2 GenderOne of the prevalent issues in the play is the obvious gender role reversal between Macbeth and his wife. Additionally, the witches do not espouse the traditional image of the subservient female. Take this into consideration as you ponder these points:Points to Consider:How does the play define manhood? Femininity?Is Macbeth’s fatal flaw being too ambitious or not being masculine enough to dominate his wife?How are the female characters portrayed?What message does Shakespeare send through the structure of the subverted gender roles?At the end of the play, Macbeth knows that all is lost, yet, rather than surrender, he resolves to fight to the death. In doing so, does he regain a portion of his manhood?
3 Fate vs. Free WillSince the ancient Greeks, the concepts of fate and free will have long been debated. Just as the ancient Greeks believed that one’s destiny was planned out by the gods, so too the Elizabethans and Jacobeans believed that one’s fate was in control of God. This not only reinforced the Divine Right of Kings and ensured the rigidity of the social classes, but also provided for much ambiguity and discussion when concerning tragic heroes in theater.Points to Consider:Do the witches control Macbeth’s fate? Or are they just “messing with his head”?Do the witches’ prophecies come true because they were meant to, or because Macbeth willed them to? How much control does he have over his fate?From a historical perspective, what answer would Shakespeare give to his 16th century audience?
4 The Tragic HeroAccording to Aristotle, the tragic hero must be someone of high social rank, experience a reversal in fortune and have a fatal flaw which will lead to his downfall. Additionally, the tragic hero’s downfall is inevitable because it is in his fate.Points to Consider:Who is to blame for Macbeth’s downfall?Who is the protagonist/antagonist of the play? Why is this unclear?If, at the end of the play, order is restored and the Divine Right of Kings is solidified, why is this play still classified as a tragedy?To what extent is Macbeth’s corruption due to weaknesses within his character and what extent is it due to external forces?Are we supposed to pity Macbeth? Despise him? Are we glad he underwent a downfall?
5 MiscellaneousWhat admirable qualities (if any) does Macbeth have? Lady Macbeth?What are Duncan’s weaknesses as a ruler? Is it possible to rule with kindness or must one be dictatorial?What issues in Macbeth are relevant today?In general, people criticize Macbeth for being overly ambitious…what is the difference between ambition and greed?Hecate resolves to unravel Macbeth by making him overconfident. Usually confidence is a positive quality…what is the difference between confidence and arrogance?
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