Drama: Act I – Macbeth

How does Macbeth come to be Thane of Cawdor? Cite lines from Act I of The Tragedy of Macbeth to support your response. After the previous Thane of Cawdor is found guilty of treason, Duncan bequeaths his title on Macbeth in gratitude for Macbeth’s courage in battle.
Why do you think Macbeth is so quick to take the witches’ predictions seriously? Answer your questions in a brief essay that cites details from Act I of The Tragedy of Macbeth to support your ideas. Students should recognize that Macbeth’s discovery that he is indeed Thane of Cawdor makes him believe that the witches’ other predictions must also be accurate. Students may also feel that Macbeth accepts the witches’ predictions because he is a superstitious man in a superstitious age and/or because the predictions give him a pretext for doing what he already was wont to do (because of his excessive ambition). Students should support their ideas with details from the play as well as logical reasons.
Dramatic irony exists when what appears true to one or more characters is not what the audience or reader knows to be true. Discuss Shakespeare’s use of dramatic irony in his portrayal of King Duncan. What does Duncan believe to be true? In contrast, what do we know to be true? How does the dramatic irony surrounding Duncan add to the play’s effectiveness? Address these questions in a brief essay that uses details from The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act I, to support your ideas. Examples of dramatic irony that students may mention include: Duncan’s elevating Macbeth to Thane of Cawdor as a reward for his loyalty and bravery when, unbeknownst to him, Macbeth soon seems willing to betray and murder Duncan; the fact that the previous Thane of Cawdor was guilty of treason but Macbeth is actually planning treason too; Duncan’s remarks about the lovely Macbeth castle when in fact it may be the site of Duncan’s murder; and Duncan’s remarks showing his love for and trust in the Macbeths when in fact the Macbeths are planning to kill him. In discussing how the dramatic irony adds to the play’s effectiveness, they may say that it underscores the innocence and goodness of Duncan and builds suspense for the audience.
When the characters of Banquo and Macbeth are introduced in Act I of The Tragedy of Macbeth, they appear quite similar in rank, loyalties, and character. However, as the act progresses, the two characters begin to diverge. Write an essay comparing and contrasting Macbeth and Banquo in this act. How do they seem alike? At what point do they first diverge? Give illustrations of their similarities and differences from Act I to support your position. Students should compare and contrast Banquo and Macbeth, using examples to illustrate their ideas. They might suggest, for example, that both are noblemen, courageous in battle, and loyal to the king as the play opens. Both are thought to be honest and upright. Students will probably point out that the differences between them start to become obvious in their first scene with the witches: Banquo sees the witches’ premonitions as evil—Macbeth simply sees them as profitable for himself. Later when Macbeth speaks to the king, he refers in an aside to the fact that Malcolm is an obstacle. In the same meeting, Banquo pledges his allegiance to the king. As Macbeth plots, Banquo remains loyal and true.
What is the “double trust” (The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act I, Scene vii, line 12) that Macbeth would be breaking if he kills Duncan? Macbeth is Duncan’s subject and kinsman, and so owes the king his loyalty. In addition, he is Duncan’s host, and it is against all laws of hospitality to fail to protect a guest and especially to allow a guest to come to harm at the host’s own hands.
What is the general setting of Act I of The Tragedy of Macbeth? Cite details from the play to explain your answer.a. ancient Romeb. medieval Scotlandc. Elizabethan Englandd. Stratford-upon-Avon b, Explanation: The answer is supported by the opening setting label, the characters (and the real-life historical figures on which some are based), and such details as the castles, swords, and armor. Choices a, c, and d are not supported by the details in the selection.
In paragraph two, explain the significance of the witches’ remark, “Fair is foul and foul is fair.” How does it help to set the mood for The Tragedy of Macbeth? Students should recognize that the remark indicates that things are not what they seem and sets the stage for the Macbeths’ disloyalty and other actions that contradict what they pretend to be and what Duncan and others think they are. Students may also feel that the comment underscores the eerie supernatural flavor that runs through the play, owing to the witches’ predictions. Students should cite examples from the play to support their ideas.
Using the marginal notes to help you, explain what Lady Macbeth begins planning after reading her husband’s letter in The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act I, Scene v. Use details to support your answer. She begins planning Duncan’s murder. Supporting details include her many about catching “the nearest way” in line 18 of Scene v, as well as the speeches in Scene v beginning “The raven himself is hoarse / That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan / Under my battlements” and “O, never / Shall sun that morrow see!”
Why do the stage directions in Act I of The Tragedy of Macbeth make no detailed references to lighting and sets? Explain your responses.a. In Shakespeare’s day, plays did not have artificial lighting or elaborate sets. b. In Shakespeare’s day, the acting companies could not read.c. Shakespeare put all his stage directions at the very end of the play, not in Act I.d. Shakespeare wanted to leave the lighting and sets up to future generations of directors. a, Explanation: In Shakespeare’s day plays were performed in daylight because their was no artificial lighting, and sets were kept to a bare minimum. Choice b is incorrect because most performers clearly had to be able to read to learn their roles. Choice c is incorrect. No such section of stage directions exists. Choice d is incorrect. Shakespeare wrote his plays for performance in his own time and would not have omitted valuable instructions for some future generations’ benefit.
Which statement comparing Lady Macbeth to her husband in The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act I, seems most accurate? Explain why each choice is accurate or inaccurate.a. She is kinder and gentler than her husband.b. She is less ambitious than her husband.c. She understands the consequences of violent actions far better than her husband.d. She is more decisive than her husband. d, Explanation: Lady Macbeth remains firmly behind the plan to murder Duncan while her husband, in contrast, is far more hesitant. Choice a is incorrect. In Act I, she seems less kind and gentle than he does. Choice b is incorrect. Lady Macbeth begins thinking of the murder of Duncan as soon as she reads his letter about the witches’ predictions, which include the remark about Macbeth being “king hereafter.” Choice c is incorrect. While her husband recognizes the possible dangers of killing Duncan, Lady Macbeth does not foresee any problems.

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