"Something Wicked This Way Comes": Macbeth Meets with the Witches and Plans More Murders

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SWBAT analyze the next three prophecies the witches make to Macbeth and his reactions to them.

Big Idea

Bad choices often create a slippery slope that leads to dire consequences.

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Context and Time Frame

The lesson today is # 11 in The Tragedy of Macbeth. As w/ previous lessons, we continue studying the play via performance pedagogy. Today's lesson focuses on the major scenes in Act 4 and culminates with a group chat in preparation for the upcoming essay assignment. Today we...

  • Perform a choral reading of an edited version of 4.1
  • See Macbeth meet and react to the Apparitions.
  • Hear Macduff's reaction to the murder of his family.
  • Discuss I-Chart analysis (Macbeth I-Analysis example) in groups and complete a Conversation Round Table.

"Double, Double, Toil and Trouble": A Choral Reading of 4.1

10 minutes

As students enter the room, I give them the choral reading document MacBeth Choral Reading 4.1.pdf and recruit my weird sister volunteers, which is a pretty easy task at this juncture as the students are becoming more accustomed to performing. Weird Sisters

I quickly divide the room into three groups and tell the students that group 1 is the wind, group 2 is hooting owls, and group three is barking dogs. If we had more time, we could have musical instruments and other sound effects, but we're running out of time in our trimester and need to work through the material as quickly as possible w/out sacrificing student learning. 

We perform the scene twice because the first time our sound effects were a little weak and our weird sisters were a little quiet. 

Then I ask students what the witches put in their brew. I asked the students to annotate their copies of the choral reading to identify the ingredients. They named the various components of the brew easily, and we all agreed we're ready for lunch!

Macbeth Meets the Apparitions and Reacts to Their Equivocation

15 minutes

How do we make decisions about teaching complex texts when crunched for time? Macbeth Apparitions in 4.1.mp4 addresses that issue. 

Three students agree to present the Apparitions' lines in 4.1 and one student agrees to be Macbeth. The apparitions present their lines in turn, and I ask: "What message does each Apparition give Macbeth?" I put the student responses on the board:

  • Beware Macduff
  • Fear no man not of woman born.

Students had difficulty momentarily identifying the Third Apparition warning. One student said, "Macbeth doesn't have to worry until some Birnam Wood guy comes along." Then another student said, "the woods." Still students seemed to have a hard time with the idea that Birnam Wood is literally the forest. So I said, "Think, Targhee National Forest." Then someone said, "Oh, trees." I sais, "Yes." I then asked three students to come to the front of the room and put their arms in the air like tree branches. They did, and then I said, "Now, walk around with your hands in the air." An epiphany! Students realized from this little mime that

  • the Apparition tells Macbeth he need only fear when Birnam Wood literally moves.

Next, Macbeth read his lines from 4.1. We did not hear any of the other lines because I instructed the student to read only Macbeth's lines and to pause between each line. Then we discussed Macbeth's reaction to the Apparitions. Students talked about how Macbeth was confused at first but got to the point that he was convinced no one could hurt him because he failed to understand the nature of equivocation in the Weird Sisters and their Apparitions. Thus, he sees himself as "invincible." 

We then turned our attention to Macbeth's response to seeing the vision of Banquo's lineage being kings. I asked students what Macbeth sees. They responded, "A line of eight kings. Banquo's heirs." Then a student said, "Banquo must have had a lot of kids." That humored me momentarily, so I didn't speak at first but gave the class time to respond. Someone said, "The weren't all Banquo's kids. They became kings over a long period of time." 

Finally, I asked Macbeth to read the final line in the scene. But before doing so, I pointed out that the speech is an aside. After the reading, I asked, "What is Macbeth planning to do now?" Students immediately said, "Kill Macduff." I responded "no, look again." Then someone said, "Kill Macduff's family, his wife and children and anyone else in his house."

"All My Pretty Ones": Macduff Reacts to the Murder of His Family

10 minutes

Rather than read the scene with Macduff's wife and child receiving the news that Macduff is remaining away, I passed out Macduff's reaction to murder of family and asked for four volunteers to present Macduff's various reactions to the murder of his children. 

The students presented the lines once, and then we talked about how our emotions build in intensity and change when we receive devastating news. The second presentation was better, but the fourth student misinterpreted the last part to mean Macduff actually cries like a woman. I asked, "Does Macduff cry?" Someone in the class said, "No." I said, "What does he say he could do? And what does he say he will do?" This helped students realize that Macduff says he could cry but that he won't. Instead, he plans to find and kill Macbeth. I ask, "What does Macduff want to happen if he is incapable of killing Macbeth?" A student responded, "He says heaven can forgive Macbeth."

Conversation Round Table: Group Work on I-Chart

25 minutes

For the last part of the class, I put students in groups depending on the word each had chosen for their I-Chart image analysis. Then, I instructed the students to take their notes and add the lines from their notes onto the charts. Today I only want students to add the lines as I plan to have them add the analysis later. 

Time: Conversation Round Table Student Group shows those students who chose time as their word working to add their lines. Hand: Conversation Round Table Student Group also shows students working to add their lines. 

As the students worked, I monitored them and made notes about which students had come prepared to work in the group. I had reminded them to work on the I-Chart several times during the unit and had told them the previous class that they would be working in groups today and would need their charts. 

I suggested to each group that they divide the work and look through different acts to find their word. I also had a copy of the original handout Macbeth I-Analysis to show those students who proclaimed, "What's the I-Analysis? I didn't get that." I keep track of the dates I give out handouts in my hard copy of the attendance, so I always know exactly who was in class for the initial instructions. 

Just before the period ended, I invited students to snap pictures of their charts with their phones. I reminded them that they still need to complete their I-Charts but that they can use the photos to help them over the procrastination hump. I explained to them that I'm trying to drag some of them through the eye of the needle and save them from their procrastinating ways.