Activity Overview

Literary conflicts are another major element often taught during ELA units. Building on prior knowledge to achieve mastery level with our students is important. An excellent way to focus on the various types of literary conflict is through storyboarding. Having students choose an example of each literary conflict and depict it using the storyboard creator is a great way to reinforce your lesson!

In Macbeth, conflict is ever present. Much of the conflict stems from the three witches and Hecate, who toy with Macbeth, and ultimately hold back information that causes his downfall. Throughout each act, the witches give Macbeth a prophecy that comes true. However, in the end, they decide that they are upset with him, and choose to bring about his ruin.

Having students create storyboards that show the cause and effect of different types of conflicts strengthens analytical thinking about literary concepts.

Examples of Literary Conflict in Macbeth


Duncan's heirs come back to overthrow Macbeth.


Lady Macbeth begins to hallucinate, believing she has physical blood stains on her hands... ”why won't these wash off?”


By the end of the play, Macbeth is faced with the united armies of Scotland, led by Macduff.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows at least three forms of literary conflict in Macbeth.

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify conflicts in Macbeth.
  3. Categorize each conflict as Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Society, Character vs. Nature, or Character vs. Technology.
  4. Illustrate conflicts in the cells, using characters from the play.
  5. Write a short description of the conflict below the cell.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/11-12/1] Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain
  • [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)


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Types of Literary Conflict Rubric
17 Points
14 Points
11 Points
Try Again
8 Points
Conflict Identification
  • Student identifies correct major conflict and uses strong, clear textual evidence to support choice.
  • Student includes at least two clear examples of plot points that are a direct cause of the major conflict category.
  • Student identifies correct major conflict and uses few or unclear details to support their choice.
  • Student includes one clear example of plot points that are a direct cause of the major conflict category.
  • Student identifies incorrect major conflict, and uses some details from the text to support their choice.
  • Student includes only vague or poorly explained examples of plot points that are a direct cause of conflict.
  • Student does not attempt to identify major conflict or identifies incorrect major conflict with no explanation.
  • Student does not include any examples of plot points that are a direct cause of conflict.
  • Understanding Outcome
    Student clearly shows the outcome of the conflict and its effects on the protagonist with evidence from the text.
    Student shows the outcome of the conflict and its effect on the protagonist, but some evidence is unclear.
    Student shows the outcome of the conflict, but does not examine its effect on the protagonist and uses some vague textual evidence.
    Student does not clearly show the outcome of the conflict or use textual evidence.
    Student includes at least one quote, with proper punctuation and page #, from the text that deals directly with the events presented in the storyboard.
    Student includes at least one quote, but it is not directly relevant to the events presented in the storyboard, or has an error in punctuation, page #, etc.
    Student includes quote, but it contains errors or is not at all related to events presented in the storyboard.
    Student does not include a quote.
    Storyboard includes all required characters and clearly names them. Goes above and beyond by adding details or names of additional characters.
    Storyboard includes all required characters, clearly named.
    Storyboard includes protagonist and antagonist but leaves out other required characters.
    Storyboard does not include the names of required characters.
    Student clearly shows effort to convey the setting the scene of the book
    Student attempts to convey setting and scene of the book, but lacks some clarity.
    Student does not clearly convey the setting and scene.
    Student makes little or no attempt to convey the setting or scene.
    Spelling and Grammar
    Student uses exemplary spelling and grammar. There are no errors.
    Student makes a minor error in spelling and grammar.
    Student makes several minor errors in spelling and grammar.
    Student makes many errors in spelling and grammar; little attempt at spellchecking.

    How to Teach Literary Conflict with a Focus on Character Motivations


    Introduction to Character Motivations and Conflict

    Begin the lesson by discussing the concept of character motivations and how they drive conflicts in literature. Introduce the play "Macbeth" and key characters. Explain that students will be analyzing conflicts in the play by delving into the motivations of the characters. Provide a brief overview of the selected scene or conflict you'll be focusing on in this lesson.


    Reading and Analysis

    Assign a specific scene or conflict from Macbeth to the students. Ensure the scene highlights character motivations leading to conflict. Instruct students to read the scene carefully and identify the characters involved, their motivations, and how these motivations lead to conflict. Encourage them to take notes and jot down key quotes that reveal character desires and goals.


    Group Discussion and Character Motivation Analysis

    Organize students into small groups and have each group discuss the motivations of the characters involved in the assigned scene. Ask students to consider the following questions: What are the character's desires or goals in this scene? How do these desires conflict with those of other characters? How do the character's motivations drive the conflict? Facilitate a class discussion where each group shares their findings and insights, emphasizing the impact of character motivations on the conflict.


    Individual Character Motivation Essays and Conclusion

    Assign students to write individual essays that analyze the character motivations in the scene they studied. Encourage students to explore how these motivations shape the characters' actions and decisions, ultimately leading to conflict. Conclude the lesson with a class discussion where a few students share their essays and insights on character motivations and conflicts.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Literary Conflict in Macbeth

    What is the central conflict in "Macbeth," and how does it drive the plot of the play?

    The central conflict in "Macbeth" revolves around Macbeth's internal struggle between his unbridled ambition and his moral conscience. This internal conflict drives the entire plot as Macbeth's desire for power leads him to commit heinous acts, setting off a chain of events that culminate in tragedy. His inner battle between ambition and guilt is the engine that propels the narrative and ultimately results in his downfall.

    What are some key external conflicts in "Macbeth" that involve power struggles and opposition between characters?

    Several external conflicts in "Macbeth" stem from power struggles and opposition between characters. The primary external conflict is the power struggle between Macbeth and Macduff, who represents the opposition to Macbeth's tyrannical rule. This conflict is a manifestation of the broader struggle for power, where Macbeth's ascent to the throne sparks resistance and rebellion. Additionally, the conflicts between Macbeth and Banquo, as well as between Macbeth and Malcolm, illustrate the power struggles that shape the play's dynamics.

    How can worksheets foster discussions about the impact of the conflicts in "Macbeth" on the characters' moral dilemmas and the overall themes of the play?

    Worksheets are valuable tools for engaging students in discussions about the moral dilemmas arising from the conflicts in "Macbeth." These worksheets can include questions that prompt students to consider how the characters' actions are driven by their internal and external conflicts. By exploring the characters' moral choices, students can delve into overarching themes such as the corrupting influence of ambition and the consequences of betrayal. These discussions help students connect the conflicts to the play's broader themes, enhancing their understanding of the complex moral landscape of "Macbeth."

    Are there any minor characters in "Macbeth" who play significant roles in the conflicts, and how do they influence the main characters' decisions?

    While Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are central to the conflicts in the play, minor characters like the witches and Lady Macduff play significant roles in influencing the main characters' decisions. The witches' prophecies trigger Macbeth's ambition and set the conflicts in motion. Lady Macduff, through her innocence and vulnerability, serves as a contrast to Lady Macbeth, highlighting the moral consequences of the characters' actions. These minor characters have an indirect yet impactful influence on the conflicts and the decisions of the main characters, contributing to the play's complexity and depth.

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