…The Musings of a Strange Guy

Macbeth General Questions

Macbeth General Questions:

1) Discuss the following and illustrate by reference to the play: “It is as if Shakespeare had concentrated more upon atmosphere than character.” (Note the continual attention to the element of the supernatural, and the fact that of all the characters only Macbeth and his lady receive Shakespeare’s full attention.)

2) In Macbeth, Shakespeare has created a character who seems a villain rather than a hero, and yet he is the main character who holds the interest and sympathy of the audience. Show how Shakespeare has contrived to bring this about.

3) Discuss the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, and show that they are really inseparable.

4) Give some account of the ideas and beliefs of Elizabethan England on the subject of witchcraft.

5) Does Macbeth seem to you to be in the grip of mysterious supernatural power, over which he has no control, or is he responsible for his own acts?

6) To what extent are we able to say that Macbeth illustrates Shakespeare’s views on the inevitability of fate?

7) Is Macbeth a “Tragedy of Destiny” or a “Tragedy of Character”? Do you attribute Macbeth’s downfall to fate, or to a weakness in himself?

8) Discuss some of the ways in which Shakespeare manages to retain a certain amount of sympathy for Macbeth, despite his crimes.

9) Lady Macbeth has been described as “the fourth witch” and attempts have been made to show that she is his chief temptress. What is your opinion of this?

10) “It is obvious that in writing Macbeth Shakespeare was influenced by the desire to secure the favour of royalty, and in consequence, matter is introduced which is quite irrelevant to the action of the drama.” (The healing powers of Edward the Confessor, and his ability to cure the “the kin’s evil”. Sketch the nobility of Banquo, James’ supposed ancestor. Consider the view of critics that Shakespeare was able to please the public and the king, and yet not degrade his art.

11) Contrast the respective manners in which the character of Macbeth and of Malcolm are delineated. What appears to you to be Shakespeare’s intention here?

12) Discuss the significance of the witches. To what extent are they personifications, or characters merely symbolical of evil? To what extent are they actual and powerful supernatural beings?

13) Give your impressions of the character and inclinations of Macbeth before he heard the predictions of the witches.

14) Discuss and trace the gradual loss of strength of character which is evidenced in Lady Macbeth. What are some of the causes in bringing this about?

15) Has Shakespeare any moral lesson to teach in Macbeth? If he has, what is it? Do you think that Shakespeare deliberately seeks to teach a moral lesson, or illustrate “poetic justice”?

16) Discuss the manner in which Shakespeare has introduced the comic dialogue of the porter into the most tragic scene of Macbeth. Does it seem to you to be out of place?

17) What problems would have to be faced by the producer who might try to stage Macbeth at the present time? How did the Elizabethan stage compare with the present day stage in its possibilities of representing rapid action?

18) Discuss the mental state and the outlook on life revealed in the lines:To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow………………..Signifying nothing. Act V, Sc. V.

19) “The words ‘dead butcher’ and ‘fiend-like queen’ fail completely to give any idea of the complexity of the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.” Consider the statement.

20) Analyse the conduct of Macbeth from the point of view that he is mad, and survey the evidence for and against this statement.


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