Five Act Structure in The Tragedy of Macbeth
Lesson Plan Reference
Grade Level: 11-12
Difficulty Level: 2 (Reinforcing / Developing)
Type of Assignment: Individual or Group
Type of Activity: The Five Act Play (Dramatic Structure)Common Core Standards:
- [ELA-Literacy/RL/11-12/2] Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text
- [ELA-Literacy/RL/11-12/3] Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed)
- [ELA-Literacy/RL/11-12/5] Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact
Students can create and show a storyboard that captures the concept of the Five Act Structure by making a six-cell storyboard, like the one below. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the acts in order: Prologue, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.
Example Macbeth Five Act Structure
Act 1: Prologue or Exposition
The play takes place in Scotland.
A war is ending. The Scottish general, Macbeth, and his faithful friend, Banquo, have emerged victorious. However, three witches have brewed an evil plot against Macbeth and when they meet him, they tell him that he will be King! “We shall tell Macbeth he will be Thane and King! As for Banquo, he will have kings!”
Act 2: Rising Action
Macbeth and his wife kill the King and take the throne. They go on a tyrannical killing spree. The action rises as the audience sees how ambitious Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have become.
“How can I be king someday?”
“Macbeth, we had to Kill King Duncan, and we will have to kill others to keep our place on the throne!”
Act 3: The Climax
Macbeth holds a banquet and sees the ghost of Banquo (whom Macbeth had killed). Lady Macbeth becomes mentally unstable, and the couple begins to fear the consequences of their murderous deeds.
Act 4: Falling Action
A rebellion is instigated by Macduff to restore the throne to Duncan's exiled son. Macbeth learns another set of prophecies from the witches and begins to think he will be saved.
Act 5: Denouement or Resolution
The three witches’ predictions come true, and the castle is stormed. Macbeth is killed.