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Macbeth Act 1: Discussion Questions

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1 Macbeth Act 1: Discussion Questions
Why does Shakespeare open the play by showing the witches? Why is it good for Macbeth not to appear first? How does Duncan reward Macbeth for his bravery in defeating the rebels? Comment on the order in which Duncan announces it and Macbeth finds out. Macbeth calls the day of the battle “foul and fair”. Comment on what you think he means. When Macbeth is told of his new title, how do he and Banquo react? Can you think of reasons for the difference in reactions? What does Lady Macbeth fear about her husband, after she has read his letter? Lady Macbeth tells her husband to “look like the innocent flower/But be the serpent under it”. Explain what she means (either generally or specifically or both, as you think appropriate). What is the purpose and effect of Duncan’s and Banquo’s comments when they approach Macbeth’s castle? Why, in Macbeth’s opinion, is the murder of Duncan so wrong? How does Lady Macbeth make sure that her husband murders Duncan?

2 Act 1 Scene 1 Three witches appear
Will meet after the battle to confront Macbeth

3 Act 1 Scene 2 King Duncan of Scotland asks a wounded captain for news about the Scottish/Irish battle Scottish generals Macbeth and Banquo fought with great courage/violence Macbeth slew traitorous Macdonwald. Traitorous thane of Cawdor to be put to death Macbeth will take his place.

4 Act 1 Scene 3 Three witches appear – discuss killing a swine and revenge upon a sailor’s wife Macbeth enters with Banquo Witches hail Macbeth as thane of Glamis AND as thane of Cawdor. Also declare he will be KING one day. Banquo is “lesser than Macbeth, and greater” and “not so happy, yet much happier” – he will never be king but his children will sit upon the throne. Macbeth fixates on the prophecies obsessively He wonders whether the reign will simply fall to him or whether he will have to perform a dark deed in order to gain the crown

5 Act 1 Scene 4 King Duncan learns of the thane of Cawdor’s noble execution - confessed sins Macbeth and Banquo enter Duncan announces his intention to name Malcolm (his son) the new heir to his throne. Macbeth notes that Malcolm now stands between him and the crown. Plans are made for Duncan to dine at Macbeth’s castle that evening

6 Act 1, Scene 5 Lady Macbeth reads a letter from her husband (Macbeth) – about his meeting with the witches Lady Macbeth fears he’s too full of “th’ milk of human kindness” to take the steps necessary to make himself king “You spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, / And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty” ( ) Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth that Duncan will not see tomorrow – leave the plan to her

7 Act 1, Scene 6 Duncan arrives at the castle Hospitalities ensue
Duncan claims he loves Macbeth dearly

8 Act 1, Scene 7 Macbeth ponders the assassination (it would be easy if it ended quickly – didn’t set up terrible consequences) Declares willingness to risk eternal damnation, and realizes bloody actions “return / To plague th’ inventor” Internal struggle - ultimately decides to not kill King Duncan Lady Macbeth is outraged, calling him a coward and questioning his manhood. Promises success Plan: chamberlains will appear to have committed the act

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