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Macbeth Reading Guide Questions



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ACT IV scene 1

  1. How has Macbeth's attitude toward the witches changed since his first meeting with them (Act One, Scene 3)? What might this suggest about changes in his character?
  1. Lines 138-139: What is the irony of this line?

ACT IV scene 2

  1. What message has Ross apparently just brought to Lady Macduff?
  1. Macbeth has only two humorous scenes: the broad comedy of the drunken porter, and the light comedy of this scene. What was Shakespeare's dramatic purpose in placing Lady Macduff's scene here?
  1. Lines 61-69: It has been suggested that the messenger may have been sent by lady Macbeth. Does this seem possible? Be alert for possible clues later in the play.
  1. Trace the murders committed by Macbeth up to this point in terms of their justifiability. What is revealed about changes in his character?

ACT IV scene 3

  1. Lines 2-8: What is the irony in Macduff's saying this?
  1. Lines 57-66, 76-84, 91-100: What does Malcolm confession in each of these passages? Why does he make these confessions?
  1. Line 216: To whom is Macduff referring? What does he mean? (Several interpretations are possible.)


ACT V scene 1

  1. Connect each phrase of Lady Macbeth's speeches with some specific aspect of the crimes in which she has been involved.  Lady Macbeth is obviously in process of emotional collapse. Have there been signs earlier in the play that this might happen? Note especially her speeches at her last appearance, the end of Act Three, Scene 4.
  1. How convincingly has Shakespeare portrayed emotional illness?

ACT V scene 2

  1. What is the purpose of this scene?

ACT V scene 3

  1. Lines 1-29: What appears to be Macbeth's emotional state at the beginning of the scene? How is he actually feeling? What tells you?

 ACT V scene 4

  1. What does Malcolm want the soldiers to do? What is the purpose of this strategy? What is the significance of this scene?

ACT V scene 5

  1. Line 10: When was the time that he refers to? What does the rest of the speech suggest about changes in his character?
  1. How might Macbeth react before he speaks?
  1. Lines 17-28:What does Macbeth mean by "She should have died hereafter"? Which lines in the soliloquy are most helpful in providing clues? What does the soliloquy say about life in general? About Macbeth's life specifically?
  1. Line 46: Compare these words with lines 2-7 of this scene. What has caused Macbeth to change his plans?

 ACT V scene 7

  1. What is the purpose of this scene?

ACT V scene 8

  1. Lines 27-34: How do Macbeth's last lines in the play relate to his character as described by the Sergeant in Act One, Scene 2?


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