MACBETH Day Seven: Sorting it Out

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SWBAT articulate their interpretations of central ideas in MACBETH and distinguish differences between multiple interpretations of the text through writing and discussion.

Big Idea

"We not only interpret the character of events... we may also interpret our interpretations." ---Kenneth Burke

Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers

My classes are held in 100-minute block sessions every other day.  The activities in this lesson take about 30 minutes to complete.

The lesson below outlines Day Seven of Macbeth. We examine central ideas in the text through student responses on polleverywhere and distinguish between text and clip versions of the play.

Poll Everywhere: Polls and Discussion

15 minutes

Since we are at a pivotal point in the Macbeth, I use polleverywhere to find out students' opinions on three questions that portray some of the central ideas in the play:

  • Do you think Macbeth would murder Duncan without Lady Macbeth's influence? After students respond (Student Work: Poll - Murder), we debrief as a class. The class is curious to hear from the two students who believe Macbeth would murder Duncan without Lady Macbeth's influence.  These students state that since Macbeth already considers murdering Duncan right after receiving the witches' predictions, he would eventually murder him whether or not Lady Macbeth pushes him to do so.  
  • What does Macbeth teach us about the dangers of unchecked power and unbridled ambition? After students respond to this question (Student Work: Poll Power and Ambition - One)(Student Work: Poll Power and Ambition - Two), we debrief as a class, discussing how Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and the witches exhibit unchecked power and unbridled ambition. We discuss how unyielding negative desires can ruin countless lives and that our choices always have consequences we must consider prior to taking action.  We discuss real-world examples, such as Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, and Fidel Castro, and how their decisions affected their nations.
  • Why do some individuals choose evil, and what happens to those who do? Once students response to this question, we discuss (Student Work: Poll Evil - One)(Student Work: Poll Power and Ambition - Two) how choosing to do evil or be subjected to it leads to negative consequences; students cite examples from literature and films, such as the Pardoner from The Canterbury Tales, the Joker in the "Dark Knight" Series, and the Green Goblin from "Spider-Man." One student points out how the Pardoner faces no consequences in what we read in The Canterbury Tales but that he will face damnation for swindling people in the Lord's Name.


Ticket Out: Text v. Clip

15 minutes

We view a short clip of the witches showing Macbeth the apparitions in "The Tragedy of Macbeth" (Polanski, 1971); I give students background by letting them know that there are approximately 30 witches in this scene and that the witches make Macbeth drink a cup of the mixture in the cauldron. We start viewing the clip after the witches have led Macbeth to the cauldron.  

Students list the differences between the text and the clip as a ticket out (Student Work: Text v. Clip); students confer with a partner; then we debrief as a class. Students point out that repeated practice evaluating multiple interpretations of the source text helps them become more proficient in confirming their interpretations of it.