Drama: Act II- Macbeth

It is clear from Acts I and II of The Tragedy of Macbeth that Macbeth has a vivid and often quite accurate imagination. Write an essay explaining how Macbeth’s imagination works in Act II. What things does he imagine? How does his imagination affect his actions? Use examples from Act II to support your ideas. Students should explain how Macbeth’s imagination works, giving examples from the act to support their ideas. For example, they might mention the dagger he imagines, which actually seems to lead him on to do the deed and in a sense helps him go through with it. They might also mention the voice he imagines after the murder saying that “Macbeth does murder sleep,” as his guilty conscience asserts itself and ensures that he will suffer more after the deed than before; it frightens him so much that he cannot complete the final details of the plot.
Write a brief essay analyzing how Shakespeare uses characters’ remarks about the setting to help establish not only the setting but also the atmosphere or mood of The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act II. Be sure to support your ideas with several specific examples of dialogue. Students should cite specific examples of dialogue that clarifies the setting and contributes to the mood, which they should identify as some combination of eerie, somber, and violent. Examples they may cite include the exchange between Banquo and Fleance and then Banquo and Macbeth in II, i; the descriptions of night by Lennox in II, iii; and the details provided by the old man and Ross in II, iv.
Consider the incident in The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act II, Scene ii, lines 34-42, where Macbeth hears the words, “Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep.” In what sense might Macbeth have murdered sleep? Sample answer: By killing Duncan as he sleeps, Macbeth commits a terrible crime that will trouble his conscience and for which he must live in fear of punishment, and both the guilty conscience and his fear may keep him from sleeping restfully in future.
The following lines are spoken by Macbeth in The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act II, Scene ii: “Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more! / Macbeth does murder sleep’—the innocent sleep, / Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care, / The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath, / Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, / Chief nourisher in life’s feast . . .” In an essay, discuss the meaning of these lines for Macbeth. Why do you think Shakespeare chose to portray Macbeth as so conscience-stricken by his deed? How would the story be different if Macbeth’s actions caused him no moral suffering? Students should discuss the meaning of these lines and explain the effects of Macbeth’s moral suffering. For example, students could say that the lines mean Macbeth’s guilty conscience over his evil deed will prevent him from ever enjoying the relaxing and revitalizing effects of sleep. They might suggest that Shakespeare portrayed Macbeth as conscience-stricken because he is in part a good man. This is what makes him a tragic character; he has very far to fall. If Macbeth were wholly without conscience, the audience could not identify with him and would not care about him. As it is, it is as if someone we know and like had committed murder. The fact that Macbeth feels his guilt makes him more human.
Act II, Scene iii, is the famous knocking-at-the-gate scene in Macbeth. What role, if any, does the scene play in forwarding the plot? How does the scene affect the audience? Address these questions in a brief essay. Students may say that the scene helps forward the plot because it marks the arrival of Macduff. They should recognize that the scene is ironic and occurs at a tense moment in the action, providing comic relief for the audience. Students should cite details from the scene to support general statements about it.
Contrast is one of the most effective devices a writer can use to add vividness to the depiction of characters. Write an essay in which you explain how the characterizations of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are enhanced by contrast in the scenes that precede and follow the murder of Duncan in Act II of The Tragedy of Macbeth. Students should recognize the contrast between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in the scenes of Act II. Students might say, for example, that although Macbeth’s imagination runs wild before he commits the murder, he is able to carry it out, but not really deal rationally with the details of the plot. Details are left to Lady Macbeth, who makes it all work by drugging the guards, readying their daggers for Macbeth, and planting the false evidence afterwards. She is much more rational, confident, and fearless than her husband. Students might suggest that Macbeth begins to grow into the role of successful assassin when he murders the supposedly guilty guards near the end of the scene.
According to Lady Macbeth, why doesn’t she kill Duncan herself? Indicate which lines in The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act II, pointed you toward your answer. Sample answer: She could not kill the sleeping Duncan because in sleep he resembled her father. She expresses this reason in Act II, Scene ii, lines 12-13.
Based on Malcolm’s and Donalbain’s remarks at the end of The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act II, Scene iii, what seems to be their reason for leaving Scotland? How do their actions play into the hands of Macbeth? Indicate which remarks led you to your conclusions. Sample answer: They leave because they fear that, as close male relatives of Duncan’s with strong claims to the Scottish throne, they will be targets of whatever person murdered Duncan. However, their suspicious flight allows the Macbeths to suggest that they are behind Duncan’s murder, as Macduff’s remark in Act II, Scene iv, lines 24-27 indicates.
In The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act II, by killing Duncan, what does Macbeth most clearly seek to augment? Explain your answer. B. Power
In The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act II, Scene ii, Lady Macbeth’s purpose in drugging the servants is so they will sleep through King Duncan’s murder.
In The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act II, when Lady Macbeth says “My hands are of your color, but I shame / To wear a heart so white” she means that her hands are red with King Duncan’s blood, but, unlike her husband, she is not afraid.
After killing Duncan, Macbeth is so distraught that he ________. brings the bloody daggers with him from the murder scene
As soon as Macbeth commits murder, the weight of his conscience becomes almost ____ . palpable
In The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act II, what reason does Lady Macbeth give for not killing King Duncan herself? She says the king looked like her father as he slept.
Why do you suppose Shakespeare made Banquo the last person Macbeth sees before he murders King Duncan in The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act II? Banquo, who is loyal to the king, represents Macbeth’s last chance to do what is right and call off his murderous plan.
In The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act II, Macbeth declares he will “sleep no more” because he believes his conscience will never let him rest.
In the Old Man’s dialogue in The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act II, Scene iv, which of the following symbolizes King Duncan? a falcon
Which of the following symbols in The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act II, Scene ii, signals that the murder has been accomplished? the owl’s scream and the crickets’ cries
In The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act II, what does Macbeth really mean when he indicates that the blood on his hands will redden all the seas? It is a comment on his profound guilt.

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