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Macbeth Act 1

judicious ANGER
perseverence abhor
valiant rancor
appall bestow
chastise homage
pernicious laudable
scruples predominance
Scene 1
1. How does the play Macbeth open up
in the first scene? What
tone/mood/atmosphere is created?
2. What is the setting?
3. Why would you say that the play
begins in a supernatural way?
4. The last line Fair is foul and, foul is
fair appears paradoxical. What do
you think the witches mean?
5. What two lines demonstrate the
witches ability to foretell the future?
6. Identify an example of alliteration.
7. What is the purpose of the rhyming
couplet at the end of the scene?
8. Who are Graymalkin and Paddock?

Fair is foul and foul is fair,
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

One of the major themes is Macbeth is the
idea of appearance vs. reality. The Weird
Sisters introduce this theme when they state
Fair is foul, and foul is fair.
A central theme is the reversal of the
moral order. How does the final couplet in
the scene reflect/emphasize this theme?

ForeshadowingThe witches set the tone in Act I, scene 1

with a storm and predictions that Macbeth's life will become
so confused he will find it difficult to differentiate between
right and wrong (fair and foul), and their later predictions
foreshadow a downfall the audience is aware of long before
Macbeth is willing to accept their implications. Students can
learn how foreshadowing is used through probing questions.
For example: (a) The play opens with thunder and lightning as three witches enter. What
does this tell about the mood of the play? Is this play going to be a tragedy or a comedy? (b)
What do the witches mean when they say, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" (I,i)? What does this
tell you about what is likely to go on during the play? (c) If you were going to stage this
scene, what would your set look like?

Scene 2
1. Who are Duncan, Malcolm, and Donalbain?
2. Who is Macdonald? How did Macbeth punish him?
3. [What is the event that has just taken place? Who is involved? Who
brings news to whom? What is that news? What does the Captain
report about the battle to King Duncan?]
4. Paraphrase the Sergeants story in your own words.
5. Why does Shakespeare represent the Sergeant as bleeding?
6. What title is given to Macbeth for bravery in battle? What name did
Macbeth deserve, according to the Sergeant?
7. Who is the Thane of Cawdor? How is he punished for rebelling against
8. Although Macbeth does not appear in this scene, the audience learns a
great deal about him. What impressions does the audience get? Why
is this impression an important aspect in the building of a tragic
9. Paraphrase Ross story in your own words.
10. Choose two metaphors used in this scene and explain the
11. There are more than 100 references to blood in Macbeth, the first
appearing in line one of Scene 2. Then, identify the other references in
scene 2.
12. Allusion: Bellona. Who is Bellonas Bridegroom?
13. What is the dramatic purpose of this scene?
For each quotation:
(a) Name the speaker
(b) Explain the meaning
(c) Explain the significance
What a) Duncan
he b) This quotation means that the Thane of Cawdor has lost his title
hath and it will be given to Macbeth.
lost, c) This is significant because it fulfills one of the prophesies that
the witches gave to Macbeth and it begins to show the reader
noble how ambitious Macbeth is to reach his goals.
h hath

1. Till he unseamd him from the nave to the chaps,

And fixd his head upon our battlements.
2. Norway himself, with terrible numbers,
Assisted by that most disloyal traitor,
The thane of Cawdor, began a dismal conflict.
3. No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive
Our bosom interest: go pronounce his present death,
And with his former title greet Macbeth.

Scene 3
Prewriting: What would you do if someone told
you that all your wishes could come true? Would
you believe them? What would your three
prophecies/wishes be?

1. Who are present as the scene opens?
2. What is the purpose of lines 1-37?
3. Who is annoyed by what? How does
she get her revenge?
4. What was the first line spoken by
Macbeth? Why is this comment
5. How do the witches greet Macbeth after the battle? How do Macbeth
and Banquo react?
6. With what mythological women might the three weird sisters be compared?
Note: the Anglo-Saxon word wyrd meant fate.
7. Define what a paradox is.
8. What are the paradoxes that Banquo receives?
9. When the witches meet Macbeth, what do they
predict? How soon does the first prediction
come true? Why has this come about?
10. What does Macbeth ask the witches?
Why does he ask this?
11. Comparing Macbeths and Banquos
reactions: What is Banquos initial reaction to
the witches and their prophesies? Why does
Banquo not
react the same
way as
12. The witches
predictions begin to influence Macbeth.
What thoughts begin to form in his
mind? What news announced by Duncan
provides fresh anxiety? Why is it a
13. Why does Macbeth remind Banquo that
his children shall be king?
14. What news does Ross bring Macbeth?
Name two things.
15. When does Macbeth start to have some crazy thoughts? What
does Banquo tell Macbeth in response to these thoughts?

