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End of Play Written Task

How does Shakespeare use of paradox to enact and depict Macbeth’s changes throughout the play?


Our study of the play has looked at Shakespeare’s use of paradoxes on a range of levels. You are advised to let these guides help your thinking on the text rather than as a means of structuring your essay.

  • As a linguistic and poetic device
  • As the site of individual conflict
  • As the creation of interpersonal conflict
  • As a source of thematic structure and development


800-1200 words, 1.5 spacing, a full (insightful) title at the top, word count with your name in the header, number pages.

Focus primarily on 3 to 5 sections from the play. Select ones that exemplify and develop your argument and analysis. Contextualize them in terms of the whole play and your own interpretation of the question.


You will be assessed according to the following:

A – Content

Thorough knowledge and understanding of the of the play, placing selected passages in context

A persuasive interpretation of Macbeth’s character 

Clear awareness and analysis of the effects of literary features, in particular the use of paradox


B – Structure 

A purposeful and effective structure, with coherently linked paragraphs

Quotations are well-integrated

The main question is addressed throughout


C – Language

Clear, varied, precise and concise expression

Appropriate formal register

Literary terminology present and correct


End of Play Presentation

Macbeth passages for close study after Act 2, Scene 2

(take notes while viewing play)





Act 3, Scene 1, lines 49-73


"To be thus is nothing, ..." 



Act 3, Scene 2

(whole scene)


"Why do you keep alone?"



Act 3, Scene 4

(whole scene)


Banquo's ghost



Act 4, Scene 1, lines 68-123





Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-27


Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow..."


Out, out, brief candle, ..."




How does Shakespeare make use of paradox to enact and depict Macbeth’s changes throughout the play?


We will look at the use of paradoxes on a range of levels:

  • As a linguistic and poetic device
  • As the site of individual conflict
  • As the creation of interpersonal conflict
  • As a source of thematic structure and development


In groups – prepare a 5-7 minute (no longer) presentation on your assigned passage or section, covering the following:

1. What it reveals about Macbeth’s character and state of mind at this point. (Individual conflict)

2. How he relates to others, especially his wife. (Interpersonal conflict) 

3. What linguistic paradoxes are used and to what effect (linguistic and poetic device).

4. What thematic contrasts are implicit within the passage? e.g good/evil, light/dark, conscience/ruthlessness, life/death


The presentation should involve:

  • Some form of reading, performance and/or visual support for at least a part of the section
  • Shared presentation of analysis 
  • Address the guiding question and the four subsidiary questions.

Ubly - End of Play Presentation - Macbeth passages for close study after Act 2.doc


Group Presentation Assessment Criteria

A – Content

Thorough knowledge and understanding of the extract in the context of the play*

A valid interpretation of the character* 

Clear awareness and analysis of the effects of literary features, in particular the use of paradox*


B – Structure 

A purposeful and effective structure*

Supporting references to the text are well integrated into the presentation*

The group collaborates and presents in a clear, efficient manner


C – Language

Clear, varied, and precise speech, appropriate to the task*

An effective choice of register and style*

Convincingly engages audience


* Whilst these criteria are relevant to MYP, they are also copied or paraphrased from the Language A1 Diploma Oral Component.

Ubly - End of Play Presentation - oral assessment rubric doc.doc

(for teacher: Ubly - End of Play Oral Presentation Chart.doc


Lesson 7

Macbeth – Act 2, Scene 2

Homework – How and why has Macbeth changed since the start of the play?

  • Go up through the end of Act 2, Scene 2

  • Use a range of quotations to P>E>E

  • Aim for 400-500 words

  • Not assessed but will be directly relevant to it 


We will now look at Act 2, Scene 2 to analyse how he reacts after the murder of Duncan.

We will focus on two aspects:

1. Internal conflict

2. Interpersonal conflict 


To start with Macbeth’s internal conflict, analyse his state of mind from the following quotations:

MACBETH Line                                                               

1. This is a sorry sight.




2. But wherefore could not I pronounce 'Amen'?




3. Methought I heard a voice cry 'Sleep no more!




4. I am afraid to think what I have done;

Look on't again I dare not.




5. No, this my hand will rather

The multitudinous seas in incarnadine,

Making the green one red.




6. To know my deed, 'twere best not know myself.




























a) Now reconsider the same statements in terms of Lady Macbeth’s response. Find a quotation from her that, as directly as possible, contradicts his. Comment on what this reveals about their relationship at this point. 


b) Speculate (whether you know the outcome or not) on what this scene suggests will be the future of their relationship. Justify with reference to specifics in the text.


c) Each table will now report back on one of the items discussed above.

 Ubly - Macbeth Lesson 7.doc


Lesson Six

Objective: Move from merely identifying paradoxical language and dilemma to unpacking paradoxical language and dilemma, examining specific examples and noting what they specifically reveal about Macbeth's character, Lady Macbeth's character, and their relationship.


