions and the prediction of each. (Note stage directions and lines 68-94 Man with helmet – Beware of MacduffBloody baby – nobody born from a woman will ever harm Macbeth
4. When Macbeth asks if Banquo’s issue will ever reign, what is he shown? (stage directions and lines 112-121 Eight kings march across the stage, the last one with a mirror in his hand, followed by the ghost of Banquo
5. Tell how Macbeth’s words contradict his actions with regard to the witches. (lines 138-139 Since they have given him bad news (that Banquo’s children will become kings) he curses them.
6. In light of Macbeth’s reaction to Lennox’s news, what had Macbeth been planning? (lines 142, 144 Kill Macduff
7. What murders does Macbeth plan now? (lines 150-154 Kill Macduff’s family
8. Why are these murders considered to be the climax of Macbeth’s crimes? What change in his character is evident? Macbeth has lost all humanity by planning to kill Macduff’s family in cold blood; before when he planned Duncan’s murder he had regrets.
9. Of what does Lady Macduff accuse her husband because of his flight to England? What does she tell her son? How could you explain her actions? (lines 8-9, 31-32 She is worried because his flight to England has left her family unprotected.
10. What is Shakespeare’s purpose in including this humorous scene at this point? To suggest that children are sometimes wiser than adults.
11. Explain how Lady Macduff’s words echo the theme of the witches’ refrain which opens the play. (lines 72-75 Witches: Fair is foul and foul is fair (things are often the opposite)Macduff’s wife: doing evil is often praised, and doing good is sometimes a stupid and dangerous mistake
13. What are the consequences of Lady Macduff’s failure to heed the warning of the messenger? She and her family will die at the hands of Macbeth’s assassins
14. What does Malcolm suspect Macduff’s motives to be? (lines 115-120 At first he distrusts him, then he realizes Macduff is noble
15. Why does Malcolm portray himself as a potential sinful tyrant? (lines 114-120 To test Macduff’s true intentions
16. How does Macduff’s reaction to Ross’s news of the deaths of his wife, children, and servants contrast to his wife’s accusations in Scene II? (lines 220-230 Her fears were correct; Macduff’s family were slaughtered because he was not there to protect them.
17. What does Macduff ask Heaven to do? (lines 231-234 Help him get revenge against Macbeth
1. In what sleepwalking activity does Lady Macbeth engage? (lines 23-25 While sleepwalking, she reenacts washing the blood of Duncan’s murder from her hands
2. What are her concerns? (lines 19-20, 33-34, 36-37, 42-43, 52-54 She rambles about how she can’t get the blood stain off her hands, she talks of her husband’s remorse for Duncan’s murder, she asks where Macduff’s wife has gone, and how nothing will purge the smell of blood from her hands, she speaks of Banquo’s ghost, and the knocking at the gate. Her guilt has driven her to insanity.
3. What does the doctor diagnose as the cause of her affliction? (lines 70-73 Unnatural deeds do breed unnatural trouble – guilt is her affliction – she needs a priest not a doctor.
4. What does he fear? (lines 75-76 She might kill herself.
5. What does the doctor say to Lady Macbeth’s servant that foreshadows her death? The doctor tells the gentlewoman: Remove anything the queen might hurt herself with.
6. Where do the anti-Scottish noblemen plan to meet up with the English forces led by Malcolm, Siward, and Macduff? (lines 5-6 Birnam Wood
7. At which castle is Macbeth making his stand? (line 12 Dunsinane
8. What is said of Macbeth’s mental and emotional condition? (lines 13-14 He crazy and out of control
9. What is his political/military condition? (lines 17-20 The soldiers he commands are only following orders. They don’t fight because they love Macbeth.
10. Upon what two prophesies does Macbeth rely to banish fear and to build his confidence? (lines 2-10 He has nothing to fear until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane and no man born of woman can hurt him.
11. In the face of his diminishing military support from his thanes and the size of the enemy forces, what might be a wise action for Macbeth to take? Kill himself or surrender or run away
12. What is Macbeth’s punishment for his crimes? (lines 20-28 Everybody is deserting him. Nobody resepcts him enough to fight against the English. Only those who are forced to will fight with him.
13. How does he seem to feel about his crimes? (lines 20-28 He feels sorry for himself and realizes he should kill himself but he doesn’t have the courage.
14. What are the various emotions Macbeth is experiencing in Scene III? Everything is falling apart, he is alone and afraid, and deluded by the witches prophecies
15. How is one of the witches’ prophecies coming true? (lines 3-7 Malcolm instructs the armies against Macbeth to take branches from Birnam Wood as a way to disguise themselves as the march upon the Castle Dunsinane.
17. What causes Macbeth’s confidence to be shaken? (lines 34-35, 42-46 Birnam Wood has come to Dunsinane – the witches prophecy that he fears
18. Why does he decide to leave Dunsinane? (not on test Fear of the prophecy coming true since Birnam Wood is coming to Dunsinane – he must leave. But in Act VII he discovers he is trapped and he is so deluded that he still clings to the notion that nobody born of woman can hurt him.
19. In the face of being betrayed/misled by the witches, what prophesy continues to give Macbeth confidence? (lines 2-4 No man born of woman shall defeat Macbeth
20. Why is Macbeth allowed to be victorious over young Siward? (lines 12-14 To prove the prophecy that nobody born of woman can hurt him.
21. Why had Macbeth avoided Macduff? What emotion does this reveal? (lines 4-6 Macbeth feels some regret since he has already killed Macduff’s entire family, he wants to avoid killing Macduff.
Why does Macduff consider himself not of “woman born”? (lines 13-14 He was cut out of his mother’s body
Why does Macbeth fight Macduff since Macbeth’s “charmed life” is broken? (lines 23-32 He would rather die than serve Malcolm or be taunted by the common people
How had Lady Macbeth died? (lines 69-71 She committed suicide
Hurly-burly noisy disorder and confusing
thane a member of an aristocratic class and holds land
Whence from what place
valor bravry
minion loyal servant
aught anything
knot nothing
Conflict The problem in the story
Internal Conflict The problem that is inside of the character
External conflict the problem is with multiple people
Resolutions tying up of loose ends

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