16. What is Macbeths biggest fear once he becomes Thane of

Cawdor and feels the witches prophesies are starting to come true?
17. In Macbeths soliloquy (1.3.137-153) he says Two truths are
told But what is not?... Chance may crown me/without my stir, What
are the two truths? Paraphrase this aside speech.
18. Write a paragraph of 5 8 sentences giving Macbeth some
advice to help him through this difficult situation he feels he is in.
19. By the end of the scene, Macbeth decides not to kill King
Duncan. What does this emphasize about Macbeths character? Why is
this important to establish early in the play?
1. So foul and fair a day I have not seen
2. But tis strange:
And oftentimes, to win us our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray us
In deepest consequence.

3. If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me,

Without my stir.
4. If good, why do I yield to that suggestion
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair
And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,
Against the use of nature?

5. Metaphors (Clothing imagery)

Why do you dress me

In borrowed robes? (I,iii)
6. Personification:

If chance will have me King, why, chance may crown me,

Without my stir (I,iii)
7. And, for an earnest of a greater honor,
He bade me, from him, call thee thane of Cawdor:
In which addition, hail, most worthy thane,
For it is thine.

8. If you can look into the seeds of time,

And say which grain will grow and which will not,
Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear
Your favors nor your hate. (I,iii)
To the witches
The witches have given Macbeth the good news that he will be
Banquo expresses a curiosity to hear his own future (the
metaphor of the "seeds of time") but, unlike Macbeth, shows
o neither fear nor great desire to receive special concessions
from these women.

INFORMATIVE QUOTATIONS 2 - Find a quotation which tells us:

Banquo thinks the witches are in league with the devil because their
first prophecy is proved true
The legal charge against the rebel Thane of Cawdor
Banquos warning about the trouble that the prophecies could bring
Macbeth doesnt think the witches are good or evil
A promise of success
Macbeths comment that fears you imagine are much worse than real
To Macbeth the idea of murder is still imaginary
Banquo notices Macbeth is strongly moved by the news he has just
o Look , how our partners rapt.
Macbeth thinks he may become king without his having to do anything
about it
Macbeth wants to discuss the prophecies later with Banquo

o "All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter!
(Act 1, Scene 3)
o Do the witches reveal a destiny to Macbeth that can't be avoided, or do
they simply plant ideas in Macbeth's mind?

Fair is Foul
Literary Terms Covered: Doubles Theme, Equivocation, Foreshadowing, Tone
Section of Play: (1.1.1-13); (1.3.1-92)
Speakers: Witches, Macbeth, Banquo

Writing Prompt: How does the double speak affect the tone? This language
(equivocation) serves as a type of foreshadowing. Make your predictions:
What do you think will happen in the play or specifically to Macbeth? Why do
you think the witches speak this way to Macbeth? Think of a time you had
something important to say to someone. Did you say exactly what you
meant? Why or why not?
Writing Prompt: How would you respond to the witches prophecies (relate to
a modern context)? What is your opinion about prophecies and people who
listen to them?

Casting Spells
Literary Terms Covered: Nature Theme, Imagery, Mood
Section of Play: (1.3.1-39)
Speakers: Witches

The witches spells are full of rich imagery from

the natural world. What effect does this focus on
nature have on the mood of the play?
(Optional Alternative) Write your own spell using
rich imagery from nature or whatever suits you
best. What images would you call upon? What
events would you want to set into motion?

Scene 4 (Start of)

Entrance slip:
1. Duncan states that he trusted the Thane of
Cawdor because he looked pleasant/nice, but he
was a traitor.
a. What theme is this an example of?
b. Then, Macbeth enters. This is an example
of what figurative language?

