Macbeth Act 1 Comprehension Questions

What is the purpose of the opening scene of the play? The witches are shown to be characters who like chaotic conditions, e.g. storms, and who don’t choose sides (“when the battle’s lost and won”). The main character, Macbeth, is also introduced by name, linking him to the witches’ plans.
What description of Macbeth does the sergeant tell Duncan, conveying his strength and brutality as a fighter? “Like valour’s minion carved out his passageTill he faced the slave;Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,Till he unseam’d him from the nave to the chaps,And fix’d his head upon our battlements.”
What does Duncan call Macbeth when he hears Macbeth has defeated Macdonwald? He calls him “valiant Cousin! Worthy gentleman!” Later, the audience will think this is ironic because the man it is about is the speaker’s murderer.
Who is sentenced to death? The Thane of Cawdor is sentenced to death as a traitor.
How is a strange connection established between Macbeth and the witches before he meets them? Macbeth echoes the Weird Sister’s words from the opening scene, saying: “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.”
What do the witches predict for Macbeth when they first meet? The Weird Sisters greet him as Thane of Glamis (his current title) and predict he will be Thane of Cawdor and. eventually, king.
What do the witches predict for Banquo when they first meet? The Weird Sisters predict he will be lesser and greater, not so happy, yet much happier, will “get” kings (have a son who is king), but not be one.
How does Macbeth show he is interested in the prophecy? He says to the witches: “Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more” and “Speak, I charge you.”
What news does Ross bring Macbeth? Ross tells Macbeth that Macbeth now holds the title of the Thane of Cawdor.
Banquo, like Macbeth, is surprised that the witches have predicted Macbeth’s new title. He is, however, leery. What does he say about the motives of the “instruments of darkness”? He says they often tell of good things which may happen without telling the bad consequences.
What ironic lines does Duncan express in regards to the Thane of Cawdor? There’s no artTo find the mind’s construction in the face:He was a gentleman on whom I builtAn absolute trust.
Who does Duncan name as the Prince of Cumberland, the successor to the throne? His son, Malcolm.
Macbeth says, “Stars, hide your fires, Let not light see my black and deep desires.” What are Macbeth’s desires? He wants to be king and he realizes that something will have to be done with the present king (and his sons) before his desires can become reality.
After Lady Macbeth reads Macbeth’s letter, what does she reveal is her opinion of Macbeth, and what does she plan to do? Lady Macbeth thinks Macbeth could be a good king, but he lacks the hardheartedness (“too full o’ the milk of human kindness”) which would allow him to get to the position. She’ll talk him into it.
What is Lady Macbeth’s “prayer” to the spirits after she learns Duncan is coming? She wants to be “unsexed” (made more masculine): filled with cruelty to do what is necessary in order to make Macbeth king
What advice does Lady Macbeth give Macbeth when he arrives home? She tells him to “bear welcome in your eye, / Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower, / But be the serpent under’t”
What are Macbeth’s arguments to himself against killing Duncan? If Macbeth kills Duncan, then he is setting a precedent that subjects can kill kings and be rewarded with the kingship. Macbeth is Duncan’s kinsman and his subject, as well as his host.. Duncan is a good king and virtuous man; he has done no particular evil. Duncan is a popular king, and his death would bring sorrow and unrest upon Scotland.
What is Lady Macbeth’s plan? She will drug the drinks of the king’s grooms (guards). Macbeth will then go into the king’s room and murder him in his sleep. They will plant the weapons. She tells Macbeth: “screw your courage to the sticking place, / And we’ll not fail.”
What arguments does Lady Macbeth use to convince Macbeth to commit the murder? She tells him not to be a coward, not to say later that he “could have been” when he could now “be” king. She tells him to be a man and go get what he wants. She tells Macbeth how far she would go to keep a promise to him, saying: “I have given suck, and know / How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me – / I would, while it was smiling in my face, / Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, / And dashed the brains out.”

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