Macbeth Study Guide

Macbeth Study Guide

Macbeth Study Guide


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<strong>Macbeth</strong> <strong>Study</strong> <strong>Guide</strong>ACT 11. What is the point of the first scene (literally) and in reference to the whole play?2. What does Duncan call <strong>Macbeth</strong> when he hears <strong>Macbeth</strong> has defeated Macdonwald?3. Who is sentenced to death?4. What do the witches predict in Act I, Scene 3 for <strong>Macbeth</strong>? For Banquo?<strong>Macbeth</strong>Banquo5. Who news does Ross bring <strong>Macbeth</strong>?6. Banquo, like <strong>Macbeth</strong>, is surprised that the witches have predicted <strong>Macbeth</strong>’s new title. He is,however, leery. What does he say about the motives of the “instruments of darkness” ?7. Malcolm describes Cawdor’s last moments before execution. What is Duncan ’s reply?8. <strong>Macbeth</strong> says, “Stars, hide your fires. Let not light see my black and deep desires.” What are<strong>Macbeth</strong>’s desires?

9. After Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong> reads the letter, what does she tell us is her opinion of <strong>Macbeth</strong>, and how doesshe plan to help him?10. What is Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong>’s “prayer” to the spirits after she learns Duncan is missing?11. What advice does Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong> give <strong>Macbeth</strong> when he arrives home?12. What are <strong>Macbeth</strong>’s arguments to himself against killing Duncan ?13. What arguments does Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong> use to convince <strong>Macbeth</strong> to commit the murder?14. What is Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong>’s plan?15. Why does Shakespeare open the play by showing the witches? Why is it good for <strong>Macbeth</strong> not toappear first?16. How does Duncan reward <strong>Macbeth</strong> for his bravery in defeating the rebels? Comment on the orderin which Duncan announces it and <strong>Macbeth</strong> finds it out.17. <strong>Macbeth</strong> calls the day of the battle “foul and fair”. Comment on what you think he means.18. When <strong>Macbeth</strong> is told of his new title, how do he and Banquo react? Can you think of reasons forthe difference in reactions?19. Why does <strong>Macbeth</strong> call Malcolm “a step on which” he “must fall down or else o'er leap”? Which ofthese alternatives do you expect <strong>Macbeth</strong> to choose and how might he do it?20. What does Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong> fear about her husband, after she has read his letter?21. Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong> tells her husband to “look like the innocent flower/But be the serpent under it”.Explain what she means (either generally or specifically or both, as you think appropriate).22. What is the purpose and effect of Duncan's and Banquo's comments when they approach<strong>Macbeth</strong>'s castle?23. Why, in <strong>Macbeth</strong>'s opinion, is the murder of Duncan so wrong?24. How does Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong> make sure that her husband murders Duncan?ACT 21. What is <strong>Macbeth</strong>’s life to Banquo about the witches’ predictions?

2. What is the signal Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong> is to give <strong>Macbeth</strong> to let him know that she has taken care of theguards (grooms) ?3. What excuse does Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong> give for not killing Duncan herself?4. After <strong>Macbeth</strong> kills Duncan , he goes to Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong> and is concerned about not being able tosay “Amen.” What is her advice to him?5. Then, <strong>Macbeth</strong> is worried about hearing a voice saying, “<strong>Macbeth</strong> does murder sleep.” Whatdoes Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong> tell him to do?6. Why won’t <strong>Macbeth</strong> take the daggers back to the scene of the crime?7. Who was knocking?8. What three things does drinking provoke?9. How does Lennox describe the night, and what is <strong>Macbeth</strong>’s response?