(30 min) Table Work:

1.7.29-77 -- picking up from Lesson Five

 1.7 Lady Macbeth's Influence.doc

     Oral Review of #1

     Find Textual examples for #2 bullets and a)

     Identify Quotation for #3

     Complete #4 if you haven't already

     Group discussion of Extension


(20 min) Table Work:

2.1.33-64 -- The Dagger Soliloquy

     2.1 Macbeth - The Dagger Soliloquy.doc

     #1 Study the the 30 lines that precede the soliloquy

     #2 Fulfill today's objective

     (#3-5 We addressed in follow-up of last class's performed extracts)


(20 min) Pair Work:

2.2 -- Reaction to Murder: Tit for Tat

     Experience: Perform 2.2 to each other

     Study: Identify examples of tit for tat in this scene

     Delve: What dilemma does this back-and-forth create?

     Extension: What is the consequence of this conversation?


If time, watch 2.3-2.4 

Lesson Five

     Objective: Further study and practice with dialectic and dilemma

                    Examine dialectic within play's development, from personal interpersonal


I. The dialectical pattern of Macbeth’s decision to Kill Duncan 

A3 - The dialectical process that makes Macbeth murder Duncan.doc


II. The dialectical pattern of Macbeth’s decision to Kill Duncan 

1. 1.5.39-53 – Lady Macbeth summons spirits to harden her resolve

2. 1.7.1-14a - Macbeth’s Dilemma – Part 1

3. 1.7.14b-28a – Macbeth’s dilemma – Part 2

4. 1.7.28b-45a – Macbeth and Lady Macbeth argue - 1

5. 1.7.45b-59b – Argument 2

6. 1.7.59c-77  - Argument 3


(Resolution – lines 79-82)

7. 2.1.33-47a    - The dagger soliloquy – Part 1

8. 2.1.47b-61    - The dagger soliloquy – Part 2 

The dialectical pattern of Macbeth.doc


III. Macbeth’s Dilemma – Act 1, Scene 7

1. Complete the chart and consider the weight of each side of his dilemma.


To Kill            

Or Not to Kill



















2. So Macbeth faces an internal dialectical process. How is it resolved or, in other words, what is its synthesis?

1.7 Macbeth's dilemma.doc 


IV. Act 1, Scene 7 , Lines – 29-77

Lady Macbeth’s Influence 

1. a) At the end of Macbeth’s soliloquy, what do you think Macbeth’s decision will be and why?

b) What do you think Lady Macbeth’s response to this will be?


2. Look at this section – Find examples of how Lady Macbeth tries to change his mind. Look for and explain the following:

  • Rhetorical questions
  • Removing her love
  • Derogatory language
  • Uses herself as an example

a) What aspects of Macbeth’s character does she use to influence him?


3. What finally is Macbeth’s response?

4. Summarise this on your dialectical chart.


Extension – Why do you think she is successful?


V. Macbeth – Act 2, Scene 1 – ‘The Dagger Soliloquy’

1. Lines 1- 30 – What does this part of the scene establish about the context for the speech. Focus on:

  • Atmosphere – time, mood etc.
  • Macbeth’s relationship to Banquo
  • Duncan’s situation


2. In this soliloquy Macbeth hallucinates a dagger, which reveals his state of mind. Comment on what the following lines show about him.

MACBETH’S Soliloquy

His State of Mind


Is this a dagger which I see before me,

The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.

I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.

Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible

To feeling as to sight? or art thou but

A dagger of the mind, a false creation,

Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?

I see thee yet, in form as palpable

As this which now I draw.

Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going;

And such an instrument I was to use.

Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses,

Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,

And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,

Which was not so before. There's no such thing:

It is the bloody business which informs

Thus to mine eyes. Now o'er the one halfworld

Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse

The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates

Pale Hecate's offerings, and wither'd murder,

Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,

Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.

With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design

Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,

Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear

Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,

And take the present horror from the time,

Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:

Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.

(A bell rings)

I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.

Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell

That summons thee to heaven or to hell.



3. a)What does the dagger symbolise in this speech?

b) Does Macbeth control his own actions or is he being controlled? Give evidence.

c) What aspects of his language symbolise evil?


4. Extension – to what extent could you argue that Macbeth is not responsible for his actions in this speech?

5. What dialectical movement is set up?

2.1 Macbeth - The Dagger Soliloquy.doc


Lesson Four

Review thesis: Paradoxical language doesn't merely signify change; it enacts it.

Review paradox: two opposites that assert a third way.

Review dialectical reasoning: a back-and-forth between two polarities that resolves in a synthesis of opposites.

Review plot: edition's synopsis and commentary (1.5.29-2.1).

