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Macbeth

Act I

1. Define the following terms: ambition, character, reputation.

2. Analyze the witches’ line from scene i, line 11: "Fair is foul, and foul is fair."

3. Using the sergeant's speech in scene ii, lines 8-23, what is Macbeth's reputation?

4. In scene iii, the witches tell Banquo and Macbeth some events in their futures. What are the predictions and how do Banquo and Macbeth react?

5. What is Banquo telling Macbeth in scene iii, lines 120-126?

6. What is Macbeth thinking in scene iii, lines 129-141?

7. In scene iv, Duncan states on lines 13-14, "He was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust." Who is he speaking about and how is this ironic?

8. In scene iv, Macbeth states in lines 48-50, "The Prince of Cumberland! that is a step on which I must fall down, or else o'erleap, for in my way it lies." What does he mean?

9. Scene v reveals Lady Macbeth's character. Describe her and compare her to Macbeth. Include her hopes, fears, ambitions. What are your feelings about her?

10. What is Lady Macbeth saying in scene v, lines 58-67 and lines 69-70?

11. What is happening in scene 6?

12. In scene vii, lines 1-28, Macbeth is explaining why he should not kill Duncan. What are his reasons?

13. In scene vii, lines 32-35, Macbeth gives his wife a reason for not killing Duncan. Why is this reason different that the reasons previously stated?

14. In scene vii, line 82, Macbeth states, "False face must hide what false heart doth know." How does this line suit his character?

15. What is the plan that Lady Macbeth has for the murder of Duncan?

16. In scene iv, when Duncan greets Macbeth, what hopes does Macbeth have? What happens to these hopes?

17. How does Shakespeare develop the main theme of appearance vs. reality?

18. How does Shakespeare develop Macbeth's character? Explain you feelings about him from when he is first mentioned to the end of Act I.

19. Discuss the use of imagery in Act I (time, growth, or clothing).

20. Discuss the line, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair." Relate it to what it means in the play as well as a literal translation.

21. Explain and compare "character" and "reputation." What is Macbeth's reputation?

Act II

1. Why does Shakespeare have Banquo deliver the diamond to Lady Macbeth?

2. What is bothering Banquo when he states "A heavy summons lies like lead upon me / And yet I would not sleep; merciful powers, / Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature / Gives way to in repose!" (line 6-9)

3. What is Macbeth asking Banquo when he states "If you shall cleave to my consent, when 'tis, / It shall make honor for you." (lines 25-26. How does Banquo answer?

4. What is happening in scene i lines 31-61?

5. What is Lady Macbeth's weakness in scene ii and what is your reaction to it?

6. What does Macbeth mean when he states "Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more"? (scene ii, lines 42-44)

7. Lady Macbeth states "A little water clears us of this deed." In what sense might it be true? In what sense may it not be true? (scene ii, line 67)

8. Explain comic relief.

9. Macbeth states "twas a rough night." What does he mean? (scene iii, line 54)

10. How does Banquo react to the murder of Duncan?

11. Why does Macbeth kill the guards?

12. Why does Lady Macbeth faint? This is a question which can be answered with your own opinions; however, they must be backed up using the text.

13. What are Malcolm and Donalbain saying at the end of scene iii?

14. When the murder is discovered, we see the reactions of all the major characters. Discuss how each reacts and why. Include Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo, and Duncan's sons.

16. What are the four unnatural occurrences in scene iv and what do they mean?

17. How does Shakespeare use cosmic events to convey the severity of what has happened?

18. What are the "breeches in nature" that emphasize Duncan's murder?

19. How does Macduff feel about Macbeth?

20. What does Macduff mean, "Lest our old robes sit easier than our new!”? (scene 4, line 39)

21. Fleance is a symbol and he provides the dramatic technique of verbal scenery. Discuss this statement.

22. What are the real Macbeth and Lady Macbeth like? In the first two acts of the play, we are exposed to what people think of them, to what people say of them, and to what they say of themselves. Explain them using specific examples to back up your opinions. Treat each as a separate essay.