Scene 4
1. Dramatic irony, when used effectively, can
serve to reveal character. Provide examples of
dramatic irony in this scene. What is revealed
about character through the use of this device?
2. What concerns Duncan at the beginning of the
3. Duncan appears to be a kind and generous
King; however, he can be seen as having at least one major
shortcoming. What is it? Provide evidence to support your point.
a. Think/Hint: How has Shakespeare well-timed the entrance of
Macbeth in this scene?
4. What imagery does King Duncan use when he is praising Macbeth and
5. What are the reactions of Macbeth and Banquo to Duncans words of
6. How does the naming of Duncans heir to the throne affect Macbeths
7. At the end of the scene, where has Duncan decided to go?
a. Comment upon the dramatic purpose of this decision.
8. What purpose is served by the fine descriptions of Cawdors death
9. Explain what Duncan is saying in his speech to Macbeth on page 35.
10. Compare Macbeths thoughts on the third prophecy between the
end of scene IV and the end of scene III.

1. The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step
On which I must fall down, or else oer leap,
For in my way it lies.

2. Theres no art
To find the minds construction in the face
3. Metaphors:
(Planting imagery)
I have begun to plant thee, and will labor
To make thee full of growing. (I,iv)
4. Only I have left to say,
More is thy due than more than all can pay.

Note: Macbeth does not want anyone to find out what he is thinking/has done, so he
turns to the stars, or the fortunes to make sure no one finds out.

Scene 5
1. Where does this scene take
2. What is Lady Macbeth doing
at the beginning of the
3. The opening sentence in
Macbeths letter makes it
very clear how he feels
about the Weird Sisters.
What is his opinion of them?
4. What news is missing from
Macbeths letter to Lady
5. In scene V, Lady Macbeth provides the audience with more information
about her husbands character. What does she say? What does she
fear about his character?
i. From what you know thus far of
Macbeths character, would you
6. What solution does she suggest to his
reluctance in this regard?
7. What is the golden round?
8. What opinion does Lady Macbeth have of
her husband? What evidence is there to
suggest that Lady Macbeth is superstitious?
What are your first impressions of Lady
9. What is the quote that demonstrates that
Lady Macbeth has decided upon the action
of killing Duncan?
10. What does Lady Macbeth mean when
she wants to be
(1.5.44)? Why is
this important?
11. Summarize
what happens in
Act 1, Scene v in
a series of text messages between Lady
Macbeth and Macbeth.
12. Describe the marriage between Macbeth
and Lady Macbeth. Is it a good or bad
marriage? Why? Provide support from the
13. Compare the reactions of Macbeth and
Lady Macbeth to the prophecy: King that
shalt be.
14. What is Lady Macbeths incentive to the throne?
15. What is the symbolism of the raven that Lady Macbeth refers
to? Explain.

1. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full
Of direst cruelty!

2. Similes:
(Flower imagery)
Look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under it. (I,v)

3. (Disguise)
Your face, my Thane, is as a book where men
May read strange matters. (I,v)

4. Yet do I fear thy nature;

It is too full o th milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way

o Does Macbeth have control over his fate? When Macbeth delivers the
"Tomorrow" speech in Act 5, Scene 5, what opinions does he express
about fate? How might a belief that our lives are predestined by fate
inform the way a person lives their life?

Scene 6
Note: A martlet is a type of swallow that commonly lived in church
1. Where does this scene take place?
2. The opening dialogue between King
Duncan and Banquo depends on
dramatic irony for its full effect.
3. Why is it appropriate that Lady
Macbeths response to Duncan be
lavish and humble? What imagery
is used?
a. Also: how do you account for
the extreme flattery which
Lady Macbeth uses toward
Duncan? What does Duncan
interpret the reason for her
4. What does Duncan think is
Macbeths reason for arriving
before Duncan? What is the real
5. What is Shakespeares purpose in presenting Duncan as a kind,
generous, and grateful person?

1. All our service
In every point twice done, and then done
double (I,vi)

2. Wheres the thane of Cawdor?

We coursed him at the heels and had a
To be his purveyor; but he rides well,
And his great love, sharp as his spur, hath holp
To his home before us.

Scene 7
1. What is the it Macbeth refers to in the first line of the scene?
2. In the opening soliloquy, Macbeth offers numerous (5) reasons why it
would be wrong to kill King Duncan. Paraphrase this speech into your
own words.
3. Explain: Weld jump the life to come.
What does this indicate about Macbeths
religious beliefs? What does it tell us
about his character?
4. What does Macbeth claim is urging him
to commit murder? (Use a quote).
5. What do we learn about Macbeth from
this speech?
6. Why does Lady Macbeth come looking
for her husband?
7. What decision has Macbeth come to
about the murder of the king? What two
reasons does he give her for this
8. Lady Macbeth uses powerful language in
her attempt to deal with Macbeths wavering. How does Lady Macbeth
persuade her husband to go through with the plan?
9. What does this scene reinforce about
Lady Macbeths character?

