Context of the play
plot summaryhttp://www.allshakespeare.com/plays/macbeth/ps.shtml http://www.bardweb.net/plays/20.html http://www.btinternet.com/~steveaj/Shakespeare/macbethsyn.htm http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/macbeth/fullsumm.html http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/macbeth/summary.html
story versionact1 http://www.falconedlink.com/Macbeth.html
study questions (1)
quoted from http://www.jetlink.net/~massij/wssq/macbeth.html
1. Why does this play need Act 1, scene 1? Why does it begin with the 3 witches alone on stage? What is the image of womanhood presented by them? Note Banquo's description of them as looking rather masculine in 1, 3. Why this odd description? 2. In 1, 5, Lady Macbeth sums up the conditions that would make her able to murder Duncan. What does she need to be like to do this? How does this relate her to the witches? 3. Act One tells us much about the kingdom under Duncan. What has his reign been like recently? How does the plot of the Macbeths fit into the recent history of Scotland under Duncan? Why is this important to consider? How does Shakespeare present the history and behavior of the Scots with regard to their kings throughout this play? 4. Consider the differences throughout the first half of the play between how Macbeth and Banquo handle the information given them by the witches. What does a sensible Scottish thane do when confronted by witches at random? 5. Look at all the references to "nature" and "unnatural" throughout this play. Why are they vital to the plot? How does this theme reflect upon the actions of the Macbeths? Upon the ultimate crisis of Birnam Wood relocating itself to Dunsinane? Symbolically, what does it mean that the forest gets up and moves once Macbeth has become king? To put it another way, what kind of world is it when trees can just get up and walk around? 6. In 4,1, three apparitions visit the witches and Macbeth. What does each represent? How do we as audience respond to them? How are we as audience implicated in this plot? Do we believe in the witches as much as Macbeth does? Are there any significant differences here? 7. Look at the play's geographical center in Act 3; this is often where the author summarizes the major themes of his play through a series of "central" actions. What are the major events of this act? What do they tell us about the themes of the overall play? 8. So how does Macbeth like being king? What kind of king is he? What is his reign like, other than brief? How does he compare to Duncan as king? How do the rebellions under his reign compare to those under Duncan? 9. What are the effects of conspiring to murder upon Lady Macbeth? How does she compare to the other women of the play, including the witches, Lady Macduff, and Macbeth's mother? What is a good noblewoman like in this world? 10. In 1,7, Macbeth suggests to his wife to "bring forth men-children only" because she is so fierce. Is this a good world to bring forth children in? What happens to kids in this world? Consider all the children in this play, including the ones that seem to have reached adulthood with their fathers still alive. What are their fates? What happens to kids when Macbeth is king? When Duncan is king? What do these situations tell us about the worlds these respective kings create for their subjects? 11. Why does Banquo's ghost appear at a banquet? What does a banquet symbolize in general? What does a banquet thrown by a king suggest? 12. How do the Macbeths die? What do their forms of death symbolize?
study questions (2)
1. Characterize the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. If the main theme of Macbeth is ambition, whose ambition is the driving force of the play--Macbeth's, Lady Macbeth's, or both? <answer keys> 2. One of the important themes in Macbeth is the idea of political legitimacy, of the moral authority of certain kinds of kings and the moral invalidity of others. With particular attention to Malcolm's questioning of Macduff in Act IV, Scene iii, try to define some of the characteristics that grant or invalidate the moral legitimacy of absolute power. What makes Duncan a good king? What makes Macbeth a tyrant?<answer keys> 3. An important sub-theme in Macbeth is the idea of manhood, Shakespeare's exploration of the values that make up the idea of masculinity. What are these values, and how do various characters embody them? How do various characters use them to achieve their own ends?<answer keys> 4. The witches are among the most memorable figures in the play, imbuing their scenes with a kind of grotesque fascination. What techniques does Shakespeare use to create the witches' presence? What is their thematic significance? onsider the differences throughout the first half of the play between how Macbeth and Banquo handle the information given them by the witches. What does a sensible Scottish thane do when confronted by witches at random? 5. Compare and contrast Macbeth, Macduff, and Banquo. How are they alike? How are they different? Is it possible to define them morally, to argue that Macbeth is the play's villain and Macduff or Banquo its hero, or is the matter more complicated than that? 6. Given the political situation in England during the time that Shakespeare wrote the play, how might he have constructed Macbeth to address the urgent political controversies of his own time? How might it have been written to seek favor with the new king's (King James's) court? 7. Curiously, children are often invoked in Macbeth during moments of extreme violence and darkness (Macduff's son is murdered, Fleance is nearly murdered, Macbeth hears a prophecy from a bloody child, and Lady Macbeth goads her husband with violent imagery about murdering her own children). Why might Shakespeare use children in this way? What is the aesthetic impact of his choice? Does the play make any larger claim about the relations of parents and children or of fathers and sons?
It goes without saying that the Macbeths' marriage is not a normal one, particularly by the standards of its time. Though Macbeth is a brave general and a powerful lord, his wife is far from subordinate to his will; indeed, she often seems to control him, either by manipulation or by direct order. (Macbeth acknowledges this fact in his Act I, Scene v letter to his wife, in which he calls her his "dearest partner of greatness.") And it is Lady Macbeth's deep-seated ambition, rather than her husband's, that ultimately propels the plot of the play by goading Macbeth to murder Duncan. Macbeth commits the act, but without his wife's powerful presence behind him, it is unlikely that he would have aspired (or stooped) to the murder. <back to Q1> After Duncan's death, the nobles of Scotland begin to grumble amongst themselves about what they perceive as Macbeth's tyrannical behavior. When Macduff meets Malcolm in England, Malcolm pretends that he would make an even worse king than Macbeth, in order to test Macduff's loyalty to Scotland. The bad qualities he claims to possess include lust, greed, and a chaotic violence of temperament. These qualities all seem to characterize Macbeth, while Duncan's universally lauded reign was marked by the king's kindness, generosity, and stabilizing presence. The king must be able to keep order, and he should reward his subjects according to their merits (as Duncan makes Macbeth Thane of Cawdor, and Malcolm makes all his thanes earls). Perhaps the most important quality, which emerges in Malcolm's conversation with Macduff, is loyalty to Scotland above self; Macbeth wishes to be king to gratify his own desires, while Duncan and Malcolm wear the crown out of love for their nation. <back to Q2> Manhood in Macbeth is tied to ideals of strength, power, physical courage, and force of will. It is rarely tied to ideals of intelligence or moral fortitude; even characters who embody these traits use the idea of manhood largely to justify violence (as Malcolm does when goading Macduff to seek revenge upon Macbeth). Characters throughout the play continually use the idea of manhood to goad one another into action; most significantly, Lady Macbeth emasculates her husband repeatedly, knowing that, in his desperation to prove his manhood, he will perform the acts she wishes him to perform. (In this moment, Lady Macbeth, because she lacks such an expectation of masculinity, actually gains power as a woman over the men around her.) Macbeth echoes Lady Macbeth's words when he questions the manhood of the murderers he has hired to kill Banquo, and after Macduff's wife and children are killed, Malcolm urges Macduff to take the news with manly reserve and to devote himself to the destruction of Macbeth, his family's murderer. <back to Q3>
movie & TV 1998 http://us.imdb.com/Title?0137927
1981 video http://us.imdb.com/Title?0082692