Macbeth's Fruitless Crown Makes His Fear in Banquo Run Deep: 3.1-3.3 Performances

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SWBAT analyze Macbeth's motivation for killing Banquo.

Big Idea

Macbeth makes a Faustian deal that leads to regret.

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Context and Time Frame

This is lesson # 8 in our study of The Tragedy of Macbeth. This lesson is grounded in performance pedagogy from The Folger Shakespeare Library, my philosophy for which I explain here.

This lesson is the first of two for Act 3. It specifically covers the following:

  • 3.1
  • 3.2
  • 3.3

Given the tight time schedule, I assign different students different parts/tasks. I explain each in the section for each scene. 

What's important to remember is that each student is required to participate in "performance tasks" throughout the unit. 

Also, the various lessons in the unit can be divided and adapted to fit each teacher's individual class needs based on student ability and period duration. 

All Students Participate: Assigning Roles and Preparing to Present

25 minutes

Before students can present, they must first get into groups. I list the possible group tasks based on scenes and number of students required to complete each on the board. Then I ask review the assignments and ask for volunteers. 

I need two students for 3.1 edited (Taking Care of Banquo)

I need four students for the Fruitless Crown soliloquy in 3.1.52-77

I need one student for 3.1.78-162 scene summary

I need 2-6 students for editing 3.2.1-62, with each group editing 30 lines.

I need at least 5 students performing the murder of Banquo in 3.3.

A teacher can have more than one performance of a scene, can have students not performing today commit to future performances, can have those not performing read the material and act as evaluators who fill in the gaps and offer clarification, can have students not performing work on their I-Maps (assigned earlier in the lesson "Lesser Than Macbeth but Greater). 

Once students have assignments, I put10 minutes on the timer. I give students an additional 5 minutes after the timer beeps. This makes students think I'm being generous with the time. Additionally, students must use their time wisely because they don't have very much time to work. 

"Taking Care of Banquo" 3.1 Edited and Performed

10 minutes

The two students presenting this scene need to pay particular attention to entrances and exits, which are noted on the script Taking care of Banquo, a document originally in Shakespeare Set Free. This is an edited version of 3.1.1-55. It's important that students not simply stand and read since at first Banquo is on stage alone and later Macbeth is alone. These are key to students understanding that the two men are suspicious of one another. 

This group performs first. Banquo Suspects Macbeth shows the student playing Banquo on stage at the beginning of the scene. 

After the performance, the students explained their scene and it's importance. They paid attention to the staging and were able to identify the suspicions Banquo has of Macbeth, that he acted badly to get the crown. They also noted Macbeth's fears about Banquo.

Upon His Head a Fruitless Crown: Macbeth's Soliloquy 3.1

10 minutes

The next group to present is the "Fruitless Crown" soliloquy. There are four students int he group, each of whom presents a segment of the soliloquy. Fruitless Crown Line Division Markups shows the segmentation of the soliloquy. Even though Macbeth is the only speaker, splitting the speech into four segments makes it manageable for students since it's filled w/ metaphors and pronouns that students don't understand since their antecedents are for some hard to identify.

The students decide to line up behind one another to present their scenes.Fruitless Crown Performance (1) is of lines 3.1.59-65. Fruitless Crown (2) is of 3.1.66-70. Also, the group demonstrates the linear thought process of Macbeth through their performance of parts 2-3 of the soliloquy: Fruitless Crown Presentations 3.1.66-77

After their performances, they explain their parts. Particularly interesting is their identification of Macbeth having made a deal w/ the devil. This gave me the opportunity to explain the concept of a Faustian deal and its archetypal structure to the class. Additionally, I asked students what other character we read about entered a Faustian deal. They immediately made a connection to the Pardoner in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.

Macbeth Meets with the Murders: 3.1.78-162 Scene Summary

5 minutes

This scene (3.1.80-162) could also be a performance, but performance doesn't always mean "acting." Thus, I asked for a student volunteer to summarize the scene, which she did admirably. She explained that this scene is when Macbeth meets with and hires the murderers. 

After the explanation, I asked who in addition to Banquo the murderers were suppose to hire. She had the answer: Fleance. 

I also asked her to read and explain the last line, which she did by saying, "Banquo will be killed that night and then will go to heaven."


Editing a Scene: Presenting the Final Cut of 3.2.1-62

10 minutes

As the groups prepared, I met with the two groups assigned the task of editing 3.2. Act 3 Scene 2.docx

One group had the task of editing 3.2.1-30 and the other the task of editing 3.2.32-62. To assist these students, I told them to look at the "Taking Care of Banquo" doc, which has been edited, and compare it to the original Folger text. 

Next, I demonstrated the technique with a couple of lines. I also explain that students need to consider their audience and make edits based on whether or not the audience will understand archaic imagery and/or metaphors. The students were to cut the two parts of the scene to 10-15 lines per section. We see their work in Editing a Scene (Student Notes 1) and Editing 3.2 (Student Edits).

Next, the students presented their scenes and explained them. 

Staging the Murder of Banquo: 3.3

10 minutes

Always popular with students is the staging of Banquo's murder. For this scene, students use costuming and props. One student worked as the director and as a character in the scene. The students presented the scene, 3.3 and posed for pictures: Killing Banquo shows the enactment of the murder of Banquo, and The Murdered Banquo shows the dead Banquo. 

After the scene, I asked the students some questions:

  • Who died?
  • Who was suppose to die but didn't? 
  • What does the line "We have lost the best half of our affair" mean? The students answered, "Fleance escaped." 

Having students plan the staging of a scene and presenting the scene, followed by both an explanation of the scene and answering the questions empowers students' critical thinking, which I discuss in this screencast: Banquo's Murder.mp4

One-Minute Essay: Clarifying What We Learned

2 minutes

With only a few minutes left at the end of the period, I asked students to quickly compose a one-minute essay about their learning today. I invited them to summarize the days' scenes, write about areas of confusion, analyze Macbeth's state of mind, or simply talk about their reactions to a day filled with activity.