MACBETH: Unpacking Characters & Central Ideas - Day One

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SWBAT demonstrate understanding of characterization and central ideas in MACBETH through project-based learning and collaborative discussion.

Big Idea

"Character develops itself in the stream of life." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers

My classes are held in 100-minute block sessions every other day.  In this lesson, students examine central ideas and unpack crucial characters in Macbeth by (1) creating questions on central ideas and (2) engaging in a performance task to show how Shakespeare uses language to develop characters and how they interpret characters as readers.

The lesson below outlines Day One of these activities.

Warm-Up: Central Ideas in MACBETH

25 minutes

At the beginning of class, I ask students to complete a warm-up (Warm-Up: Central Ideas in MACBETH) with a partner so that they can explore central ideas in Macbeth; I have identified central ideas in Macbeth but offer them the option of creating questions for their own central ideas as well.  I explain that I am gathering questions from them for use in a group discussion activity in our next cornerstone lesson, MACBETH: Unpacking Characters and Central Ideas Day Three.  I tell them that I will choose discussion questions based upon their feedback provided in the warm-up.

The warm-up takes longer than I think it will, but while walking around during the activity, I realize that students are referring back to the text and discussing reasons why they would like to ask particular questions.  Some questions students develop on central ideas are as follows:


  • Would Macbeth have gained power had he not been told his future?
  • Without Lady Macbeth would Macbeth still have power?



  • Why does the play only mention males in leadership roles?
  • Does Lady Macbeth take the dominant role in her relationship?



  • Do you think Macbeth would have come to power even if the witches did not give him predictions about his future?
  • Do you think Macbeth knowing his fate is what will cause his demise?


I will allow students from all of my honors classes to review student-created questions and highlight questions (Student Work: Central Ideas Warm-Up) they think are most valuable for discussion.  I will review their highlighted questions, selecting 10 for discussion after conferring with another colleague from my grade-level team.

Unpacking Characters

70 minutes

I assign the Unpacking Characters performance task (Assignment: Unpacking Characters)(Narration: Unpacking Characters).

Students can use Animoto to create their 30-second character portrayal or create five Vines, which will add up to 30 seconds.  Since most students have Vine accounts and enjoy the six-second Vine limit, they choose that medium.  Two groups choose Animoto.  

I notice that students go back to the text and engage in rich discussion on why they select particular quotes to show how Shakespeare develops their assigned character or the Macbeth marriage.  I think it is important to examine the evolution of the Macbeth marriage because it plays a vital part in Macbeth's downfall.

Students will have next class to finish their assignments and share their presentations and videos with me via Google Drive and Twitter, respectively.