1. Characterize the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. If the main theme of Macbeth is ambition, whose ambition is the driving force of the play—Macbeth’s, Lady Macbeth’s, or both?
2. One of the important themes in Macbeth is the idea of political legitimacy, of the moral authority that some kings possess and others lack. What makes Duncan a good king? What makes Macbeth a tyrant?
3. An important theme in Macbeth is the relationship between gender and power,
particularly Shakespeare’s exploration of the values that make up the idea of
masculinity. What are these values, and how do various characters embody them?
How does Shakespeare subvert his characters’ perception of gender roles?
4. Macbeth's first words are "So foul and fair a day I have not seen" (1.3.38).
What do you make of the fact that his words echo the witches' famous incantation,
"Fair is foul and foul is fair"? Do you notice anything about the rest of his opening
5. What are some attributes of the three witches? On a scale of real or fantastic,
where would you locate them? Why?
6. How does the play define terms of masculinity? of femininity?
7. What if you found yourself in a condition where you were able or compelled to act out your fantasies, without thinking (and you were beyond judgment)? What might that feel like? empowering? insane? something else? How does this question pertain to Macbeth?
8. Is Macbeth a hero, villain, or some other category of character?
9. Assuming that Lady Macbeth commits suicide at the end, why do you think she does so? (And why must this be an assumption?)
10. One of Macbeth's last speeches is one of the most famous passages
in Shakespeare: "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" (5.5.16-27).
As you read the speech, try to imagine Macbeth's thought processes as
he speaks: in other words, be the actor who presents the character of Macbeth
at this moment. Move slowly; think and feel your way through the lines.
You will of course have to read them aloud. What have you learned from
Suggested Essay Topics
11. Compare and contrast Macbeth, Macduff, and Banquo. How are they
alike? How are they different? Is it possible to argue that Macbeth is the play’s
villain and Macduff or Banquo its hero, or is the matter more complicated
12. Discuss the role that blood plays in Macbeth, particularly immediately
following Duncan’s murder and late in the play. What does it symbolize for
Macbeth and his wife?
13. Discuss Macbeth’s visions and hallucinations. What role do they play in the development of his character?
14. Is Macbeth a moral play? Is justice served at the end of the play? Defend your answer.