Macbeth Close Reading Questions

Google Map of Locations in the Play

Act 1

Scenes I and II

1. Identify the two settings for these scenes.

2. How is the witches’ chant different from the major poetic styles of the drama?

The witches’ refrain serves as foreshadowing, as an example of paradox, and as one of the themes of the drama. Quote it.

3. Locate two similes that contribute to descriptions of Macbeth and Banquo.

4. Quote a further reference to a quality of Macbeth.

Scene III

1. Both Macbeth and Banquo speak of “foul” or “fair” aspects. Give examples.

2. Banquo refers to the witches’ prophecies. What are those “predictions” given to Macbeth?

Quote the predictions that are given to Banquo.

3. Macbeth is addressed by Ross as “Thane of Cawdor.” Why?

4. Report Macbeth’s mixed feelings about one of the prophecies of the witches coming true.

5. How does Macbeth’s reaction contrast to Banquo’s reaction?

Scene IV

1. To whom does the following quotation refer? “Nothing in his life/Became him like the leaving it.”

How is this statement significant for Macbeth?

2. As Macbeth talks to Duncan, why does the term “Prince of Cumberland” disturb Macbeth?

3. What does Macbeth admit to himself?

Scene V

1. In her soliloquy Lady Macbeth speaks of Macbeth: “What thou wouldst highly,/That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false.” Restate what she is saying, and explain the irony.

As a result of her own observation, what does Lady Macbeth plan to do?

2. Identify the major point of Lady Macbeth’s second soliloquy.

3. Why does Lady Macbeth tell Macbeth to “look like the innocent flower?”

Scenes VI and VII

1. Explain the dramatic irony in Duncan’s statement: “This castle hath a pleasant seat. The air/Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself/Unto our gentle senses.”

2. Explicate Macbeth’s next four lines, from “But in these cases” to “inventor.”

3. Report three reasons that Macbeth considers for not killing Duncan.

4. How does Macbeth explain his desire to be king at all costs?

5. When Lady Macbeth arrives, how has Macbeth’s intention changed?

6. Quote Lady Macbeth’s arguments in response to Macbeth’s vacillation.

7. Report the plan that Lady Macbeth outlines.

8. How does the last line of this Act, spoken by Macbeth, echo the previous statement of Lady Macbeth?

Act II

Scene I

1. Give two details of the setting that reinforce the theme of darkness.

2. Macbeth says that he does not think of the witches, but he contradicts himself. How?

3. What causes Macbeth to “see” a dagger? How does he react to this vision?

How does that vision add to his characterization?

Scene II

1. To what extent does Lady Macbeth assist in the murder? Explain.

2. Locate the quotes that indicate Macbeth is disturbed by his deed. Quote Lady Macbeth’s reaction.

3. Why is Macbeth concerned about the blood on his hands?

How does his reaction differ from Lady Macbeth’s?

4. How does the knocking at the gate add to the horror of this scene?

Scene III

1. This was a humorous scene for Shakespearean audiences. List the people who the porter imagines are knocking at the gate.

2. What, then, is the purpose of this scene?

3. List some of the strange occurrences that Lennox reports.

4. Who discovers the murder? Who is accused and by whom?

5. Report Macbeth’s excuse for killing the guards. Was that part of the original plan?

6. Speculate on what causes Lady Macbeth to faint.

7. Explain the meaning of Donalbain’s statement, “There’s daggers in men’s smiles; the near in blood,/The nearer bloody.”

Scene IV

1. Locate at least two references to (a) unnatural occurrences, (b) darkness, and (c) blood.

2. Why are Malcolm and Donalbain suspected of the murder?

3. Instead of attending Macbeth’s coronation, where is Macduff going?

4. Explain how the last line of this Act is an echo of “Fair is foul…”


Scene I

1. Quote evidence that Banquo is suspicious about Macbeth’s manner of becoming king.

2. List some of Banquo’s good qualities.

Why, then, does Macbeth plan to kill Banquo?

