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THINKING ABOUT MACBETH

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  1. An Interactive Study Guide THINKING ABOUT MACBETH Click the mouse to continue.

  2. What’s in This Study Guide? Home

  3. Introduction to Macbeth Main Menu

  4. Macbeth – The Basics • Macbeth was written in 1606, the last of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear). • Shakespeare was in his early 40’s, a mature playwright with an established reputation. • The source of Macbeth is Holinshed’s Chronicles of Ancient British History, used frequently by Shakespeare as a plot source. • Macbeth is a more complex morality play, focusing on a man who faces a choice between good and evil, and chooses evil. • However, Macbeth is more than a one-dimensional villain. He is a believable human being who gives in to the temptation of ambition. Next Introduction to Macbeth Main Menu

  5. Macbeth – The Text • There is only one definitive version of Macbeth – the First Folio. • The First Folio is a collection of 36 of Shakespeare’s plays prepared by two of his colleagues 7 years after his death. • It is considered the most reliable text of many of the plays, which also existed in “bad” quarto versions. Back Next Main Menu Introduction to Macbeth

  6. Macbeth – The Text • Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays. • Macbeth also contains several unanswered plot questions: • Who was the 3rd murderer? • What happened to Fleance and Donalbain? • Did the Macbeths have children? • Did Lady Macbeth commit suicide? • Some scholars theorize that there are missing scenes. • The scenes with Hecate (III, 5 & IV, 1) were probably added after Shakespeare’s death for the purpose of entertaining the audience. Three Witches, Henry Fuseli Back Next Main Menu Introduction to Macbeth

  7. The Great Chain of Being • Shakespeare’s audience believed in a great Chain of Being that determined the natural order of events. • The chain was a series of hierarchical links with God at the top. • Each level of the chain had its own hierarchy, with the king at the top of the human level. • Disruptions in the chain could also disrupt the laws of nature and cause bizarre events to occur. Back Next Main Menu Introduction to Macbeth

  8. Macbeth and King James I • Aspects of the play were calculated to flatter King James, who ascended the throne in 1603 after Queen Elizabeth died. • James had authored Demonology in 1597 and was intensely interested in the supernatural. • James was a descendant of the historical Banquo. • The line of kings in IV, 1 suggests that the Stuart line will continue indefinitely. King James I, Paulus Van Somer Back Main Menu Introduction to Macbeth

  9. Macbeth Quizzes Main Menu

  10. Quiz: Act IClick the hand  for an answer. • Why did King Duncan strip the Thane of Cawdor of his title and give it to Macbeth?  • What prophecies did the witches make regarding Macbeth?  • What prophecies did the witches make regarding Banquo?  • How does Lady Macbeth react to the witches' prophecies and the idea of killing the king?  Macbeth Quizzes Main Menu

  11. Why did King Duncan strip the Thane of Cawdor of his title and give it to Macbeth? Click anywhere to show answer. The Thane of Cawdor betrayed King Duncan and deserted to the rebel army during the battle.    Macbeth fought heroically in the battle, killed the rebel leader, MacDonwald, and helped win the day for Duncan's army. Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  12. What prophecies did the witches make regarding Macbeth? Click anywhere to show answer. He will be Thane of Glamis. (a title he will inherit from his father) He will be Thane of Cawdor. He will be king. Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  13. What prophecies did the witches make regarding Banquo? Click anywhere to show answer. The witches predicted his children would be kings. Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  14. How did Lady Macbeth react to the witches' prophecies and the idea of killing the king? Click anywhere to show answer. Lady Macbeth is enthusiastic about obtaining the power that goes with the kingship.  She fears that her husband does not have enough ambition to accomplish their (her?) goals.   When she hears that the King will visit their castle, she calls on spirits to "unsex" her, and allow her masculine nature to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the king's visit.  When Macbeth arrives at the end of the scene, she urges him to appear innocent while planning the murder of the king. Macbeth Quizzes Main Menu

  15. Quiz: Act IIClick the hand  for an answer. • Describe the vision that Macbeth sees on the way to Duncan’s chamber to commit the murder.  • What part of the murder plan did Lady Macbeth have to carry out herself because her husband could not?  • Who is the Porter and what is his purpose in the play?  • Which character discovers the dead king and reports it to the others?  • What do Duncan’s sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, decide to do after the murder and why?  • What do Ross and the old man discuss in Act II, Scene 4, regarding the events of the night before?  Macbeth Quizzes Main Menu

