RQ: Macbeth, Acts 1-3

Macbeth, Act I, Questions

1.Why is it bad luck to say Macbeth backstage during a production of any play? 

2. Do the Weird Sisters, the First, Second, and Third Witch remind you of the Furies?

3. What sorts of offstage sounds do we hear in 1.1? Does it matter that the animals in the first scene are named and the people are not?

4. Who, what, and where are the Witches talking about in 1.1?

5. We get two accounts of the battle in 1.2, compare the account given by the Bloody Captain to the account that Ross gives. Why tell the same story twice? Why does the Captain use such awesome similes?

6. Do the Witches cause the thunder?

7. What sort of spell do the Witches cast at the beginning of 1.3 and why?

8. What do the Witches predict will happen to Macbeth? To Banquo? Compare the way in which each character reacts to the sisters and their predictions. Esp. Macbeth (1.3.126-42). COMPARE TWO SCENES.

9. How did Cawdor die? Who inherits after Duncan dies?

10. When does Macbeth choose to kill Duncan (1.4.48-53)?

11. What does Macbeth say in the letter he writes to Lady Macbeth? How does she respond? Is she a good reader–compare her reading practices with Julia or Silvia’s. Would Macbeth have committed the murders if not for Lady Macbeth?

12. Lots of birds so far. What do you make of “The raven himself is hoarse/That croacks the fatal entrance of Duncan” (1.5.37) and “This guest of summer,/The Temple-haunting marlet, does approve/By his loved masionry that the heavens’ breath/Smells wooingly her” (1.6.2-5).

13. In his famous soliloquy (1.7.1-28), Macbeth reasons through the pros and cons of killing Duncan. What are some arguments against the murder? What are some arguments in favor?

14. How does Lady Macbeth finally convince Macbeth to go through with the murder?

Act 2

1. Banquo tells Macbeth something the king did right before going to bed. What is this final action of King Duncan’s life? What does it tell us about King Duncan? How does it reinforce the themes of the play?

2. What is the significance of the floating dagger (2.1.32-40)? Why Macbeth can see it but not touch it? In what way is the dagger similar to the prophecies?

3. When Macbeth says, ”I go, and it is done” (2.1.62), what has finally convinced him to murder Duncan?

4. How does Shakespeare show in this scene that Macbeth’s natural relationship with god, man, animals, and the world has been disrupted?

5. What is the relationship between sleep and death in Macbeth? For instance, Macbeth says that he heard a voice cry, ”Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep” (2.2.33-34); Lady Macbeth says “The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures” (2.2.51-52); and Macbeth says of the knocking, “Wake Duncan with thy knocking. I would thou couldst” (2.2.72). How do the Macbeths’ musings on sleep in 2.2 anticipate the alarum raised when everyone discovers Duncan has been murdered in 2.3?

6. Where does blood show up in 2.2, and why do Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respond so differently? How do you think the Shakespeare’s theater staged the blood? Do you think stage blood might behave in ways the actors cannot control?

7. Why stage MacDuff and Lennox’s entrance to Macbeth’s castle as passing through the gates of Hell? Is Macbeth’s castle really a place of torment and punishment?

8. What sort of night have MacDuff and Lennox passed through (2.3.50-56)?

9. Which characters’ description of the murder scene is the best?

10. How do the character react to the murder?

11.In 2.4, how does the natural world both predict and react to Duncan’s death?

Act 3

In 3.1, Macbeth invites Banquo to dinner? Are the Macbeths good hosts?

How does Macbeth persuade the murders to kill Banquo? Why do the Murders agree to take the job? Why does Macbeth want Banquo and Fleance dead?

How do Macbeth and Lady Macbeth feel about their new positions? What do the phrases, ”doubtful joy” (3.29) and ”sorriest fantasies” ( reveal

Lady Macbeth says, ”Naught’s had, all’s spent, Where our desire is got without content.” What does this line mean? Why is it significant for her character?



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