Act I Questions

  1. Match characters: Which characters use the words “fair” and “foul” in scenes i and iii? Why would these characters be connected?

In the beginning of the play, in Scene I three witches are talking about Macbeth and towards the end of this scene they say, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair Hover through the fog and filthy air.” Macbeth then says in Scene III to Banquo “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.”

The witches are considered ‘bad’ because they are supernatural. The words that the witches say in the beginning foreshadow some of the negativity that will be shown by Macbeth. Banquo has met Macbeth for the first time and within a few minutes of a conversation, Macbeth recalls the witch’s words.

In that time witches were considered evil and not to be trusted.  Macbeth repeating those words depicts that he is considering and believing what the witches said to him. This foreshadows the troubles and dark events that will occur in the play.

  • Find the lines (Scene 4)
  • Duncan says, “there’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face:/ He was a gentleman on whom I built/An absolute trust.” This means that you can’t tell what a person is really like from the face. He’s talking about the Thane of Cawdor before Macbeth who was a man, he trusted but who became a rebel and fought against him.

What does this say about Duncan as a judge of character?

The first Thane of Cawdor rebelled against Duncan and fought for the Norwegian forces. Duncan, instead of learning from his mistake of trusting people from their outward behaviour, trusted Macbeth as a loyal person but he, becoming the second Thane of Cawdor did the same thing, rebelled against Duncan and did even worse because Macbeth killed him.

Because Duncan was a good king, he judged everyone in a positive way as well. Duncan, therefore, was a bad judge of character because he didn’t look deeply into someone’s character. As he was in a leadership position, he should have been able to look at someone and determine whether they are acting respectful because of the position he withholds or because they actually are good people.

  • Find the line where Duncan says Malcolm can be Prince of Cumberland and take over after him.

“Our eldest son, Malcolm; whom we name hereafter The prince of Cumberland; which honour must not unaccompanied invest him only.

  • Find Macbeth’s reaction to Malcolm becoming Prince of Cumberland.

“He is refusing with it:” The Prince of Cumberland! – This is a step on which I must fall down”. 

  • List the qualities of Macbeth’s character as Lady Macbeth sees him. Use lines 14-24.

Lady Macbeth addresses Macbeth as her “worthy lord” but calls him weak when he keeps talking about what he has done. Macbeth also brings the bloody daggers with him that he was meant to leave with the guards to frame them. When Lady Macbeth tells him to put them back, Macbeth says that he can’t go back because he is too afraid to think of what he has done and can’t stand to look at that again.

Lady Macbeth then calls him a coward and goes to does it herself. The qualities now Lady Macbeth sees in Macbeth are weakness, worrier, coward, pale.

When Lady Macbeth enters and hears Macbeth talking about what he did, she says that her hands are also as red as his, meaning that she is also involved in the murder of Duncan and they both share the guilt of the deed, “but I shame to wear a heart so white” challenges Macbeth’s character as she says that she is “ashamed” by his cowardice and inability to face what he has done.  

  • What word do you think best describes Lady Macbeth’s reaction?

Insensitive, shameless.

Scene 2 Valiant cousin! – Duncan Worthy gentleman! – Duncan Brave Macbeth – Captain Like valour’s minion – Captain Noble Macbeth – DuncanScene 5 Full o’ the milk of human kindness – Lady Macbeth reading from Macbeth’s letter Art not without ambition but without/The illness should attend it kindness – Lady Macbeth reading from Macbeth’s letter thou wouldst be great kindness – Lady Macbeth reading from Macbeth’s better wouldst play holily kindness – Lady Macbeth reading from Macbeth’s letter wouldst not play false, / And yet wouldst wrongly win kindness – Lady Macbeth reading from Macbeth’s letter thou dost fear to do kindness – Lady Macbeth reading from Macbeth’s letter your face, my thane, is as a book where men/ May read strange matters. – Lady Macbeth
Scene 3 My noble partner – Banquo Most worthy Thane – Ross Worthy Macbeth – Banquo
Scene 4 O worthiest cousin – Duncan My worthy Cawdor – Duncan He is full so valiant – Duncan It is a peerless kinsman – Duncan

Which statements are the most positive about Macbeth?

The statements said by King Duncan, Banquo, the Captain and Ross are the most positive about Macbeth as they appreciate his bravery and worthiness of being the Thane of Cawdor.

Which statements show the most insight?

Lady Macbeth’s statements in which she is reading aloud Macbeth’s letter show the most insight.

