The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category!

This Teacher Guide Includes:

    Are you looking to inspire and engage your students during a unit on The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare? Check out this teacher guide with valuable ways to create visual Storyboards that incorporate all four ELA Common Core standards with your class!

    By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!

    A Quick Synopsis of The Tragedy of Macbeth (Contains Plot Spoilers)

    The Tragedy of Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare's best-known works. The shortest (and one of the bloodiest) of Shakespeare's tragedies, the story begins with victory and honors for the brave Scottish general, Macbeth. The play follows Macbeth's descent from noble soldier to nefarious traitor.

    As the play begins, Macbeth receives a prophecy from three witches that, one day, he will become King. This prediction inevitably consumes him with ambition and greed. Macbeth is further lead down his treacherous path by his wife, Lady Macbeth, who urges him to murder King Duncan and seize the throne without hesitation. Having done so, and ascended to the throne, Macbeth is consumed by guilt and fear. He becomes tyrannical, paranoid, and suspicious. He resorts to killing others to secure his place, and, as the bloodbath continues, this drives Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to arrogance, madness, and their eventual deaths.

    Macbeth’s good friend, Banquo also was also given a prophecy by the witches. They said that, although Banquo would never be a king, he would produce a line of kings. Banquo accepted this fate with patience while Macbeth took action against Banquo and his son, Fleance.

    Macbeth is not Shakespeare’s most complex play, but it is one of his most thrilling and emotionally intense. Shakespeare’s other major tragedies explore the intellectual dilemmas faced by the characters, while Macbeth meteorically rises and plummets from beginning to end.

    Essential Questions For Macbeth:

    1. How does ambition motivate people, as both a positive and negative trait?
    2. When do you feel guilt, and when do you experience remorse?
    3. To what extent, and in what ways does power affect a person's actions?

    Five Act Structure in The Tragedy of Macbeth

    A common activity using Storyboard That is for students to create a diagram of the five act structure to show the sequence of events from the play. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of a plot, but also to reinforce major actions from the play and help students develop a greater understanding of literary structures. Read more about the five act structure in our article!

    Act 1: The 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 (who 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.
    Macbeth - 5 Acts
    Create your own at ACT 1 ACT 2 ACT 3 ACT 4 ACT 5 Macbeth, I can't believe what Ross just said! The Prophecy is true- Thane of Cowdor. How can I be king someday? Lady Macbeth I am here to honor your husband! Malcolm and Macduff must regain control of Scotland...Macbeth is a tyrant and paranoid. Macbeth we had to Kill King Duncan, and we will have to kill others to keep our place on the throne! Lady Macbeth, I fear our murderous deeds. The battle is won! ALL HAIL KING MALCOLM! The tyrant and his fiend wife are dead. We shall tell Macbeth he will be Thane and king! As for Banquo he will have kings!


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    Character Reference Log for The Tragedy of Macbeth

    As students read, a storyboard can serves as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. When reading a play, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

    Using a character map for Shakespeare is often even more beneficial. It also allows students to record the nuances of characteristics which create "foil" characters. The information that they record will help them to return and review personalities that contrast. The ability to visually see this helps students create connections and makes understanding concepts easier.

    You can click on this map and create a copy on your teacher account. Feel free to use it as is, or to edit it for the level of your class. Printing it as worksheets, for your students to complete while reading, is an fast and easy way to incorporate this character map into your classroom.

    Macbeth - Character Map
    Create your own at Macbeth Lady Macbeth Banquo Fleance King Duncan Malcolm Donalbain The Three Witches MacDuff