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Interactive Curriculum Resource: HomeThemesAuthorsTexts • Sample Series

Macbeth - Shakespeare


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Themes: AmbitionEvil, Leadership, Treachery


A successful seminar on Macbeth has to delve into the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It is important to consider what role the witches have on the motivations of Macbeth. Do they influence him, or do they reveal to us what is already in Macbeth’s mind? However that question is answered, it is reasonable to connect the witches with Macbeth, as Shakespeare himself does. The first words of Macbeth in the play are: “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.” [Act I, scene III, line 37] These words hearken back to the chant of the witches in the opening act: “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.”


It is too easy to dismiss Lady Macbeth as a manipulative shrew. Her character is more complex that might first seem to be the case. Despite some of the harsh speeches she makes, towards the end of the play she seems to have remorse, and wants forgiveness, but she does not think she is capable of being forgiven. Macbeth, on the other hand, initially seems reluctant to kill Duncan, but later in the play is quick to kill any who might oppose him. Also, he does not seem to regret his actions.


Opening questions:


What role do the witches have in the play?


Should we sympathize with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?


In the final scene of the play, Malcolm describes Macbeth as a “butcher” and Lady Macbeth as “fiend like.” Why does he describe them this way?

Suggested Pairing:


Leadership - Shakespeare, Macbeth; Thomas Aquinas, On Kingship;
Machiavelli, The Prince; Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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