  16. Describe the vision that Macbeth sees on the way to Duncan’s chamber to commit the murder. Click anywhere to show answer. In a scene that abounds with evil and terrifying sounds, Macbeth sees a “bleeding dagger” that seems to lead him on to Duncan’s chamber. This image emphasizes the horror of the deed Macbeth is about to commit. It also demonstrates Macbeth’s state of mind. Although he is terrified, he is determined to commit the murder. Furthermore, he has already being tormented by his own conscience. Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  17. What part of the murder plan did Lady Macbeth have to carry out herself because her husband could not? Click anywhere to show answer. Instead of leaving the bloody daggers with the guards, Macbeth still has them with him after the murder. Lady Macbeth returns the daggers to the King’s chamber herself and smears the drugged guards with Duncan’s blood. Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  18. Who is the Porter and what is his purpose in the play? Click anywhere to show answer. The Porter is the gatekeeper at Macbeth’s castle. He is drunk and pretends to be the keeper of Hell Gate. The Porter scene provides some needed comic relief between the emotional murder scene and the discovery of the murder, but the Porter’s jokes also sound some of the important themes in the play—growth and fertility, ill-fitting clothing, and equivocation (double meanings). Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  19. Which character discovers the dead king and reports it to the others? Click anywhere to show answer. Macduff Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  20. What do Duncan’s sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, decide to do after the murder and why? Click anywhere to show answer. Both sons decide to flee Scotland. Malcolm will go to England, and Donalbain, to Ireland. Fearing that they may be the next victims, they decide not to trust anyone at the castle. “This murderous shaft that’s shot hath not yet lighted.” Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  21. What do Ross and the old man discuss in Act II, Scene 4, regarding the events of the night before? Click anywhere to show answer. The old man cannot remember a stranger night. The daytime is as dark as night, and strange events have occurred in nature. A falcon was killed by a mousing owl, and Duncan’s horses, normally well-behaved, turned wild, broke out of their stalls and “ate each other.” This conversation emphasizes the disorder in nature caused by the murder of a king. Macbeth Quizzes Main Menu

  22. Quiz: Act IIIClick the hand  for an answer. • Why did Macbeth have Banquo killed?  • What instructions did Lady Macbeth give her husband before the banquet?  • What news did the murderer bring Macbeth at the beginning of the banquet scene?  • Explain what happened to disrupt the banquet scene and cause Lady Macbeth to send the guest home early.  Macbeth Quizzes Main Menu

  23. Why did Macbeth have Banquo killed? Click anywhere to show answer. In his soliloquy, Macbeth says he fears Banquo because he is wise and has the character of a king. He also resents the witches’ prophecy that Banquo’s sons will be kings and his will not. He fears that he has killed a king for the benefit of Banquo’s sons. Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  24. What instructions did Lady Macbeth give her husband before the banquet? Click anywhere to show answer. She criticizes him for keeping alone and brooding about the crime. “What’s done is done…” When Macbeth tells her that he is tormented by bad dreams, she tells him to put aside such thoughts and reminds him to be bright and jovial among his guests at the banquet. Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  25. What news did the murderer bring Macbeth at the beginning of the banquet scene? Click anywhere to show answer. The murderer appears at the beginning of the banquet scene to inform Macbeth that Banquo has been killed, but his son, Fleance, has escaped. Macbeth focuses on this flaw in the plan that he thinks will cause his downfall. Actually, he is succumbing to his own guilt. Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  26. Explain what happened to disrupt the banquet scene and cause Lady Macbeth to send the guests home early. Click anywhere to show answer. Banquo’s ghost enters the banquet and sits in Macbeth’s place. When the other guests ask Macbeth to sit, he says the table is full and speaks directly to the ghost to defend himself. None of the other guests can see the ghost, which is consistent with the Elizabethan belief that a ghost could appear to its murderer. Lady Macbeth explains that his behavior is due to an affliction he has had since his youth. After the ghost appears a second time and Macbeth goes into another fit, Lady Macbeth dismisses the guests. Macbeth Quizzes Main Menu

  27. Quiz: Act IVClick the hand  for an answer. • Describe the three apparitions shown to Macbeth in Scene 1.  • Describe the vision shown to Macbeth after the three apparitions, and explain its meaning.  • Who are Macbeth’s next victims, shown in Scene 2?  • How does Malcolm test Macduff’s loyalty in Scene 3?  • What news does Ross deliver to Malcolm and Macduff at the end of Scene 3?  Macbeth Quizzes Main Menu

