Macbeth Overview Discussion Questions

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

''Macbeth'' can be a complicated play for students to understand. The discussion questions in this lesson will help you unpack the critical themes and keep students interested in the work.

Why Macbeth Discussion Questions?

Macbeth is often one of students' earliest encounters with Shakespeare in school, but it is by no means a simple play. One way to help students enjoy and think critically about this work is to have many discussions while studying the play.

When students discuss a work of literature, they contribute to one another's comprehension and push each other to think more deeply. Good discussion questions do not necessarily have right or wrong answers. Instead, they are open-ended, designed to elicit conversation and even productive debate. The questions in this lesson should prompt students to discuss the major themes and issues in Macbeth.

Macbeth Questions

You can select any of the following discussion questions to help your students understand and interpret the play. The questions are grouped here around characters and other topics, but you can sequence the questions you select in whatever sequence makes sense for your lesson plan.

Macbeth

  • What do you think about Macbeth's character at the beginning of the play? If you had to describe him in three words, what words would you choose, and why?
  • What do you think about Macbeth's character at the end of the play? If you had to describe him in three words, what words would you choose, and why?
  • How would you describe the changes in Macbeth's character over the course of the play? What do you think causes him to change in this way? What evidence do you see of his changes? Do you find these changes realistic? Why or why not?
  • Compare the character of Macbeth to another major tragic character you know about from reading or from watching movies. How are the characters similar to and different from each other?

Lady Macbeth

  • How would you describe the changes in Lady Macbeth's character over the course of the play? What do you think causes her to change in this way?
  • What do you think is the role of guilt in Lady Macbeth's character changes? What does Shakespeare communicate through her character about the nature of guilt? How does this connect to experiences you have had with the emotion of guilt?

Other Characters and Relationships

  • How would you describe the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth? Who has more power in their relationship, and what makes you think that?
  • Describe the character of Macduff. In what ways is Macduff similar to Macbeth, and in what ways is he different? Do you think he will be a better or worse leader than Macbeth, and why? What characteristics do you think make for a strong leader? What do you think Shakespeare was trying to communicate about the important characteristics of a strong leader?
  • What is the role of the witches' various prophecies in this play? Why do you think Shakespeare chose to incorporate sequences with the witches? Describe the different extents to which different characters do and do not take the witches seriously. Describe the role of religion or spirituality in the play overall.

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