Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.
Writing About Macbeth
Have your students recently finished reading Shakespeare's Macbeth? If so, you are probably looking for ways to help them synthesize and consolidate what they got out of this significant work of literature. If you are interested particularly in helping your students think critically and deeply about the play, you probably want to get them focused on the underlying themes, motifs, and messages that Shakespeare deals with. By having your students write essays about the themes in Macbeth, you can help them develop and support their own arguments about the play and what its themes really mean.
Topics About Ambition
- How do you think Shakespeare defines ambition through Macbeth? Does the play generally seem to construct ambition as a good thing or a bad thing? Use specific examples to support your point, then weigh in with your own ideas about what ambition is and how it can be good or bad.
- Zero in on one of the characters in Macbeth, and write about how his or her relationship to ambition evolves over the course of the play. Determine whether you think of this character as an ambitious person, what leads to any changes in his or her degree of ambition, and how ambition impacts his or her outcome at the end of the play.
- Has your perspective on ambition changed as a result of reading Macbeth? Write an essay that describes why and how the play has affected your thinking and opinions about this theme using specific examples from the play, as well as your own life, to illustrate the evolution you describe.
Topics About the Supernatural
- Focus on the witches and their role in the play. Use your focus to write an essay about the way the supernatural relates to the real, or natural, in Macbeth, and offer up a grounded theory about what Shakespeare might have been trying to communicate about the nature of this relationship.
- How would Macbeth and its characters have been different without the prophesies of the witches? Use your answer to this question to write about the overall role and meaning of the supernatural in the play and the characters' lives, then comment on the extent to which you do or do not think Macbeth is generally a spiritually oriented play.
Topics About Gender
- Choose one character from Macbeth to focus on, and write about how and why gender influences this character's life, perspective, behavior, and outcomes. Describe whether you think Shakespeare was trying to say something broad about gender via this character and, if so, what he might have been trying to say or question.
- What is the relationship between gender and power in Macbeth? Use two different characters to support your commentary on this relationship, and distinguish between the characters' points of view on gender and what you see as Shakespeare's, and your own, perspective on the way gender can connect with power.
- Write an essay arguing that gender either is or is not a major theme in Macbeth. Try to persuade your audience of your point of view using specific evidence from the play.
Topics About Themes in General
- What do you see as the most salient, underlying theme of Macbeth and why? What do you think Shakespeare tries to say about this theme via the play, and do you agree with what he is saying? Use specific evidence from the play to back up your assertions.
- Choose one theme from Macbeth that you see as particularly interesting, and then write an essay comparing and contrasting Shakespeare's communications about this theme with a different film or work of literature that also addresses the same theme. Comment on the authors' similarities and differences both in perspective and in style for how the theme is addressed.
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