  28. Describe the three apparitions shown to Macbeth in Scene 1. Click anywhere to show answer. The first apparition is an “armed head” that warns Macbeth to “Beware Macduff.” The second apparition is a “bloody child” who tells Macbeth that “none of woman born” shall harm him. The third apparition is a “child crowned” holding a tree branch, who tells him he will not be defeated until Birnam Wood come to Dunsinane Castle. Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  29. Describe the vision shown to Macbeth after the three apparitions, and explain its meaning. Click anywhere to show answer. In response to Macbeth’s question “shall Banquo's issue ever /Reign in this kingdom?” the witches show Macbeth a line of eight kings. The last king in the line is Banquo, appearing as he did in the banquet scene. The last king holds a mirror, which seems to indicate that Banquo’s line will continue indefinitely. Scholars believe this was a compliment to King James and his line, but it is also clearly meant to emphasize the fertility of Banquo’s line, contrasted with Macbeth’s barrenness. Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  30. Who are Macbeth’s next victims, shown in Scene 2?Click anywhere to show answer. Macduff’s entire family – his wife, children and servants. Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  31. How does Malcolm test Macduff’s loyalty in Scene 3? Click anywhere to show answer. Malcolm says that after Macbeth is defeated, Scotland will be worse off with him as king. He goes on to describe in detail all of his bad qualities – he would lust after women, he would try to steal the property and wealth of his noblemen, and he would cause chaos and disorder in the country and the universe. When Macduff says that such a king would not be fit to govern, or to live, Malcolm is relieved to see his reaction and explains that he was forced to test his loyalty because he had to make sure he wasn’t one of Macbeth’s agents. Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  32. What news does Ross deliver to Malcolm and Macduff at the end of Scene 3? Click anywhere to show answer. Ross tells Macduff that his castle was attacked and his family murdered. Macbeth Quizzes Main Menu

  33. Quiz: Act VClick the hand  for an answer. • What is Lady Macbeth doing during the sleepwalking scene, and what does it reveal about her character?  • The 3rd apparition told Macbeth that he would not be defeated until Birnam Wood came to the castle. Explain how this happened.  • What youth is Macbeth’s final victim, and what is the dramatic significance of the scene?  • Who killed Macbeth? Explain why he was not “borne of woman.”  Macbeth Quizzes Main Menu

  34. What is Lady Macbeth doing during the sleepwalking scene, and what does it reveal about her character? Click anywhere to show answer. She is reliving the murder of King Duncan and continually trying to wash imaginary blood off her hands. The scene reveals her intense inner guilt. She cannot forget the murder of the king; it tortures her subconscious. Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  35. The 3rd apparition told Macbeth that he would not be defeated until Birnam Wood came to the castle. Explain how this happened. Click anywhere to show answer. When Malcolm’s army reaches Birnam Wood (outside Macbeth’s castle), he orders his soldiers to disguise themselves with tree boughs so the enemy will not be able to gauge their true numbers. When Macbeth sees the disguised soldiers advancing, it appears that Birnam Wood is moving toward the castle. Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  36. What youth is Macbeth’s final victim, and what is the dramatic significance of the scene? Click anywhere to show answer. Young Siward is killed by Macbeth in V, 7. He is the son of one of the English nobleman who has joined Malcolm’s army. The scene serves to remind the audience of Macbeth’s evil and murderous nature. Young Siward is another of the “children” in the play and a reminder of the next generation that will eventually defeat Macbeth. Young Siward’s final words are, “Thou liest, abhorred tyrant!” As a representative of the next generation, he sees through Macbeth’s lies and deceptions and accurately characterizes the nature of Macbeth’s kingship. Macbeth Quizzes Next Question Main Menu

  37. Who killed Macbeth? Explain why he was not “borne of woman.” Click anywhere to show answer. Macduff killed Macbeth and then beheaded him. Technically, Macduff was not “borne of woman” because he was delivered prematurely through a surgical procedure something like a modern Caesarian section. When he tells Macbeth that he was not “borne,” but rather “untimely ripped” from his mother’s womb, Macbeth realizes he has been tricked again, and curses the "fiends" (witches) who use words in a "double sense."  Macbeth Quizzes Main Menu

  38. Quotes from Macbeth Main Menu

  39. Act I QuotesWho said it, and why is it important?Click the hand  for an answer. • “Fair is foul and foul is fair.”  • “If you can look into the seeds of time, And say which grain will grow and which will not, Speak then to me.”  • “The Thane of Cawdor lives: why do you dress me In borrowed robes?”  • “Look like th’ innocent flower, But be the serpent under ’t.” • “Fair and noble hostess, We are your guest tonight.”  • “He’s here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed.”  Macbeth Quotes Main Menu

  40. Who said it, and why is it important? • “Fair is foul and foul is fair.” Click anywhere to show answer. This is the witches’ chant in the opening scene and one of the main themes of the play – the confusion between good and evil, or between appearance and reality. Things that seem to be fair (good) are sometimes foul (evil), and visa versa. When Macbeth takes the witches predictions as fact, he is confusing foul with fair (evil with good). He and Lady Macbeth use the same technique on Duncan and their other victims. They pretend to be good, while planning evil deeds. Macbeth Quotes Next Quote Main Menu

