Macbeth Study Questions

Instructor: Alicia Taylor

Alicia has taught students of all ages and has a master's degree in Education

A solid set of study questions can ensure that students understand the main points of each scene in Macbeth. These questions address individual scenes, and they help students focus on the most important aspects of the play's plot, character, and setting.

Act I Questions

  • Act I, Scene 1: Shakespeare always sets up something important in his first scene. What does the Witch's statement that 'Fair is foul, and foul is fair' suggest about the rest of the play?
  • Act I, Scene 1: How does the setting of this scene help the audience learn about the Weird Sisters?
  • Act I, Scene 2: What do we learn about Macbeth's character from this scene? What do we learn about King Duncan's character?
  • Act I, Scene 3: Banquo advises Macbeth, 'And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, / The instruments of darkness tell us truths, / Win us with honest trifles, to betray's / In deepest consequence.' What does this mean? Does Banquo believe the Witch's prophecy?
  • Act I, Scene 3: How does Macbeth react to the prophecy coming true?
  • Act I, Scene 4: Who does King Duncan name as his successor? What does this mean for Macbeth?
  • Act I, Scene 5: How would you describe Lady Macbeth? What does she think of her husband?
  • Act I, Scene 5: What does Lady Macbeth pray would happen to her?
  • Act I, Scene 5: Why do Lady Macbeth and Macbeth want to kill King Duncan?
  • Act I, Scene 6: Hosting is very important in Macbeth's culture. Do Macbeth and Lady Macbeth act as good hosts in this scene? What makes their actions ironic?
  • Act I, Scene 7: What is Macbeth afraid of? What sorts of punishments does he fear?

Act II Questions

  • Act II, Scene 1: Does Macbeth seem to have gone crazy in this scene? What evidence is there for or against his insanity?
  • Act II, Scene 1: Considering the importance of being a good host in this culture, why is the setting of Duncan's murder especially evil?
  • Act II, Scene 2: How is Macbeth's response to the murder different from his wife's response?
  • Act II, Scene 2: What role does Lady Macbeth take in the murder?
  • Act II, Scene 3: Lennox indicates that strange, unnatural things happened during the previous night. Why might Shakespeare have included these events?
  • Act II, Scene 3: What does Duncan's successor to the throne do when he finds out that Duncan has been murdered?
  • Act II, Scene 4: In Shakespeare's time, people believed that if one aspect of the world were upset, it would affect other aspects. How is this belief illustrated in this scene?

Act III Questions

  • Act III, Scene 1: What does Banquo believe about Macbeth?
  • Act III, Scene 1: What is Macbeth's motivation for having Banquo killed? How is it different from his motivation for killing the king? How is his wife's involvement in this murder different?
  • Act III, Scene 2: How has Lady Macbeth been affected by their crimes? How has her relationship with her husband changed since Act 1?
  • Act III, Scene 3: How is the setting and lighting of this scene important?
  • Act III, Scene 4: Macbeth tells the murderer that if Banquo and Fleance had both been killed, 'I had else been perfect.' By this he means that he would not remain nervous and upset if Fleance had died, too. Is he right? What does the rest of this scene suggest about his claim?
  • Act III, Scene 6: How have Macbeth's actions affected Scotland?

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