Act II Questions

Scene 1

  1. What does the storm suggest about the state of life in Scotland?

The storm suggests pathetic fallacy which is when nature mirrors the evil that is going on. In this scene, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plan to kill Duncan. The wickedness of this action is depicted as stormy weather with chimneys being blown off houses, the wind blowing hard, trees falling over, horses eating each other and little birds eating eagles.

These events suggest that God is displeased with people plotting to kill the king and take that position because God is the one who puts people in a certain status. This also links to ‘fair is foul’ and ‘foul is fair’, showing that life in Scotland has become really wrong, it has been turned upside down. Therefore, because God is displeased with the murder of the king, he makes the weather stormy and unpleasant.

  • Read Macbeth’s “dagger” soliloquy. What is happening? Why is Macbeth imagining this?

After Banquo and Fleance talk with Macbeth about the strange events the previous night and leave, Macbeth begins to hallucinate and sees an imaginary dagger with its handle pointed towards him and the blade facing Duncan’s chamber. When Macbeth attempts to grab the imaginary dagger, it disappears briefly, and he refers to it as a “fatal vision.”

Macbeth acknowledges the vision and pulls out his own dagger with the intention to kill Duncan. Macbeth then begins to follow the imaginary dagger, which leads him towards the king’s chamber. The imaginary bloody dagger that Macbeth hallucinates symbolically represents his guilty conscience, ambition, and desire to commit a horrific crime in order to become king.

Macbeth proceeds to kill King Duncan and afterward, he is overwhelmed with guilt for assassinating the king. Macbeth chooses his ambition over loyalty to the king. Macbeth’s conscience is talking, his imagination draws him towards Duncan’s chamber. In the end, Macbeth says this is happening because he is thinking too much about what he’s going to do and needs to actually get the action done.

Scene 2

  1. What is Lady Macbeth’s role in the murder?

When Macbeth first receives the prophecy that he will be king and writes a letter to Lady Macbeth informing her of this prophecy, she immediately begins to plan that in order for her husband to be the king, King Duncan needs to be murdered. She consistently tries to implant this idea in Macbeth’s mind.

He first tries to ignore it but this idea constantly bothers him and eventually, Macbeth gives in to murdering Macbeth because his ambitions get the better of him. Lady Macbeth is the motivator for this regicide, gives drugs to the guards in their wine so they can sleep while Macbeth kills Duncan and then frames the guards for this deed.

  • What is the effect of the murder on Macbeth?

Macbeth is shaken by what he has done and afflicted with guilt and remorse. He always questions his morals afterward. He says that he will be unable to sleep “Macbeth will sleep no more” and “Macbeth hath murdered sleep”.

The idea of the inability to sleep is seen throughout the remainder of this scene, after the killing of Duncan. In addition to being sure he will never sleep; Macbeth also believes he will never be cleansed of guilt.

  • Find an example of a hyperbole. Explain its use and effectiveness.

When Macbeth returned after killing Duncan, he holds the bloody dagger in his hands and his hands are also covered with Duncan’s blood. Macbeth looks at his hands and says that if he washes his hands in the sea, the sea won’t wash the blood rather, the rivers will turn red, this shows that Macbeth feels that nothing can clean his hands as he will forever live with the sin he committed and the red of Duncan’s blood.

Scene 3

  1. What is the significance of the Porter’s speech?

The porter scene is a comedy break/relief after Duncan’s murder. The play becomes quite intense when Duncan is assassinated, and Macbeth feels very guilty and he forgets to leave the bloody daggers in the chamber with the grooms.

The Porter acts like an equivocator, explaining that an equivocator is one who could lie on both sides of the scale of justice, and sound believable in both cases, but equivocation would not work in heaven. In other words, an equivocator is he who can say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to the same question to suit his purpose. The Porter has the duty to guard the gate and welcome the visitors, but he is drunk and sees himself as the gatekeeper to hell.

Macbeth’s castle is considered hell and the devils in that hell are Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Therefore, the Porter in his drunkenness, unknowingly compares Macbeth with Beelzebub (the devil).

This is dramatic irony as the murder of Duncan is unknown to the Porter (but understood by the audience). Macbeth has become a devil after murdering Duncan and his castle is the home of death and corruption. This Porter scene symbolizes that anyone who enters the castle has entered hell.

  • What does Macbeth do upon the lords discovering Duncan’s body?

When Duncan’s body is discovered, Macbeth kills the guards and tells the others that he killed the guards out of rage because obviously they would have killed Duncan and Lady Macbeth faints when she hears this from Macduff. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth act like this to clear the suspicion from them. Macbeth then immediately springs into action to achieve his purpose which was to become the King of Scotland.

