Macbeth Questions

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If you are an actor, you know this as “The Scottish Play” because to say “Macbeth” in theater, except in the context of performing the play, is considered bad luck. Why? I don’t know. This play is one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, although Scotland did actually have a King Macbeth. The problem is that Shakespeare wasn’t trying to be even remotely historically accurate with this play (the real Macbeth was quite well liked by his people and didn’t have to stage a coup to take the throne). Shakespeare wrote this play to flatter King James I, the first King of both Scotland and England. The real Banquo (who you will meet in the play) was one of James’ ancestors, so Shakespeare wanted to demonstrate how fate had always intended for James to become king.

As you read through the online text, conveniently separated into scenes, take note of this notion of fate. We came across it earlier in this course with the Greeks and the question of whether Oedipus really ever had a choice in how his life was going to go. Just like the idea of the Tragic Hero reappears in literature throughout the centuries, the debate over fate or free-will rages on in plays and novels. Shakespeare’s audience also took the idea of witches and supernatural powers very seriously–King James eventually wrote a book describing how to identify a witch. So don’t be hasty in mocking Macbeth for listening to the three women who make predictions about his future.

Complete the assigned worksheet questions as you progress through reading the play.


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