  41. Who said it, and why is it important? • “If you can look into the seeds of time, And say which grain will grow and which will not, Speak then to me.” Click anywhere to show answer. After the witches predict that Macbeth will become king, Banquo asks them to predict his future. The image of grain growing from a seed is the first of many growth and fertility images associated with Banquo. This image relates directly to the witches’ response to his question—his children will be kings. It also contrasts him sharply with the childless and barren Macbeths. Macbeth Quotes Next Quote Main Menu

  42. Who said it, and why is it important? • “The Thane of Cawdor lives: why do you dress me In borrowed robes?” Click anywhere to show answer. This is Macbeth’s response when Ross announces that the king has bestowed this title on Macbeth. Macbeth doesn’t yet know about the Thane of Cawdor’s treason and execution. This is significant because it confirms one of the witches’ predictions and leaves Macbeth wondering if their other prediction (that he will be king) will also come true. This is the first instance of clothing imagery in the play. Shakespeare uses ill-fitting or borrowed clothing to refer to false appearances and unearned or undeserved titles. Macbeth Quotes Next Quote Main Menu

  43. Who said it, and why is it important? “Look like th’ innocent flower, But be the serpent under ’t.” Click anywhere to show answer. This is Lady Macbeth’s advice to her husband when she finds out that King Duncan will be visiting their castle. She advises her husband to put on a false appearance of hospitality and friendliness while hiding their real intentions (murder). The serpent, or snake, is a classic symbol of evil. Macbeth Quotes Next Quote Main Menu

  44. Who said it, and why is it important? “Fair and noble hostess, We are your guest tonight.” Click anywhere to show answer. King Duncan greets Lady Macbeth when he arrives at Inverness (Macbeth’s castle). The two important words here are “fair” and “guest.” We have already been told by the witches that “fair” is actually “foul”; however, Duncan does not know this and will be murdered because he is unable to distinguish between good and evil, appearance and reality. Even if Duncan were not the King, Macbeth had an obligation to protect a guest in his house. Macbeth Quotes Next Quote Main Menu

  45. Who said it, and why is it important? “He’s here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed.” Click anywhere to show answer. In a soliloquy in Scene 7, Macbeth expresses his doubts about killing the king. First, he is Duncan’s kinsman, since all the Scottish noblemen were thought to be related. Secondly, he is Duncan’s subject, and as such, should be protecting him from danger. Macbeth’s use of the word “double” is interesting, especially in a play where double meanings are so important. Macbeth Quotes Next Quote Main Menu

  46. Act II QuotesWho said it, and why is it important?Click the hand  for an answer. • “I see thee still;And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of bloodWhich was not so before.”  • “Had he not resembledMy father as he slept, I had done 't.”  • “A little water clears us of this deed: How easy it is then!”  • “O, yet I do repent me of my furyThat I did kill them.”  • “To Ireland, I; our separated fortuneShall keep us both the safer.”  Macbeth Quotes Main Menu

  47. Who said it, and why is it important? I see thee still;And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of bloodWhich was not so before. Click anywhere to show answer. In Macbeth's famous "bleeding dagger" soliloquy, he imagines a bloody dagger leading him to Duncan's chamber.  This is one of many "imaginary" bloody images in the play, which ironically are often more frightening than more realistic on-stage blood.  This scene may also be evidence that Macbeth has an overactive imagination--later in the play his "visions" play an important role. Macbeth Quotes Next Quote Main Menu

  48. Who said it, and why is it important? “Had he not resembledMy father as he slept, I had done 't.” Click anywhere to show answer. Lady Macbeth has just returned from placing the daggers in the king's chamber.  While waiting for her husband to commit the murders, she explains that she would have killed the king herself, had he not resembled her father. Macbeth Quotes Next Quote Main Menu

  49. Who said it, and why is it important? “A little water clears us of this deed: How easy it is then!” Click anywhere to show answer. After the murder, Macbeth fears that he will never be able to wash the blood from his hands.  In this quote, his wife assures him that it will take only "a little water" to clear them of the deed.   Although she seems unemotional in this scene, she will later reveal that the murder affected her much more than she indicates, and this comment will come back to haunt her (literally) in the famous sleepwalking scene in Act V. Macbeth Quotes Next Quote Main Menu

  50. Who said it, and why is it important? “O, yet I do repent me of my furyThat I did kill them.” Click anywhere to show answer. Macbeth explains why he killed the king's guards. He could not control his anger.  This deed immediately arouses the suspicion of Macduff. Macbeth Quotes Next Quote Main Menu