  • Why do Malcolm and Donalbain decide to flee?

Donalbain and Malcolm escape because they believe they are not safe. When they find out that their father has been killed, Donalbain expresses his suspicions about who he thinks murdered his father, “…the near in blood, The nearer bloody.” The nearest in blood to Malcolm and Donalbain is their father’s cousin, Macbeth, whom they suspect murdered Duncan. They think that if Macbeth murdered Duncan, he wouldn’t hesitate to kill them (as they are Duncan’s sons) in order to secure his throne. Malcolm goes to England and Donalbain Ireland.

Scene 4

  1. What does Macduff mean by, “Lest our old robes sit easier than our new!”  

The old robes allude to King Duncan and the new robes to Macbeth. Macduff is concerned that the new leadership won’t be as good as the former leadership because everyone in Scotland will be affected by the way the new king handles and runs the country.

From this quote, it can be interpreted that Macduff doubts Macbeth’s ability to rule Scotland and thinks that Macbeth is involved in King Duncan’s assassination. The clothes metaphor is used to illustrate the theme of appearance versus reality. Macbeth has a crown on his head, but in reality, he is a guilty murderer.

  • In this scene, the Old Man and Ross relate the murder of Duncan to the universal pattern of order by describing its repercussions in the natural world. Explain the use of the last two lines by the old man.

The lines said by the old man establish an atmosphere that shows that the world has been out of balance since Macbeth took the throne. The man is old enough to provide a context for the eerie events going on. He says he has seen bad times before, but nothing like this. The man says that God’s good wishes go with people and with those people that work towards peace.

Things are unsettled as people don’t know who actually killed the king. It doesn’t make sense for Donalbain and Malcolm to kill their father as they would eventually be the heir. Malcolm was still young and wouldn’t have been a powerful king, he hadn’t gone to many battles and could be easily overthrown.

Act III Questions

  1. Write a brief summary of the Act.

Banquo suspects that Macbeth killed Duncan in order to fulfill the witches’ prophesies. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth enter to the fanfare of trumpets, along with Lennox and Ross. Macbeth announces that he will hold a banquet in the evening and that Banquo will be honored as chief guest.

Macbeth summons two murderers he has hired. While he waits for them, he voices his greatest worry of the moment—that the witches’ prophecy will also come true for Banquo, making his children kings. He will put an end to such worries by hiring two men to kill Banquo and Fleance.

The men are not professional assassins, but rather poor men who are willing to work as soldiers. Macbeth has already blamed their current state of poverty on Banquo. He now tells them that while Banquo is his own enemy as much as theirs, loyal friends of Banquo’s prevent him from killing Banquo himself.

Alone, Lady Macbeth expresses her unhappiness as she feels that there’s no end to her desire for power and she feels insecure and anxious. Macbeth enters looking upset, Lady Macbeth comforts him and tells him to not think about the crimes they’ve committed. Macbeth says he spends every conscious moment in fear and every night in nightmares. Lady Macbeth tells him to act cheerful in front of their banquet guests. She also tries to comfort him by reminding him that Banquo and Fleance are not immortal.

The two murderers are joined by a third. Horses are heard approaching and Banquo and Fleance enter. The murderers attack Banquo but Fleance manages to escape. The murderers leave to report back to Macbeth.

At the banquet, a murderer arrives and reports to Macbeth just as the dinner guests begin to arrive saying that Banquo is dead but Fleance has escaped. Shaken, Macbeth thanks him for what he has done and arranges another meeting on the following day. The murderer leaves and Macbeth returns to the feast.

Looking over the table, Macbeth declares that the banquet would be perfect if only Banquo were present. Banquo’s ghost at that time appears and takes Macbeth’s seat. When Lennox points to Macbeth’s empty seat, Macbeth is shocked to see Banquo’s ghost (only he can see it). The guests become confused by Macbeth’s behaviour thinking he is ill.

Lady Macbeth reassures them, however, by saying that he has had similar fits since youth and that he will soon be well. She draws Macbeth aside and attempts to calm him down. Lady Macbeth then scolds Macbeth for being “unmanned in folly.” Lady Macbeth asks the guests to leave, since Macbeth’s “illness” seems to be deteriorating. Alone with Lady Macbeth, Macbeth expresses his deep anxieties and vows to return to the Weird Sisters.

On a heath, the witches meet Hecate, queen of witches, who scolds them for telling Macbeth his future without asking her. She tells them that Macbeth will visit them tomorrow and that they must make him more confused.

Lennox and another lord are talking. Lennox suggests that it seems implausible for Malcolm and Donalbain to be inhuman enough to kill their father and Macbeth’s slaying of the bodyguards seemed very convenient, since they probably would have denied killing Duncan.