10. What does Macduff discover?11. Macduff says, “Oh, gentle lady, ‘Tis not for you to hear what I can speak. The repetition in awoman’s ear, Would murder as it fell.” What is ironic about this?12. What excuse or explanation does <strong>Macbeth</strong> give for killing the guards (grooms)? What is his realreason?13. Why do Malcolm and Donalbain leave?14. Why does Ross not believe Malcolm and Donalbain were responsible for Duncan ’s death?15. Comment on Banquo's speech beginning “There's husbandry in heaven...” and ending “...inrepose”. Remember that this play would originally have been performed in the daytime, usingnatural light.16. After his servant leaves him (Act 2, scene 1, line 33 and following) <strong>Macbeth</strong> imagines he can seesomething (in some film versions the audience may be shown this, too). What is it? Explain why,you think, <strong>Macbeth</strong> sees this, especially at this time and in this place.17. When Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong> says, “That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold”, what doesshe mean? Who are “them” and why should she want them to be drunk?18. Sometimes Shakespeare shows killing onstage (mostly at the end of a play). Why, in your view, isthe killing of Duncan not shown, but understood to happen offstage?19. How is <strong>Macbeth</strong>'s mind affected by the murder of Duncan?20. Who is more practical after the killing, <strong>Macbeth</strong> or his wife? Can you think of reasons for this?21. The scene featuring the porter makes a great contrast with what goes before and after it. Can youexplain why Shakespeare should use comedy at this point in an otherwise not very comical play?(This is sometimes explained by the phrase “Comic Relief”, which has recently been taken overby a well-known charity.)22. After Duncan's death, <strong>Macbeth</strong> says, “All is but toys”. Explain what you think he means by sayingthis. He is, of course, concealing his part in the murder, but do you think he is sincere when hemakes this statement? Why?23. How do Malcolm and Donalbain react to the murder of their father? Is this a wise course ofaction? Give reasons in favour of this and against it. Can you think of any other things they mightdo in this situation?24. An old man tells Ross about a “mousing owl” that killed a falcon and about Duncan's horsesturning wild and eating each other. What might be the point of this speech? Comment on the ideaof things being “unnatural” at this point in the play.ACT 3

1. Why does <strong>Macbeth</strong> want Banquo and Fleance dead?2. What is <strong>Macbeth</strong>’s plan for killing Banquo and Feance? Does it work?3. <strong>Macbeth</strong> says, “The worm that’s fled Hath nature that in time will venom breed, No teeth for thepresent.” What does that mean?4. Who (what) did <strong>Macbeth</strong> see at the banquet table?5. How does Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong> cover for <strong>Macbeth</strong> at the banquet? What excuses does she give for<strong>Macbeth</strong>’s wild talk?6. Who else is missing from the banquet table, besides Banquo?7. <strong>Macbeth</strong> says, “I am in blood Stepped in so far that should I wade no more, Returning were astedious as go o’er.” What does he mean?8. What does Hecate want the witches to do?9. What does Lennox think about <strong>Macbeth</strong>, Fleance, and Duncan ’s sons?10. Why does <strong>Macbeth</strong> ask Banquo so many apparently casual questions about where he is riding?Why should <strong>Macbeth</strong> be worried about Banquo (think about what he knows and about hischaracter)?11. How does <strong>Macbeth</strong> persuade the murderers to help him? He tells the murderers that it was reallyBanquo who did some things they thought <strong>Macbeth</strong> had done to harm them. Is this convincing?12. What does <strong>Macbeth</strong> say that he envies about Duncan (in scene 2)?13. How successful are the murderers in following <strong>Macbeth</strong>'s instructions? Comment on whathappens to Fleance, and why this matters to <strong>Macbeth</strong>.14. How does Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong> react when her husband sees (or believes he sees) Banquo's ghost?What similar thing does she recall? (<strong>Macbeth</strong> has not told her of this in the dialogue of the play,so we must suppose he has told her between scenes.)15. What does <strong>Macbeth</strong> mean when he says, “We are yet but young in deed”? (Act 3, scene 4) Whatdoes this suggest about his future conduct?16. Who or what is Hecate and what does she think of the witches' involvement with <strong>Macbeth</strong>?17. What is Hecate's strategy for <strong>Macbeth</strong>? Comment on the way the audience learns of this beforehe does.

18. In Act 3, scene 6, Lennox comments on <strong>Macbeth</strong>'s actions. In your own words, try to explain whathe says directly and what he really thinks or hints at. Why might he not want to say directly whatis really in his mind?19. The lord's reply to Lennox contains some interesting information about Macduff. What is this, andhow might it affect things in Scotland?ACT 41. Witch 2 says “By the pricking of my thumb, Something wicked this way comes.” Who arrives?2. What is <strong>Macbeth</strong>’s attitude towards the witches this time?3. What 4 things do the witches show <strong>Macbeth</strong>? What does each show/say? What is <strong>Macbeth</strong>’sreaction?a.b.c.d.4. <strong>Macbeth</strong> says (about the witches), “Infected be the air wheron they ride, And damned all those thattrust them!” What is <strong>Macbeth</strong>, in effect, saying about himself?5. Where is Macduff? Why isn’t he with his family?6. What is Lady Macduff’s attitude at the moment about her husband Macduff?