10. What plan does Lady Macbeth have for keeping the
Chamberlains/grooms/guards from stopping the murder? Whom will Macbeth
blame for the murder?
11. Before the actual murder, how does Macbeths mind play tricks
on him? What part does Lady Macbeth play?
11. How do the last few lines of this scene echo the last words used
in Acg I, scene i? (Hint: Theme of reversal).
1. Hes here in double trust.

2. I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which oerleaps itself
And falls on the other.

3. We fail!
But screw your courage to the sticking-place
And well not fail.

4. I would, while it was smiling in my face,

Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you

5. Personification
Was the hope drunk
Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since? (I,vii)
6. We will proceed no further in this business.
He hath honored me of late, and I have bought
Golden opinions from all sorts of people.
7. Away, and mock the time with fairest show.
False face must hide what the false heart doth know.




I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps
And falls on the other.
(Act 1, Scene 7)
o What motivates Macbeth to murder King Duncan? What motivates
Lady Macbeth to encourage her husband to murder the king? Once this
initial murder has been committed, what happens to Macbeth? What
actions does he take?
o What happens to Lady Macbeth? What examples can be found in the
news, the entertainment industry, politics, and sports that illustrate the
danger of unchecked ambition?


Masking Murder
Literary Terms Covered: Ambition Theme, Character, Internal Conflict
Section of Play: (1.7.1-28)
Speakers: Macbeth

Activity: (Folger Pre-Performance #8) Macbeth rarely speaks directly of killing

Duncan. Instead, he uses less brutal language, or euphemisms. As a class,
read the speech in 1.7.1-28 underlining all the words that refer to the murder
of Duncan (there are at least 12). Then in two groups. The first reads the
speech as written; the second, whispers murder every time an underlined
word is said.
Writing Prompt: Why do you think Macbeth avoids using the words murder,
kill, etc.? What does this tell you about Macbeths state of mind at this
stage of the play?

Power of Persuasion
Literary Terms Covered: Themes of Ambition, Power, Fate, and Manliness;
Character Relationships, Conflict.
Section of Play: (1.7.34-95)
Speakers: Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

(Folger Pre-Performance #2) Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth, We will proceed no

further in this business (1.7.34), meaning that he will not kill King Duncan.
Yet, by the end of the scene, just some 60 lines later, he has resolved to
commit murder. Read the scene aloud and note how Lady Macbeth counters
Macbeths arguments.
Writing prompt: How does Lad Macbeth convince him to kill Duncan? How do
you ask for what you want? Does it differ from Lady Macbeths tactics?

Writing Prompt: Imagine you are Macbeth. Just before you go to kill Duncan,
you have a chance to write your diary entry for the day. A lot has happened;
therefore, write down as much as you can, explaining all that has taken place
and how you are feeling now.
Writing Prompt: Imagine that you are Lady Macbeth. Just before you help with
the plan to kill Duncan, imagine that you are in your room, brushing your hair
in front of the mirror. You talk to yourself. Write a monologue focusing your
worries, concerns, or problems.

End of Act:

2. What are the influences that affect Macbeths decisions? Who has
become the driving force behind Macbeth? How?


One of the major themes is Macbeth is the idea of appearance vs.

reality. The Weird Sisters introduce this theme when they state Fair
is foul, and foul is fair. In review of the previous scenes, list examples
of the deceptive nature of appearances. (*Focus on this scene in

"Fair is foul and foul is fair."

(Act 1, Scene 1)
o What are some examples in Macbeth of things or characters that aren't
what they seem? How does Macbeth's superstitious beliefs inform his
choices? How might the director and the actor playing Macbeth
approach the scenes with supernatural elements, such as the floating
dagger that leads Macbeth to Duncan and the ghost of Banquo at the
o Are they real or projections of Macbeths mind?

"Stars, hide your fires,

Let not light see my black and deep desires;"
(Act 1, Scene 4)
o What do we know about Macbeth's character at the beginning of the
play? Is Macbeth inherently evil, or does he become evil as the play
progresses? What happens when he commits himself to evil actions?
What are the consequences for Scotland?
Can people take actions that they know
are evil and remain unaffected? How are
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth affected by
their evil actions? How do they express
their guilt? Does all of human nature have
the capacity for evil within them?


