Macbeth

Students read Macbeth, analyzing and discussing universal themes of power, greed, and morality, while tackling Shakespearian language.

Unit Summary

In this high school English unit for tenth graders, students will engage in an analysis of the play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare. In ninth grade, students read Romeo and Juliet and now will explore one of Shakespeare’s darker works. This Macbeth unit allows students to tackle Shakespearian language and engage in analysis and discussion of universal themes of power, greed, and morality.

At Match, students have a Composition class 4 days per week in addition to English class. Below, we have included Supplementary Composition Projects to reflect the material covered in our Composition course. For teachers who are interested in including these Composition projects but do not have a separate Composition course, we have included a “Suggested Placement” to note where these projects would most logically fit into the English unit. While the Composition projects may occasionally include content unrelated to English 10, most have both a skill and content connection to the work students are doing in their English 10 class.

In the English lessons of Unit 5, students will focus on analyzing the Shakespearean drama Macbeth, focusing particularly on Shakespeare’s development of characters and theme. In these parallel composition projects, teachers will have a choice of two projects: one narrative and one literary analysis. The teacher may choose to do both or include other writing projects and/or writing focus areas that respond to students’ interests and/or writing development needs. Because at Match this unit typically falls near state testing window, we are allowing some flexibility so each individual teacher can choose projects that best align with the types of writing his/her students might benefit from the most. 

Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

  • Play: Macbeth by William Shakespeare (Folger Shakespeare Library, 2013)  

Supporting Materials

Assessment

This assessment accompanies Unit 5 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

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  • Read and annotate the Folger Shakespeare Library version of Macbeth.
  • Consult a No Fear Shakespeare or other translated version of Macbeth as helpful or necessary for analysis.
  • Read and annotate this unit plan on Macbeth. As you read Macbeth, it is helpful to refer to a translation source. 
  • Take the unit test and outline a response to the essay.
  • Check out local listings for performances of Macbeth. It is a frequently performed play, and any opportunity to see it live is one that students would benefit from.

Essential Questions

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  • Human Nature and Morality: Why do people behave the way they do? Which aspects of our nature do we suppress? Which do we embrace? Is morality necessary for human existence?
  • Power/Greed: To what extent does power/greed affect individuals and/or relationships? 
  • Fate: To what degree is our fate in our own hands? How can a person’s decisions and actions change his/her life?

Writing Focus Areas

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English Lessons Writing Focus Areas

Students will focus on analyzing Shakespeare’s language and using it to support and defend various positions throughout the unit.

Literary Analysis Writing Focus Areas:

  • Thesis: clear and relevant
  • Evidence: supports an argument

Composition Projects Writing Focus Areas

Below are the writing focus areas that are recommended for the projects described in this unit. Each focus area comes from a particular row and column of the rubric, and more detail about each area of focus is provided in the description of the specific writing project. The teacher should feel free to substitute or revise these writing focus areas in order to meet his/her students where they are and help them improve their writing in ways that authentically address the students’ areas for growth.

  • Focus on Task: appropriate for task, purpose, and audience 
  • Diction: Includes precise language and vocabulary
  • Thesis: Includes a clear, relevant, and unique thesis statement
  • Analysis: Demonstrates clear and logical reasoning
  • Evidence: Draws relevant evidence to support position
  • Professional Revised: Adequate revisions

Vocabulary

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Literary Terms

iambic pentameter, simile, mood, exposition, diction, aside, characterization, symbol, soliloquy, foil, personification, alliteration, denouement

Text-based

Act 1.1–1.4: aside, foul, plight, noble, harbinger

Act 1.5–Act 2.1: ambitious, metaphysical, beguile, clamor

Act 2.2–Act 2.4: appall, multitudinous, equivocator, dire, amiss, scruples, foe

Act 3.1–Act 4.1: posterity, indissoluble, parricide, dauntless, rancor, predominant, malice, nonpareil\

Act 4.2–end Act 4: profound, haste, gracious, potent, sovereignty, vanquished

Act 5: diminutive, judicious, desolate, avaricious, boundless, avarice, perturb, guise, dignity, antidote, perilous, clamorous, abhor

Idioms and Cultural References

Act 1.1–1.4: thane, kinsmen, prophecy

Act 1.5–Act 2.1: pall, raven, serpent, knell, Neptune’s Ocean

Act 2.2–Act 2.4: Beelzebub (also in Lord of the Flies), parley

Act 3.1–Act 4.1: Hecate, locks

Act 4.2–end Act 4: cauldron, something wicked this way comes, innocent lamb

Act 5: gentlewoman, flower and weeds

Content Knowledge and Connections

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Students will become familiar with iambic pentameter and how Shakespeare uses language to create mood. Students will also become familiar with the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and his challenges of morality.

