Macbeth Reading Guide
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- Lines 6-9: What
is bothering Banquo? What might his "cursed thoughts" be?
- Lines 26-29:
Why might Banquo be suspicious at this point? What do these lines tell you
about his character?
- Lines 33-64:
(a) If you were directing a stage production of Macbeth, would
you have the dagger physically appear before Macbeth, or would you have him
address the empty air? (b) What does the imaginary dagger reveal about
Macbeth's character in general?
ACT II scene 2
- Lines 12-14: Is
lady Macbeth's weakness here expected? How do you account for it? What might
be her tone here: frightened? irritated? angry? shaken?
- Lines 23-26: Is
Macbeth responding to lady Macbeth here? Where should the actor's attention
be directed as he speaks? Think about this as the scene continues.
- Lines 15-57:
What is Macbeth's state of mind after the murder? Lady Macbeth's? What
mistake has Macbeth made? What is illogical about lady Macbeth's proposed
method of remedying it? How do you account for her failure to think
- Lines 64-68:
Both now have blood on their hands. Do you agree that "a little
water" can "clear them" of the murder? In what sense might
it? In what sense not? Contrast Lady Macbeth's words with Macbeth's
in lines 60-63.
- At what pace
should this scene be played? What clues in the dialogue tell you?
ACT II scene 3
- Line 63: How
would Macbeth say this?
- Lines 65-66: Is
Macduff’s response a plausible one?
- Lines 88-89: Is
Lady Macbeth’s response what you would expect? How do you account for it?
- Lines 89-91: Is
Banquo surprised at what has happened? What does he think of Lady
- Lines 92-97:
How many meanings can you read into this speech? Consider what it might mean
to the assembled lords, to Macbeth himself, and to the reader.
- Lines 107-119:
How should the actor playing Macduff react to this announcement? The actor
- Line 119: Some
commentators maintain that Lady Macbeth really faints; others claim she
only pretends to. Which theory seems more likely? Justify your answer in
terms of what you know about Macbeth and lady Macbeth, and the dialogue
- Lines 126-133:
Why did Shakespeare give this speech to Banquo rather than to Macduff?
- Lines 136-138:
How does Malcolm's speech relate to "Foul is fair"?
ACT II scene 4
Elizabethans saw nature as existing in a strictly ordered state. Ross and
the Old Man describe events that indicate that the order in nature is awry.
Be alert for further indications of unnatural workings in the universe. What
might they reflect?
- Lines 11-13:
What is the symbolic meaning of the falcon-owl incident? Watch for specific
symbolic significance in other unnatural acts mentioned.
- Lines 37-38:
Why might Macduff be suspicious of Macbeth?
- What is the
dramatic purpose of this scene?
III scene 1
- Lines 1-10:
Banquo alone of the lords knows about the witches' prophecies, but he has
said nothing about them. Why hasn't he?
Does he have any plans for immediate action? Draw a conclusion about
- Lines 19,
21-24: Why does Macbeth ask this question (and later ones) about Banquo's
- Line 63: Wrenched
has connotations of violence. How has Macbeth interpreted Banquo's
loyalty and his silence about the witches' prophecies? What does he fear
Banquo may do?
- Lines 47-72:
How does this soliloquy compare with the earlier one (Act One, Scene 7,
1-28) in which he contemplated the murder of Duncan?
ACT III scene 2
- Lines 4-7: In
what way has Lady Macbeth changed?
- Lines 4-26: How
do you judge Macbeth and Lady Macbeth now feel about the murder of Duncan?
- Who is now
taking the lead in planning?
- Compare the
planning of Banquo's murder with the planning of Duncan's. What indications
are there that the relationship between Macbeth and his wife has changed?
ACT III scene 3
- How many
murderers were present in Macbeth's first interview with them? Why might
Macbeth involve a third murderer in the plot?
- What are some
of the circumstances that contributed to Fleance's escape?
ACT III scene 4
- Watch for the
point when Macbeth becomes aware of the ghost. If you were staging a modern
production, would you have the ghost physically on stage? Explain.
- Lines 50-53: To
whom is Macbeth speaking? What is the "it" he denies doing?
- Lines 53-58:
What tone of voice would Lady Macbeth use here? To whom does she then
say "Are you a man?" How would her tone change here?
- Does Lady
Macbeth see the ghost?
hears Macbeth’s tirades? How do Macbeth and Lady Macbeth explain his
behavior? Do you think the lords accept the explanation?
- Who has seen
the ghost? What similar hallucination occurs earlier in the play, and what
purpose do both incidents serve?
142-144: Do you agree with Macbeth's explanation for his agitation
and sleeplessness? How well would you say he knows himself?
ACT III scene 5
is Hecaate angry? What do the witches plan to do to Macbeth? Why?
ACT III scene 6
the indirect suggestion in Lennox's speech. Why is he less than forthright?
At what points does his tone of voice change? What is the dramatic effect of
is the dramatic purpose of this scene? What earlier scene does it parallel?
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