Lady Macbeth: This picture portrays Macbeth's wife as a strong

warrior due to the clothing and the way her hair tied. She is the
strongest one between herself and Macbeth. The knife crown shows
that she did something terrible (probably something to do with death)
to become Queen/Leader. Lady Macbeth will be a key character in
the play because she is the one who convinced Macbeth to kill King

Before reading the play, related symbols to the plot,
characters, and themes of Macbeth. For example, the
presence of birds is one aspect of nature which symbolizes the theme of
superstitions/omens. When Duncan and Banquo note that Macbeth's castle enjoys the good
omen of nesting martlets, the audience already realizes the danger Duncan will be facing if
he spends the night at Inverness (I,v). Therefore, the "fair" omen is to become "foul."
Discuss how this symbol is employed by Shakespeare to advance the theme and plot of
Also, how is clothing a symbol? ("borrowed robes" worn by the Thane of Cawdor, (I,iii),

Dramatic IronyShakespeare's audience enjoyed being informed of events before the

characters were aware of the implications. The example given above of Macbeth's lack of
awareness of his new title, Thane of Cawdor, is a good illustration. Another is Duncan
commenting on the pleasantness of Macbeth's castle while the audience knows the
Macbeths have just planned his murder to take place there that very night (I,vi.).

Finding it difficult to understand the concept of irony? Try saying one simple sentence to
express different feelings. For example: "What a beautiful day?"
You can say this whether it is a beautiful day or if the day is rainy and cold. Or, you can say it
as if you have been asked to the prom by the football hero or as if the prom queen has just
rejected an invitation for a date. This shows how the meaning of a simple sentence changes
depending on its context. Shakespeare uses this device to show irony.

Search for irony in television programs, magazines, novels, or the conversation of others.
List the irony found in these sources. Discuss as a class.

Now, search Macbeth for examples of dramatic irony. Read the scene where Lady Macbeth
plans Duncan's murder (I,v) and the next scene during which Macbeth and Lady Macbeth
welcome Duncan to their castle (I,vi.). How do Lady Macbeth's comments show irony? What
does she really mean?
All our service
In every point twice done, and then done double (I,vi)

Plot Summary:
Where does this act and scene take place?
Who are the main people in this act?
What is the major problem that the main character faces in this act?
What happens in this act/scenes? Outline the plot so far in 5 8 points.
What plans does the main character make to deal with the problem?
1. Timeline (See file)
2. Create a poster/collage of Act I that represents the major plot points in
the first act.
3. Build a case to show the murder of Duncan is the fault of Lady
a. Is Lady Macbeth more power hungry than Macbeth?
i. Clue: Read through her reaction to Macbeths account in
the letter he has sent her. What is her reaction?
ii. Development: What does this tell us about her character?
b. Is Lady Macbeth an unnatural woman?
i. Clue: What does she ask the spirits to do to her body,
spirit, and mind?
ii. Development: What is the difference between her public
and private persona and what does this tell us about what
she is capable of?
c. Does Lady Macbeth have supernatural powers or is she perhaps
a witch?
i. Clue: Read her speech in Act 1 Scene 5.
ii. Development: What were the 16th century thoughts and
perspectives on witchcraft that are particularly reflected in
the play?
d. Does Lady Macbeth have the power in the marriage?
i. Clue: Read her exchange with Macbeth in Act 1 Scene 7.
ii. Development: Whose idea is it to kill Duncan? Is Lady
Macbeth more clever than Macbeth?

Macbeths marvelous reading groups

1. You will meet with your group and assign two kinds of roles:
a. A role within the play (Mabeth, a witch, Banquo, etc.)
b. A role within the reading group
i. Recorder who will the answers to the questions.
ii. An organizer who makes sure your group hands in the
questions to Ms. Pravda.
iii. A time keeper who will make sure your group uses the time
iv. A task keeper who will make sure your group spends time
working on task.

Act I Quotations:
1. For brave Macbethwell he deserves that name--
Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel,
Which smoked with bloddy execution,
Like valors minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;
2. Norway himself, with terribe numbers
3. All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!

But now I am cabined, cribbed, confined, bound in
To saucy doubts and fears. (III, iv)