3. Give three arguments Macbeth uses to convince the murderers to kill Banquo.?

4. Explain Macbeth’s order: “Fleance must embrace the same fate.”

Scene II

1. Quote further evidence of Macbeth’s state of mind.

2. Macbeth also says, “…make our faces vizards to our hearts,/Disguising what they are.” How does this statement reinforce the theme of Appearance vs. Reality?

3. Quote further references to blackness, darkness, or blood.

4. What statement does Macbeth make that suggests Lady Macbeth is unaware of Macbeth’s plan to kill Banquo and Fleance?

What does Macbeth’s statement indicate about their relationship as co-conspirators and about Lady Macbeth’s influence on Macbeth?

Scene III

1. The climax (or turning point) occurs in this scene, when the fortunes of the protagonist (the tragic hero) irreversibly turn for the worse. What is the climax specifically? Give a reason for your answer.

Scene IV

1. Explain the significance of Macbeth’s statement: “Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake/Thy gory locks at me.”

2. Lady Macbeth behaves in a manner that, though it is hypocritical, reveals other aspects of her personality. What are these aspects?

3. Note that six other references to blood occur in this scene, one of the major images in the drama. Quote them.

4. Quote words that indicate Macbeth’s current state of mind.

5. Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth that he “lack[s] the season of all natures, sleep.” How does this quote reinforce a previous statement by Macbeth regarding the importance of sleep?

6. Quote two examples of Macbeth’s intentions regarding further murders.

7. Why does Macbeth plan to see the witches?

Scene V

1. What characteristic of Macbeth does Hecate reinforce?

Scene VI

1. Lennox says, “How it did grieve Macbeth! Did he not straight,/In pious rage, the two delinquents tear,/That were the slaves of drink and thralls of sleep?/ Was not that nobly done? Ay, and wisely, too!” What is his tone? What dos his tone suggest about his meaning?

2. Tell why Macduff goes to England.

Act IV

Scene I

1. How does the witches’ rhyming couplet refrain add to the atmosphere?

Why is the use of “double” appropriate to Macbeth?

2. List the three apparitions and quote the statement accompanying each.

3. When Macbeth asks if Banquo’s issue will ever reign, what is he shown?

4. Tell how Macbeth’s words contradict or belie his actions with regard to the witches.

These words repeat his statement in a previous scene. Locate it.

5. Macbeth says, “To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done!” What is he planning?

Scene II

1. Briefly summarize what happens in this scene.

Scene III

1. Another reference to foulness being hidden is given by Malcolm. Quote that line. To whom is Malcolm referring?

2. In talking to Macduff, Malcolm describes many of his own vices. Further, Malcolm lists kingly virtues that he himself does not have. List several of those “king-becoming graces.”

3. Why does Malcolm portray himself as a potential, sinful tyrant?

Quote Malcolm’s negation of his own description.

4. How does Macduff’s reaction to the deaths of his wife, children, and servants contrast to information about him in Scene II?

What does Malcolm encourage Macduff to do?

5. Explicate this line: “The night is long that never finds the day.”

Act V

Scene I

1. Lady Macbeth says in her sleepwalking, “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!… Yet who would have thought the old man had so much blood in him?” What is she doing and to what is she referring?

2. Lady Macbeth also says, “All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” How does her statement echo, ironically, a previous speech by Macbeth?

Scene II

1. Describe Macbeth as a ruler. Note, in particular, the imagery.

Scene III

1. How does the doctor describe Lady Macbeth’s illness?

Scene IV

1. How is one of the witches’ prophecies coming true?

Scenes V, VI, VII, and VIII

1. Explain Macbeth’s main point in his “tomorrow” soliloquy.

2. Why does Macduff consider himself not of “woman born”?

Why does Macbeth fight Macduff, since Macbeth’s “charmed life” is broken?

3. How does Lady Macbeth die?

4. Why is it appropriate that the individual who kills Macbeth is Macduff?

5. By whom and to whom is the following statement made? What is the occasion? “Hail, King! for so thou art.”

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