"Lesser than Macbeth but Greater" Act 1.3 and 1.2

9 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT determine through performance and discussion of 1.2-3 in "The Tragedy of Macbeth" moments of equivocation and paradox in the witches' prophecies to Macbeth and Banquo

Big Idea

The witches' equivocation = "determining where the text leaves matters uncertain."

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Time Frame and Context

I presented my philosophy about performance pedagogy modeled on the Folger Shakespeare Library's approach to teaching Shakespeare here.

In this lesson, I introduce students to editing complications via a short video. Then...

  • students take notes on equivocation,
  • students choose tasks related to 1.2-3 on which to collaborate and present,
  • begin presenting their scenes and textual analysis.

Depending on class length and student ability, this lesson will take 1-2 class periods. I teach in a trimester system with periods lasting 75 minutes each. Additionally, I give students 10-15 minutes each day for free-choice reading. Consequently, this lesson takes me 1.5 class periods, which is two 55-minute periods. 

Editing "Macbeth": Barbara Mowat Argues for the "Wyrd"

10 minutes

In the "30 Second Macbeth" lesson, students observed that the three characters commonly known as "witches" are also referred to as "weird sisters." This observation and subsequent questions about them having beards offers a segue into introducing students to the complicated task of editing Shakespeare. 

To help students understand that scholars agree to disagree about textual meaning "where the text leaves matters uncertain" and that they, too, will encounter these moments in Macbeth, I have them listen to Barbara Mowat speak about her experience as editor of the Folger editions. 

Having heard from this imminent scholar, whose text we're using in our study of Macbeth, the students begin to understand the nature of equivocation, which we turn to next. 

Comprehending Equivocation

15 minutes

Since so much of the plot of Macbeth hinges on paradoxes, uncertainties, ambiguity, and equivocation, I introduce students to the term early in Act 1. 

A student question from the preceding lesson--"Why do the witches speak in riddles?"--offers a nice transition into this short lecture. I remind students of the question and then proceed. 

I gave students notes via the Macbeth Equivocation. However, it's only the first few slides I present. These give the definition of equivocation and offer suggestions for students finding and understanding Shakespeare's use of equivocation in Macbeth. The slides delineating lines are from a group of students. 

At this point, I'm only interested in the literal level in terms of student understanding of equivocation. That's because through collaboration and textual analysis students will supply the rest of the information in the Ppt. 

Acting Troops Break Out to Plan

30 minutes

Now that the students have an understanding of equivocation and have begun experiencing performing Macbeth, it's time to form groups and tasks. Today, I'm looking for students to work with 1.3 (I distributed the script in the previous lesson.) I'm also looking for two groups of students to "map" 1.2, which is a complicated scene. Additionally, I need students to mine 1.1-1.3 for lines that express equivocation. Also, a group of three students will prepare a presentation o 1.1. Finally, five students comprise a group who will read and present findings from an article explicating the reasons the weird sisters have beards. 

Setting up the groups:

Instructions for performers:

  • Use the cleared area of the classroom to present the scene. 
  • Show entrances and exits so the students observing will know who is on stage when.
  • Think about who characters are talking to when they speak. 
  • Plan movement based on hints in lines since Shakespeare gives very few stage directions.
  • Use costuming and props to show you are a character and to help construct meaning and to make that meaning clear. 

Instructions to the group exploring equivocation:

  • The basic instructions are on the last slide. 
  • Put the lines on new slides for the presentation. 

Instructions to groups mapping 1.2:

  • Use the butcher paper.
  • Create a diagram that shows the scene. 
  • Show character placement and movement in your presentation. 
  • Prepare to incorporate lines into your presentation as you explain the scene. 

Instructions to "Bearded Women" group:

  • Each student has a different explanation of a possible reason the witches have beards. 
  • Read the passage first and decide what information is important.
  • Prepare an overhead transparency with notes for your classmates. Focus on the material that relates to Macbeth. 
  • Remember that the Shakespearean audience would have members from all walks of society, so it's possible that they will see the witches in a variety of ways. 

Presentations Part 1

50 minutes

Act 1.1 students are up first. This is a great scene for students who have missed the previous class to present because it's short. Additionally, it's fun and relatively simple. The boys used hats to get into character and added props. They also used their best witch voices, which added to the fun. Students as the "weird sisters"

Next, we transitioned to the presentation of 1.3. I have students present 1.3 before 1.2 because it's the one on which students generated questions in the "30-Second Macbeth" lesson and because it's pivotal to understanding Macbeth's journey to regret, which he expresses in Act V. Macbeth's first encounter with the witches focuses on information he receives from the witches, but it's information an audience would already have. 

When a student in the group was unexpectedly unavailable to participate, I stepped in and read Banquo's part. Doing so allowed me to model speaking to the right character at the appropriate time and to move based on what the lines suggest. The students had already practiced doing this, but I was able to give subtle hints that helped remind them to use the entire "acting" area. 

After the presentation, the group summarized and we discussed the witches' spell on the sailor and the three predictions. Hearing and watching the scene reinforced student learning, and the students had no trouble naming the predictions and the implications to both Banquo and Macbeth. 

Following the performance, we took a minute to define aside, which the students had already shown in their performance.

Aside: A character on stage speaks while other characters are on stage. The other characters do not hear the line(s) but the audience does. 

The two groups on 1.2 go to the front together and display their diagrams. Interestingly, the first group focused on Macbeth's victory but didn't mention the violent way Macbeth killed the spy. Student group map of 1.2 The other group filled in the gaps but reading the description the Captain presented to Duncan about the way Macbeth killed the enemy. Student map of 1.2 Both groups used their charts to show how they would stage the scene and to create a visual set.

Finally, we had time for the group presenting lines that demonstrate equivocation. Macbet Equivocation.pptxThere is a great slide at the end in which the group connects Macbeth's faith in the witches' to Chanticleer's trust in the fox in "The Nun's Priest's Tale." The student who made that connection is pictured in the image Student presentation of equivocation in 1.3

Poll Everywhere: Assessing Student Learning

5 minutes

Just before students leave, I post a poll using Poll Everywhere. It's free and easy to use. Additionally, it gives teachers some immediate feedback about student learning for the day as they eagerly pack up for lunch. An added benefit: Poll Everywhere lets students use their cell phones, which they want to do anyway. Macbeth 1.2 Poll Everywhere references the open-ended question I posed to students and their responses.