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1. Gain comfort with Shakespeare's language.

2. Notice dialectical pattern while parsing language: dilemma (between thesis and antithesis), persuasion (dialectical reasoning), action (resolution in synthesis)



1. Get in 16 groups of three:

2. Get markers and A3 sheets (teacher: make ahead of time)










3. Annotate your extract--Use poetic analysis skills

Dominant images or colors

Paradoxical imagery or language

Poetic and rhetorical devices

Dialectical back-and-forth


Further patterns

*Look up unfamiliar words


4. Watch 1.5.29-2.1

5. Summarize what happens before and after your extract

6. Re-write extract with recontextualized language

     i.e., 1920s New York gangster, 21st C gangster, corporate, cowboy, nordic viking

     Strive to recontextualize any metaphors, dialiectical structures, or paradoxical language as well

7. Rehearse--be ready to perform at start of next class.

8. HW: Each student writes how your recontextualization is spot on or falls short. Be specific. Reveal your understanding of Shakespeare's language, Macbeth, and your recontextualization.


Lesson Three 

How and why has Macbeth changed? 


1. Re-cap on the plot. Tell it as a children’s story around your table. Pass to the next person when you wish. 1.1-


2. A few questions to make sure you’re clear about some essential details (1.3): 

  1. How does Macbeth react for each of the witches three statements?
  2. What does being granted the title of Cawdor make him think? 
  3. How has his relationship with Banquo been affected?


3. Now watch from Act 1, Scene 4 to the end of Act 1, Scene 5.

  1. Act 1, Scene 4 – Duncan awards Malcolm (his son) with the title Prince of Cumberland. Why would this concern Macbeth? 
  2. Why does Lady Macbeth wish to ‘unsex’ herself? 


We are now going to revisit PARADOXES 

(Activity)     Macbeth paradoxes act 1 Cards.doc

4. Take your card and do the following as a class.


Task 1  - If you think your card is POSITIVE go to Mr. Peterson’s side; if NEGATIVE go to Mr. Ubly’s; if UNSURE go to the middle.


Task 2 - Somewhere in your room is the other half of your paradox. Find them and pair up.


Task 3 -  Now create a circle, moving clockwise, from the paradoxes at the beginning of the play to the end of Act 1, Scene 6.


Task 4 – We will now try to tell the story of how and why Macbeth changes, using our paradoxes.


Task 5 – With your card and partner- find the appropriate group:

  • Macbeth’s state of mind  (Two tables)

  • Other character’s effects/thoughts on Macbeth:

  • Witches and Banquo

  • Duncan Lady Macbeth


Using the quotations that you have at your table, write a group paragraph to analyse how and why he changes. Present to the rest.

 Ubly - Macbeth - Lesson 3.doc


Lesson Two

Review thesis: Paradoxical language doesn't merely signify change; it enacts it.

Review paradox: two opposites that assert a third way


1.3.36-45 The Witches (read)

Look at Banquo's description.

What paradoxes are there?

And what contradictions will Macbeth face?



Thesis -->     <-- Antithesis



            Synthesis-->     <-- Anthithesis





Internal Relations:

               interdependence of things

               every "thing"--abstract or concrete--contains opposites, having emerged from opposite forces






               Can you have one without the other?               


Have you seen dialectics in action?

Let the games begin--2 volunteers

1. I am

2. I am Not


Elbows set...but is this how a dialectic concludes?

I am Beats I am Not?

I am Not Beats I am?

I am Not What I am.


Transformation--Pendulums and spirals 


How might this apply to Macbeth?


Back to the Witches

Literally, why can't Banquo identify the witches? (hint: 'Pategories')


Figuratively, why can't Banquo identify the witches?



So if the weird sisters are man-like, what are they?

they are and they aren't

Break from standard categories--friction yields synthesis: now "weird sisters"


39-40 How is Shakespeare playing with Language? How does this benefit our study?

Don't seem to be of this world, just touching it -- on the margins, at the seams of society

So are they in or are they out?


Categories' relationship with Paradox?


Further Patterns in Shakespeare:

Margins--what kinds in shakespeare?

Battlefield (M)

Holiday (R&J, MND, TN)

Forest (MND)


Another way to think of Margins is Ecotone (ecology)

How is the battlefield an ecotone--physically, ethically?

How is the play an ecotone?

Margins' relationship with Categories and Paradox?



In Macbeth:

     things put on, titles, roles

Relationship with Paradox, Categories, and Margins?


Through these motifs (specifically the motifs' images and language), Shakespeare consistently explores

Appearance vs. Reality

Ontology and Epistemology (What is it really? and How do you know?)

Power of Language / Ambiguity of Language


The nagging question:

How does the language of paradox do all this?