Act III

1. What is Banquo's state of mind in scene i, lines 1-10? What is he saying? What are his plans?

2. Why does Macbeth ask so many questions of Banquo? What is Macbeth planning?

3. What is Lady Macbeth saying in scene ii, lines 5-7? Does Macbeth agree with her?

4. In scene ii, we see a change in Macbeth's character. Describe this change. How has Lady Macbeth changed?

5. In scene 3, who might the third murderer be and why do you think so?

6. How does Macbeth react when he hears that Fleance has escaped? (scene iv, lines 21-25)

7. Lady Macbeth asks of Macbeth, "Are you a man?" (scene iv, line 58) Where did we hear this question before and compare the two scenes.

8. Why is Hecate mad? Give two reasons. (scene v, lines 2-11)

Act IV

1. What does the boiling pot signify? (scene i, lines 1-37)

2. What are the four apparitions and what do they tell Macbeth? (scene i, lines 71-124)

3. We see the growing brutality of Macbeth. Explain how this is developed.

4. Explain what is happening in scene ii.

5. An interesting characterization is that of Lady Macduff and her son. She criticizes her husband for being a traitor to his family. Explain.

6. Explain who you think sent the messenger in scene 2.

7. Why does Malcolm tell Macduff so many lies about himself? (scene 3, lines 58-100)

8. How does Macduff react when he hears of the murder of his wife and children? What does this tell you about his character? (scene 3, lines 208-240)

Act V

1. What does Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking tell you about her state of mind? Is she really responsible for the murders? Why or why not?

2. What is Macbeth's state of mind in scene iii? How does he receive the news of his wife's illness? (lines 39-45)

3. What do we learn in scene iv, and what meaning will this have for Macbeth? How does Macbeth react to this?

4. What does Macbeth mean when he states, "She should have died hereafter"? (scene vi, line 17)

5. Discuss to the best of your ability what Macbeth's "tomorrow" speech means. (scene v, lines 19-28) Using this speech, describe what Macbeth's character and worth is. You might want to compare it to his speech on page 176, lines 49-72.

6. Compare Siward's reaction to his son's death to Macduff's reaction when he heard of the murder of his family.

7. What does Macduff say in scene 8, lines 14-16? What does this mean to Macbeth? How does Macbeth react to this?

Final Questions

1. Dr. Samuel Johnson states that Shakespeare "holds up to his readers a faithful mirror of manners and of life." What is your reaction to this?

2. Describe the predictions of the witches as revealed by the four apparitions and explain how these predictions come to pass at the end of the play.

3. Some critics see the function of the witches in Macbeth not as a cause of the action but as a symptom of Macbeth's unconscious desire for power. By specific references to the play, support or reject this generalization.

4. How much of what Macbeth does is free will and how much is "fate"? Be sure to back up your answer.

5. What fears does Lady Macbeth express concerning her husband's ability to reach the throne? How are her fears realized during Macbeth's reaction to the appearance of Banquo's ghost during the scene of the banquet? (Act I, scene iv; Act III, scene iv)

6. Trace the reversal which takes place in the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth from the beginning of the play to its tragic conclusion.

7. The witches gave Banquo three prophecies. Now that the play is ended, tell how they came true.

8. Lady Macbeth fades out of the play almost completely after Act III. What dramatic effect is achieved by her absence and her final reappearance?

9. How well did Macbeth and Lady Macbeth understand themselves and their own psychological limitations?

10. Are Lady Macbeth and Macbeth real characters? How?

11. Choose one of the following aspects of the play and explain its development: theme, imagery, symbolism

12. What are the real Macbeth and Lady Macbeth like? In the first two acts of the play, we are exposed to what people think of them, to what people say of them, and to what they say of themselves. Trace the reversal which takes place in the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth from the beginning of the play to its tragic conclusion. How well did Macbeth and Lady Macbeth understand themselves and their own psychological limitations? What does Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking tell you about her state of mind? Is she really responsible for the murders or was it Macbeth's ambition that just needed a little push? Is he responsible for the murders? Why or why not? Are Lady Macbeth and Macbeth real characters? How? Explain them using specific examples to back up your opinions.