MACBETH Day Three: Act I, Scene iv through Act II, Scene iii

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SWBAT demonstrate comprehension through writing and discussion.

Big Idea

"It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." ---J.K. Rowling

Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers

My classes meet in 100-minute block sessions every other day.  The activities in this lesson take about one class period to complete.  

The lesson below outlines writing and collaborative discussion activities on Macbeth Act I, Scene iv through Act II, Scene iii. We use book copies of No Fear Shakespeare Macbeth (SparkNotes, 2003) and clips with original text subtitles from the DVD film "Macbeth" by the Royal Shakespeare Company (PBS, 2010) explore the text.  


Quickwrite: Think, Pair, Share

10 minutes

Since this is our first class in four days, I want students to draw on what they remember about Macbeth.  I allow students time to write down what they remember and then share their writing with a partner.  Students discuss their writings (Student Work: Warm-Up), going back to the text to fill comprehension gaps and clarify interpretations.  We debrief as a class with students noting the following significant events in the plot:

  • When the play opens, there is a civil war in Scotland.  Macbeth and Banquo are warriors who help King Duncan's government win the war.
  • Macbeth and Banquo encounter three witches who predict Macbeth will be thane of Cawdor and later king and that Banquo will father a line of kings.
  • Macbeth considers murdering King Duncan but thinks fate may make him king so that he does not have to commit murder.

All-Class Reading: Act I, Scene IV through Act II, Scene III

60 minutes

We are relocated to a different classroom due to testing but learn upon arrival that this classroom does not have a working sound system.  My students ask me to play the "Macbeth" clips with original subtitles, and they promise to be quiet so that they can hear the audio from my laptop.  I play the clips; students can follow along with No Fear Shakespeare: Macbeth, which has the original text on the left side and the modern English translation on the right.  I stop after each scene to review the plot and ask discussion questions (MACBETH Discussion Questions). Students go back to the text to support their answers.

Our discussion touches on some central ideas in the text:

  • Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's behavior before and after Duncan's murder
  • Lady Macbeth's role in Macbeth's resolve to murder Duncan
  • Macbeth's transformation from loyal warrior to murderer
  • the role of the witches' predictions in the Macbeths' character development.

Ticket Out

10 minutes

For the ticket out, I ask students to list five observations or questions (Student Work: Ticket Out) they have about the text, including matters the text leaves uncertain.  Some observations and questions students have are as follows:

  • If it weren't for Lady Macbeth, would Macbeth still kill Duncan?
  • Why doesn't Macbeth kill Malcolm if he is heir to the throne?
  • Why does Lady Macbeth have so much will to murder?
  • Why does Macbeth kill the king if he knows it is wrong?
  • Will Lady Macbeth turn on Macbeth?
  • Was Lady Macbeth possessed during these scenes?
  • Why couldn't Macbeth just wait for the throne to be his?
  • Malcolm and Donalbain feel for their lives, even though Duncan's supposed murderers are dead.
  • Macbeth has uncertain thoughts about committing crime, but Lady Macbeth does not.
  • Does Banquo realize something is fishy regarding Duncan's murder at Macbeth's home?

I will use student work to guide exploration of Macbeth in future class meetings.