English · For Pupils · literature · Macbeth · Shakespeare

Macbeth Act 1 – Y11 [plus student responses]

Here are the thought posters that you produced yesterday. There are some interesting comments here that should help you with your first mini-assignment.

How does Shakespeare present Macbeth in the opening 4 scenes?

Some thoughts that came up in class:

  1. The notion of aura – Macbeth doesn’t appear until scene 3 but Shakespeare has already built up a sense of increasing anticipation at his appearance. After the first two scenes, we wonder what the witches – a symbol of evil and the supernatural – would want with Duncan’ noble warrior. His prowess as a warrior is also reinforced by the Captain’s description of his exploits in battle (look for the quotations!). But there is also a sense of brutality to his actions – this obviously reflects the nature of medieval warfare but also foreshadows other events later in the play (the beheading of the traitor Macdonald will foreshadow Macbeth’s own fate later).
  2. We said a lot about Macbeth’s first words in the play: Shakespeare has spent a lot of time building up this character and yet his first words not only suggest/reflect the idea that outward appearance cannot be trusted but also – and more significantly – echo the witches’ chant of ‘foul is fair’. So what is Shakespeare trying to get his audience to think here?
  3. Remember what we said about the different ways that Banquo and Macbeth respond to the witches’ prophecies: it is Macbeth who orders them to stay – look at the language here – imperatives used in the ‘stay you imperfect speakers’ bit of dialogue for example.
  4. And don’t forget how Macbeth responds to the prophecies – those dramatic asides and monologues. We’ll look more closely at one of these on Monday but they give us an insight into his thoughts here.
  5. It might be worth thinking about how Banquo warns Macbeth of pondering too much on what the witches said.
  6. Finally – act 1 scene 4: he realises that the Prince of Cumberland is next in line to the throne so his comment on line 143 of act 1 scene 3 (that he might get the crown ‘without a stir’) seems a bit hopeful. He is going to have to act – but what are the consequences of such actions? Do a bit of research on the great chain of being and the consequences of regicide (killing the king) in Shakespeare’s time.

ALSO – I’ve put the PPT created by Miss Jones and me (with the lessons so far) on dropbox – the link is here:


ADDED – September 12th

Here are a few examples of student responses: img_2819img_2820img_2818



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