MACBETH: Macbeth's Downfall Day One - Act IV, Scene i through Act V, Scene i

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SWBAT demonstrate comprehension of Macbeth's downfall through collaborative discussion and writing.

Big Idea

What is the evolution of Macbeth's downfall?

Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers

My classes meet for 100 minutes every other day. Activities in this lesson take about one hour to complete. The lesson below outlines Day One (Narration: Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers) of two days on Macbeth's downfall.

Warm-Up: Three Visions

15 minutes

With a partner, students review the three visions the witches give Macbeth by completing a Three Visions graphic organizer (Center for Learning) that outlines what the vision is, what the vision says, and Macbeth's reaction.  I have included an adapted organizer (Assignment: Three Visions Graphic Organizer) in resources for this section.  I allow students to revisit the text for clarification.

We debrief as a class by rereading Act IV, Scene i, first with just the audio (Arkangel, 2005), and then with the audio, following along in NO FEAR Shakespeare: Macbeth. This way, students reread the text twice and can check their understanding on the second reading by focusing on the printed text.  We review the scene and the information that should be on the graphic organizer for questions 1-3 (Student Work: Three Visions Questions 1-3). We will complete question 4 when we are done reading the play.

All-Class Reading

30 minutes

Due to time constraints, we listen to and read Act IV, Scene ii through Act V, Scene 1. We stop to discuss the following key questions:

  • Why does Lady Macduff believe Macduff is a traitor? 
  • How do her feelings about Macduff this portray the paradox, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" from the very beginning of the play? Lady Macduff believes that Macduff's duty to his country, which may be seen as admirable by readers, means abandoning his family, which she sees as negative.
  • Why do you think Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty?
  • How does Macduff react to the news that his family has been murdered?
  • Why does Malcolm want Macduff to use his anger against Macbeth? Malcolm believes that Macduff's anger is righteous and that Macduff should use his rage to join with him in order to defeat Macbeth.


Ticket Out

12 minutes

To check understanding and prepare for next class, I ask students to complete an activity (TICKET OUT: Macbeth's Downfall) to review their comprehension of today's reading. Some student interpretations to what happens to Lady Macbeth in Act V, Scene i are as follows:

  • I think it was an interesting scene because Lady Macbeth's eyes were open, but she was sleeping and admitted everything.
  • Lady Macbeth is paranoid and remorseful about her actions. I think the demons she called to her at the beginning of the play are coming back to haunt her.
  • I think Lady Macbeth deserves to be cursed with these nightmares for the bad things she has done.
  • I believe Lady Macbeth is releasing her anxiety in her sleep.  Also, she feels pressured by Macbeth to keep quiet.
  • I think Lady Macbeth is regretting everything she has done and is now paying for it.
  • I think this scene is really creepy because she is concerned with a "spot" on her hand when in actuality she is "dreaming" or hallucinating. 

 The students' work demonstrates that they reconsider Lady Macbeth's demise in light of prior plot events.