Previous Fishtank ELA Connections

Future Fishtank ELA Connections

  • Students will make many connection between this unit and Grade 10 English Language Arts Unit 6: Sula. Students will connect Shakespeare’s portrayal of Macbeth’s hands and the hands of Shadrack in Sula. Both times the authors are using hands to represent guilt. Students will connect Lady Macbeth to Sula in that both are strong, nonconforming women who break gender stereotypes and are therefore hated and labeled as witches. Lastly, students will connect the superstition in the supernatural and its ability to impact decision-making to Sula.

Lesson Map

1

  • Macbeth — Act 1, Scenes 1-2

Analyze the exposition of Macbeth, identifying the mood and the traits of major characters. 

2

  • Macbeth — Act 1, Scene 3

Characterize Macbeth and Banquo based on their reaction to the witches.

3

  • Macbeth — Act 1, Scene 4

Characterize King Duncan.

4

  • Macbeth — Act 1, Scene 5

Characterize Lady Macbeth. Analyze the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

5

  • Macbeth — Act 1, Scene 6

Analyze Macbeth’s internal conflict in his soliloquy and explain how Lady Macbeth ultimately influences his decision.

6

  • Macbeth — Act 2, Scene 1

Analyze and explain Shakespeare’s use of the symbolism to convey Macbeth’s thoughts just before the murder.

7

  • Macbeth — Act 2, Scene 2

Analyze how Shakespeare builds both mood and suspense in this scene.

Describe the symbolism of “washing the hands."

8

  • Macbeth — Act 2, Scene 3

Explain how this scene contributes to the rising action of the play.

9

  • Macbeth — Act 2, Scene 4 and Act 3, Scene 1

Track Macbeth’s character development and changes since Act 1.

10

  • Macbeth — Act 3, Scenes 2 and 3

Independently read and analyze Act 3, Scene 3.

11

  • Macbeth — Act 3, Scene 4

Analyze and explain how Shakespeare reveals Macbeth’s humanity throughout this scene.

12

  • Macbeth — Act 3, Scenes 5 and 6

Explain how Act 3, Scene 5 contributes to the plot as a whole.

13

  • Macbeth — Act 4, Scene 1

Analyze the events of Act 4, Scene 1 and explain how they contribute to the falling action of the play.

14

  • Macbeth — Act 4, Scene 2

Explain how Shakespeare solidifies Macbeth’s ultimate fate in Act 4, Scene 2.

15

  • Macbeth — Act 4, Scene 3

Defend a position regarding Macduff’s loyalty. 

16

  • Macbeth — Act 4, Scene 3

Explain the ways in which Macduff serves as a foil to Macbeth.

17

  • Macbeth — Act 5, Scene 1

Analyze the change in Lady Macbeth’s character and explain what caused it. 

18

  • Macbeth — Act 5, Scene 2

Analyze and interpret the figurative language in this scene. 

Explain how this scene relates to the prophecy.

19

  • Macbeth — Act 5, Scene 3

Explain how this scene reveals Macbeth’s humanity.

20

  • Macbeth — Act 5, Scenes 4-6

Analyze Macbeth’s soliloquy to determine his mental state before the battle.

21

  • Macbeth — Act 5, Scenes 7 and 8

Explain how the denouement of the play restores order to the chaos. 

22

  • “Morality as Anti-Nature”

Create and defend an argument about morality and Macbeth.

23

Assessment

Composition Projects

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.9-10.3 — Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

  • L.9-10.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9—10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

  • L.9-10.6 — Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.9-10.1 — Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RI.9-10.2 — Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.9-10.1 — Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RL.9-10.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RL.9-10.3 — Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

  • RL.9-10.9 — Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.9-10.1 — Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9—10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

  • SL.9-10.1 — Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9—10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Writing Standards
  • W.9-10.1 — Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

  • W.9-10.1.a — Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

  • W.9-10.1.a — Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

  • W.9-10.1.b — Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience's knowledge level and concerns.

  • W.9-10.3.a — Engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation, or observation, establishing one or multiple point(s) of view, and introducing a narrator and/or characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events.

  • W.9-10.4 — Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

  • W.9-10.5 — Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

  • W.9-10.6 — Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology's capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

  • W.9-10.9 — Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

  • W.9-10.9 — Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

  • W.9-10.9.a — Apply grades 9—10 Reading standards to literature (e.g., "Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work [e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare]").

  • W.9-10.9.b — Apply grades 9—10 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., "Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning").

  • W.9-10.10 — Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.