MACBETH Day Four: Act II, Scene iv to Act III, Scene iii

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SWBAT understand the impact of author's choices through collaborative discussion and writing.

Big Idea

"What's done is done." Act III, Scene ii

Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers

My classes meet in 100-minute block sessions every other day.  Activities in this lesson take about one hour to complete.

The lesson below outlines all-class reading and discussion of Act II, Scene iv through Act III, Scene III, and a ticket out on the differences between the text and the "Macbeth" film clips of Banquo's Murder.



5 minutes

We begin by creating a class summary of the text through Act II, Scene III to review:

  • During a civil war in Scotland, Macbeth and Banquo are valiant warriors to King Duncan; they help him win the war.
  • Macbeth and Banquo meet three witches, agents of fate, who give them predictions that make Macbeth consider murdering King Duncan.
  • Macbeth becomes Thane of Cawdor as the witches predict.
  • King Duncan names his eldest son Malcolm as heir to the throne.
  • Lady Macbeth persuades Macbeth to murder Duncan when he visits their home.
  • After Duncan's murder, Macbeth expresses regret and shows mental instability while Lady Macbeth remains level-headed, framing the servants for the murder.
  • Macduff discovers King Duncan's dead body the next morning, and Macbeth kills the servants as a cover up.
  • Malcolm and Donalbain leave Scotland, separating for safety.

All-Class Reading and Discussion

40 minutes

We read the original text of No Fear Shakespeare: Macbeth (SparkNotes, 2003) while listening to the Arkangel (2005) audio. To check for student comprehension while honing in on important aspects of the text, you can use these text-dependent questions (Discussion: Text-Dependent Questions) in several ways, depending upon your students' needs:

  • Discuss questions with students after pertinent events in each scene.
  • Discuss questions with students after reading each scene out loud.
  • Have students write down their answers to questions after each scene, confer with a partner to discuss answers and return to the text for clarification and correction. Then review answers as a class.
  • Have students work in pairs or groups of three to discuss and write their answers to questions after each scene. Then review answers as a class.


As we read, I stop at salient points for discussion (Discussion Highlights for All-Class Reading). While I like to have text-dependent questions on hand to monitor student understanding of plot events, I think it is also important to examine the text as a reader along with students.  

I find that my students question character motives, such as why Macbeth specifically targets Banquo as a threat despite his loyalty to Duncan and to Macbeth. When they bring up this issue, we return to the text and trace Macbeth's thinking by examining his soliloquy in Act III, Scene i with "To be thus is nothing/But to be safely thus" (Line 19).  I reread the original text of the soliloquy. As a class, we analyze how Shakespeare uses language to portray Macbeth's agony with words such as "fruitless crown" (line 61); "barren scepter" (line 62); and "unlineal hand" (line 63). Then we engage in metacognition: Why does Macbeth think this way? Is he simply paranoid because he has killed Duncan, or does he have valid reasons to feel threatened by Banquo and his descendants? Student volunteers return to the text, citing evidence for the class consensus that Macbeth has valid reasons to feel threatened by Banquo and his descendants:

  • Banquo is a risk-taker and continues thinking about an issue until he makes sense of it. He has wisdom to act safely and valiantly. (Lines 51-54)
  • The witches proclaim Banquo as father to a line of kings. (Line 60)
  • Macbeth says he has damned his soul by killing Duncan, only for Banquo's descendants to unseat him from the throne. (Line 71)

Please view my narrative video in this section for more information. 

Ticket Out: Text v. Clip - Banquo's Murder

10 minutes

At this point, I want to revisit Banquo's murder with students by viewing the film clip version and having them distinguish between text and clip versions.  We view Act III, Scene III, and I ask students to list differences (Student Work: Ticket Out - Text v. Clip).  We debrief as a class.  Some differences student cite are as follows:

  • In the clip, the murder scene happens on a train while in the text, Banquo and Fleance are outdoors.
  • In the text, the murderers attack Banquo; in the clip, he is poisoned, his throat is cut, and he is shot.
  • In the clip, Banquo stops the train for Fleance to run away; in the text, Fleance simply runs away.
  • In the clip, the First Murderer kills the Third Murderer, which is not mentioned in the text.
  • In the clip, we see Banquo's ghost at the end of Act III, Scene iii.  In the text, we do not.