7. Why does <strong>Macbeth</strong> have Macduff’s family and servants killed?8. Why is Malcolm in England ?9. Why does Macduff travel to England ?10. Why does Malcolm test Macduff?11. What news does Ross bring to Macduff?12. What does Malcolm tell Macduff to do with his grief?13. What does Malcolm resolve to do by the end of Act 4?14. How do the witches lull <strong>Macbeth</strong> into a false sense of security?15. How does <strong>Macbeth</strong> feel after his second meeting with the witches? What things might reassurehim, and what things might trouble him?16. When <strong>Macbeth</strong> says (Act 4, scene 1) that “the flighty purpose never is o'ertook/Unless the deedgo with it”, what does he mean in general, and in the particular situation in which he says it?17. How does Lady Macduff feel about her husband's leaving her alone? Why has he done this?18. When Ross comes to see Lady Macduff, how does he behave and why?19. Briefly explain Macduff's description to Malcolm of the state of affairs in Scotland (Act 4, scene 3).What does the audience know which makes Macduff's account even more painful?20. Why might Malcolm be suspicious of Macduff? Does he know as much as the audience doesabout why <strong>Macbeth</strong> and Macduff are enemies?21. Malcolm pretends to be even more evil than <strong>Macbeth</strong>. Why does he do this? What does hediscover by doing so?22. In Act 4, scene 3, there is an account of the miraculous healing powers of the English king - whatis the purpose of this? What effect does it have on the audience?23. When Macduff asks Ross about his family, Ross replies, “...they were well at peace when I didleave 'em”. Explain why he gives this answer and what it might mean.ACT 51. What do the doctor and the gentlewoman sees Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong> doing? What do they decide to do?2. What does <strong>Macbeth</strong> want the doctor to do for his wife?3. What trick does Malcolm use to hide the number of men in his army?4. What does Malcolm explain about the state of <strong>Macbeth</strong>’s armies?

5. What is <strong>Macbeth</strong>’s reaction to Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong>’s death?6. What is <strong>Macbeth</strong>’s reaction to the news that Birnam Wood is moving?7. Who first fights <strong>Macbeth</strong>? What happens?8. Why is it important that Young Siward died with wounds to the front chest?9. What excuse does <strong>Macbeth</strong> give Macduff for not wanting to fight him?10. When does <strong>Macbeth</strong> know he is in trouble?11. How does <strong>Macbeth</strong> die?12. Who will be the new king of Scotland ?13. How does Lady <strong>Macbeth</strong>'s behaviour in Act 5, scene 1 affect the way the audience sees her?14. Angus says that <strong>Macbeth</strong>'s royal title is “...like a giant's robe/Upon a dwarfish thief” (Act 5, scene2, lines 21-22). Explain, in your own words, what this means, and whether it is a fair description of<strong>Macbeth</strong>. Can you find other references in the play to the wearing of clothes, as a metaphor orsimile (as here) for something else?15. Why does <strong>Macbeth</strong> say (Act 5, scene 3) “that he must not look to have...that which shouldaccompany old age”? What are these things and what does he expect to have “in their stead”?16. Why does Malcolm order his soldiers to cut boughs from the trees of Birnam Wood? Explain theways in which the audience and (later) <strong>Macbeth</strong> see more in this action than Malcolm hasintended in giving the order.17. <strong>Macbeth</strong> claims that he has “almost forgot the taste of fears”. Is this a convincing claim? Givereasons for your answer.18. Perhaps the most famous speech in the play is the one that begins “Tomorrow and tomorrow andtomorrow”. In your own words, summarize the main points that <strong>Macbeth</strong> makes in this speech.19. When <strong>Macbeth</strong> fights Young Siward he is very confident of the outcome? Why is this? Is he rightto be so confident?20. Macduff believes that he alone should kill <strong>Macbeth</strong>. Why does he think this? What other reasonemerges, when he speaks with <strong>Macbeth</strong>, for his being the only person who should do this?21. How does <strong>Macbeth</strong> feel about fighting Macduff? What makes up his mind to do so?22. How does Old Siward feel about the death of his son? He makes a joke at this point - does thissuggest that he doesn't care, or that he is controlling his feelings?

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