Tip: study the language and the language's images 


1.3 Find the Patterns










Back to your thinking question, what effect do the witches have on Macbeth?



1. Journal a page in your exercise book. 

1a. William Blakes said in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, "Without contraries there is no progression."

Is this so? How is this so in Macbeth, in your life, and in the world?

1b. In addition, if you want to explore dialectic further, read up on wikipedia and reflect further.


2. Listen to this. (If problems with this link, go to "Listen to the Insider's Guide"--also on iTunes) (17:24) 

3. And watch this

YouTube plugin error  


Lesson One

1.1 Read/Watch

  1. How can a battle be “lost and won”?
  2. How can “fair” be “foul” and “foul” be “fair”?
  3. What linguistic device is being used in both instances?



Definition – The juxtaposition of two supposedly antithetical concepts which nevertheless assert their own truth. 

  • We can't leave the haphazard to chance." — N.F. Simpson
  • Real knowledge is knowing the extent of one's ignorance."— Confucius
  • Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know.  Oscar Wilde
  • I love acting. It is so much more real than life. Oscar Wilde
  • He is far too wise not to do a foolish thing now and again. Oscar Wilde


For the following, answer these three questions. 

  • What are the two ‘supposedly antithetical concepts being juxtaposed?
  • What point or ‘truth’ is being put forward?
  • What does the paradox seem to do to ‘conventional’ ideas?


  1. Montaigne: "A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears."
  2. Voltaire: "The superfluous is a very necessary thing."
  3. Lao-Tzu: "Failure is the foundation of success, and success the lurking place of failure."
  4. Picasso: "Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth."
  5. Gauguin: "I shut my eyes in order to see."
  6. Heraclitus: "A thing rests by changing."
  7. George Santayana: "Perhaps the only true dignity of man is his capacity to despise himself."
  8. Bertolt Brecht: "What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?"
  9. George Wald: "A physicist is an atom's way of knowing about atoms."
  10. Hobbes: "Prophecy is many time the principal cause of the events foretold."
  11. Timothy Connor: "I have such a high regard for the truth that I use it sparingly."
  12. Chang-Tzu: "Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness."
  13. Foucault: "All modern thought is permeated by thinking the unthinkable."
  14. [Judge] Learned Hand: "There is no surer way to misread any document than to read it literally."
  15. Everett Dirksen: "I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times."
  16. Disraeli: "No government can be long secure without formidable opposition."
  17. Katherine Mansfield: "If you wish to live, you must first attend your own funeral."
  18. Seneca: The hour which gives us life begins to take it away."
  19. St. Francis: "It is in giving that we receive, it in pardoning that we are pardoned."
  20. Eden Philpotts: "The people sensibile enough to give good advice are usually sensible to give none."
  21. Mill: "Ask yourself whether you are happy and you cease to be so."
  22. Degas: "Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do."
  23. Orville Mars: "The little I know I owe to my ignorance."
  24. Alan Kay: "Any company large enough to have a research lab is too large to listen to it."
  25. Kahlil Gibran: "The obvious is that which is never seen until someone expresses it simply."
  26. [Pianist] Arthur Schnabel: "The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes, ah, that is where the art resides."


Macbeth and Paradoxes

In this study of Macbeth we are going to focus on: 

  • How and why Macbeth’s character changes throughout the play
  • How paradoxes are used to both create and demonstrate that change


We will look at the use of paradoxes on a range of levels:

  • As a linguistic and poetic device
  • As the site of individual conflict
  • As the creation of interpersonal conflict
  • As a means of showing social/political conflict 
  • As a source of thematic structure and development

Conflict > Change


Act 1, Scene 1 introduced the concept of the paradox into the world of the play.


Act 1, Scene 2

1.2 positions the character of Macbeth into this world.

  1.Put what you find out about Macbeth, his involvement in the battle against Norway and the Scottish traitors Macdonald and Cawdor on the left of this chart. 

Do it as a simple list of adjectives or nouns.


Macbeth at the start 

The ‘supposed antithesis’ 











2.Then, on the right, put what you’d conventionally consider the opposite.

3.At the end of the scene Duncan says “What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won” (3, 2 – 70)

Explain this statement and comment on where you’ve heard a similar line – what does this ‘co-incidence’ suggest? 


Act 1, Scene 3

1. Macbeth enters saying, “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.” (1.3-38) What effect does this paradox have on the audience? 

2. Now look closely at Banquo’s description of the witches. List the paradoxes.

3. Extended response--Macbeth appears to live in a world of clear opposites:

  • Good/Evil
  • Brave/Coward
  • Loyal/Traitor
  • High/Low
  • Heaven/Hell
  • Alive/Dead
  • Real/Unreal

What does the presence of the witches do to this world and what effect do we expect them to have on Macbeth?


Ubly - Macbeth - Lesson 1.doc


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