Macbeth Teaching Guide
- 11 pages
- Subject: Allusion, Character Analysis, Historical Context, Meter, Plot, Themes, Vocabulary, Lesson Plans and Educational Resources
- Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12
Additional Macbeth Resources
So you’re going to teach Macbeth. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, this classic text has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its problematic spots, teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. It will give them unique insight into Shakespearean tragedies and important themes surrounding ambition, betrayal, and blood feud.
Approaches and Discussion Questions Excerpt
Establishing the Supernatural with the Uncanny: The witches and other supernatural elements of the play—visions of daggers, for example—are associated with otherworldly situations that are not quite right or in accordance with nature. The witches begin the play by upsetting the natural order by declaring that good is evil and evil is good (“Fair is foul, and foul is fair”). In this way, the supernatural elements of the play have some grounding in reality as readers question whether the events truly are supernatural or just the visions of mentally unstable and confused minds.
- For discussion: What role do the witches play in Macbeth’s downfall? How are they set apart from other characters in the play—societally, linguistically, spiritually? How does their dress and atmosphere in the first scene set the tone for the rest of the place?
- For discussion: Are the ghosts and other visions that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth witness real or just manifestations of guilty consciences?
Theme of Fate vs. Free Will: Highlight the tension between the fate that the witches predict for Macbeth and his free will to pursue or not pursue this fate. Macbeth is either predetermined to murder Duncan and cause his own downfall, or he creates this terrible future with the choices that he makes.
- For discussion: Is Macbeth’s downfall caused by the witches or is it the result of his own wrongdoing? How does fate shape the outcome of the story? How does choice play a role in Macbeth’s tragic end?
Additional Discussion Questions:
- What role does magic play in this drama? To what extent does magic actually bring about the outcome of the play?
- What role does blood play metaphorically and physically throughout the play? What might blood represent?
- How does a character’s relationship to sleep reveal their internal landscape?
- Does Macbeth have a moral lesson? Why or why not?
About This Document
Owl Eyes teaching guides have been designed to help first-time and veteran teachers open up classic works of literature for their students. Our guides provide rich background information, identify key themes and topics, and offer creative and practical approaches to teaching the text.
The main components of each guide include the following:
- A concise history of the text
- An explanation of significant allusions
- Teaching approaches and discussion questions
- Tricky issues to address while teaching
- Alternative teaching approaches
- A list of complementary texts
These teaching guides offer valuable context and promote meaningful discussions about novels, plays, poems, and stories that have captivated English Language Arts students for generations. Each guide is comprehensive and concise, thought-provoking and practical.