Theme: Lust for Power Can Lead to Loss of Humanity
Grades: Grades 11-12
Macbeth is the story of the quest of Macbeth and his Lady to
attain the throne of Scotland. Macbeth is a gifted leader, a fierce
warrior, an imaginative, sensitive soul. But he wants to be king, even
if it requires doing something drastic. His wife, Lady Macbeth, has
an even stronger passion for power that pushes him relentlessly toward
both glory and tragedy.
- Concept Web.
Ask students to work independently or in small groups
to create a word web or other graphic organizer that explores one
or more of the following concepts: fate, honor, ambition, guilt. You
might encourage students who are having difficulty in getting started
to (1)define the concept, (2) give examples that illustrate it, (3)
list some of the consequences associated with it, and in other ways
show their reaction to the concept.
Have students discuss or role-play one of the following situations:
(1) Imagine that you are trying to decide whether to do something
you know is very wrong, but which will benefit you. A friend says,
"Come on, just do it. Do you want to be a loser all your life?" How
would you react to such goading? Would you reaction be different if
your friend said, "Yeah, that's a tough decision, but if you don't
do it, someone else will"? If so, why? (2) You have done something
illegal and then gotten caught. You now have a choice either to admit
that you did it or tell a lie to cover it up. How far would you be
willing to go to cover up your own wrongdoing? What role does fear
play in your choice of action? What other considerations weigh in
Have students debate the proposition, "There is no ghost in this
play. Macbeth only imagines it." Tell students to take sides on
the issue (or argue for deliberate ambiguity) and prepare a 2- or
3- minute opening speech defending their stand. They should also
find as much evidence in the play as they can. When they are through,
the class could vote on the proposition.
- Meet the Press.
Have a group of students put on a press conference in which one or
several main characters from Macbeth answer questions from
the press about Duncan's murder. The "reporters" should write their
questions ahead of time, while the Macbeths and the other actors review
their characters' traits and alibis. The questions should focus on
the action in the play as well as on the character's intentions.
- To Sleep...
In his essay on Macbeth in Shakespeare, Mark Van Doren
says, "For sleep in Shakespeare is ever the privilege of the good
and the reward of the innocent." Have students discuss in a research
paper whether Shakespeare's use of sleep in Macbeth supports
this contention. Ask them if they see any other significance to the
way Shakespeare uses sleep in the play. Have them research other Shakespeare
plays for examples of sleep imagery to support their position.
- The King is Dead, Long Live the King.
The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was a plan to assassinate King James I.
Have students research it and write a research paper about regicide
and its consequences, using the case of Macbeth and Duncan as an example.