Lennox proposes that if Malcolm, Donalbain, and Fleance were in Macbeth’s prison, they would also probably be dead now. Lennox also mentions that Macduff did not attend Macbeth’s feast, and because of that, he has been denounced. The lord comments that Macduff has joined Malcolm at the English court and they are leading an army against Macbeth. Lennox and the lord send their prayers to Macduff and Malcolm.

Scene 1

  • What does Banquo suspect?

Banquo suspects that Macbeth is the murderer of Duncan because of the prophecies given to him by the witches that he will become king.

  • Re-read III.i.48-76. Why does Macbeth want Banquo to die?

Macbeth wants Banquo to die because Banquo was given a prophecy by the witches that his sons and the following eight generations will be kings. Macbeth is afraid to be overthrown as the king and hence wants Banquo and Fleance to be killed.

  • What reasons does Macbeth give the murderers for wishing Banquo dead?

Internally, Macbeth is angry that he has destroyed his own peace to become king, and that everything he has done will be to make Banquo’s children kings.  Therefore, he decides to kill Banquo and his only child, Fleance, so that he can prevent Banquo’s generation from taking the throne.

Macbeth tells the murderers that their current state of poverty is because of Banquo and that while Banquo is his own enemy as much as theirs, loyal friends of Banquo’s prevent him from killing Banquo himself, otherwise he would have killed Banquo himself.

Scene 2

  • Lady Macbeth and Macbeth discuss their lives. How have their lives changed?

In the beginning of the play, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are in love and discuss everything with each other. The biggest example of this would be when Macbeth receives the prophecy from the witches that he will be the new king of Scotland. Lady Macbeth is drowned in a desire to get this power immediately while Macbeth is happy with waiting for fate to take him to this position.

Later on, Lady Macbeth manipulates Macbeth to kill Duncan and get the kingship sooner. This ambition distorts their relationship as both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth change into completely different people. Macbeth goes from being a strong, well respected man to a cold, heartless murderer willing to kill anyone who opposes him while Lady Macbeth goes from being strong willed and controlling to scared and paranoid as her guilt drives her insane, eventually leading her to commit suicide.  

Scene 3

  • Are the murders successful?

The murderers are only partially successful as they were able to kill Banquo but not Fleance – he managed to escape.

Scene 4

This is the ceremonial state banquet representing what should have been Macbeth’s triumph as king.

  • Explain what happens.

The banquet is scheduled to be after the murderers kill Banquo. During the feast, a murderer tells Macbeth that he has been successful in killing Banquo, but Fleance escaped. Macbeth becomes shaken by this news as he fears that Fleance will tell everyone that he ordered the murder of Banquo and Duncan. Macbeth returns to his guests and when he goes to sit at his place on the table, Macbeth sees the “ghost” of Banquo sitting in his place with gashes on his head. This hallucination indicates that the guilt Macbeth feels has taken control of his mind.

Banquo’s ghost gives him no peace and keeps appearing at the dinner table at the most unfortunate moments. Lady Macbeth tries to cover for him but eventually tells the guests to leave as she fears that Macbeth will ruin everything by unconsciously revealing the deed. Macbeth is driven mad by the fact that he will be found and lose the throne he gained through murder and treachery.

  • How does Lady Macbeth explain Macbeth’s behaviour?

Hoping to calm the situation, Lady Macbeth tries to brush off her husband’s odd behaviour by telling their guests that Macbeth has suffered from similar strange attacks as a youth. When Macbeth continues to speak to Banquo’s ghost, Lady Macbeth scolds him for being afraid and losing his mind. She also encourages him to focus on entertaining their guests and urges him to forget about the hallucination.

Macbeth then asks his guests whether they also see the ghost, and Lady Macbeth quickly intervenes telling the lords to leave the banquet because their presence is making Macbeth’s condition worse. It is seen here that Lady Macbeth is upset at her husband’s behaviour and lack of self-control at the banquet. She is also worried that his strange behaviour will make the lords suspicious.

  • What is the atmosphere in Scotland now?

Scotland was previously in good hands under the rule of King Duncan, however, after the murder of Duncan, nature has also begun acting harshly with strong winds, animals acting strangely, and chimneys blowing off houses.

Since the time Macbeth has taken control of Scotland, the conditions in the country have worsened as people are in fear and no one can be trusted. Macduff, as a result of these conditions, goes to England to seek help and gather an army against Macbeth so the people of Scotland can have food, restful sleep, and be free of treachery.

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