Activity Overview

The Tragedy of Macbeth is full of common literary elements that are important for students to explore. Because this is one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies, it is often beneficial for students to understand why is it is categorized as such. One of the main reasons is because it contains a tragic hero. This is a protagonist who is typically of noble birth and seems to be ill-fated and destined for doom. In this play, it is clear that both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth fit this description.

The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle was the first to record the specific attributes or principles of a tragic hero. For the storyboard above, students use a template to storyboard the qualities that make Macbeth a tragic hero. The finished product outlines each of Aristotle's principles with a detailed explanation of the specific attributes.

Macbeth as a Tragic Hero

HamartiaFlaw in the Character The Three Witches tell Macbeth a prophecy that causes Macbeth to take matters into his hands (ambition).
HubrisExcessive Pride Macbeth’s pride combines with his ambition, and that of his wife. They plot to kill the current king so that he can usurp the throne. "How can I be king someday?"
PeripeteiaReversal of Fortune After killing the king and numerous others, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth become suspicious and paranoid. "Lady Macbeth, I fear our murderous deeds."
AnagnorisisA Moment of Critical Discovery Macbeth discovers that the former king's son is planning a rebellion against him.
NemesisFate that Cannot be Avoided "The battle is won! ALL HAIL KING MALCOLM! The tyrant and his fiend wife are dead."
CatharsisAudience's Feeling of Pity or Fear After the Hero's Fall In the end, the witches' final prophecy comes true and Macbeth is killed. The audience is left with the feeling of pity and relief that Macbeth and his wife are dead.

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 how Macbeth can be considered a tragic hero.

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify events of the play or characteristics of Macbeth that fit into Aristotelian attributes of a tragic hero.
  3. Illustrate examples for Hamartia, Hubris, Peripeteia, Anagnorisis, Nemesis, and Catharsis.
  4. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates Macbeth as a tragic hero.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [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/W/11-12/7] Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation
  • [ELA-Literacy/SL/11-12/4] Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks


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

Tragic Hero Rubric Template
Create a storyboard that shows how the protagonist can be considered a tragic hero using Aristotle's Characteristics
Proficient Emerging Beginning Needs Improvement
Tragic Hero Characteristics
The six tragic hero characteristics are correctly identified and portrayed from the story. The explanation provided explains how the scenes depict each characteristic, and shows effective analysis.
Four or five tragic hero characteristics are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or some of the elements may not be identified correctly. The explanations give context to the scene, but may be minimal, and there is some attempt at analysis.
Two or three tragic hero characteristics are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or most of the elements are inaccurately depicted. The quotes and/or explanations are too minimal.
One or fewer tragic hero characteristics are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or most of the elements are inaccurately depicted. The quotes and/or explanations are minimal or missing altogether.
Artistic Depictions
The art chosen to depict the scenes are accurate to the work of literature. Time and care is taken to ensure that the scenes are neat, eye-catching, and creative.
The art chosen to depict the scenes should be accurate, but there may be some liberties taken that distract from the assignment. Scene constructions are neat, and meet basic expectations.
The art chosen to depict the scenes is inappropriate. Scene constructions are messy and may create some confusion.
The art chosen to depict the scenes is too limited or incomplete.
English Conventions
Ideas are organized. There are few or no grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas are mostly organized. There are some grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas may be disorganized or misplaced. Lack of control over grammar, mechanics, and spelling reflect a lack of proofreading.
Storyboard text is difficult to understand.

How to Teach Character Connections of Macbeth as a Tragic Hero to Other Tragic Figures


Introduction and Comparative Discussion

Begin the lesson by introducing the concept of a tragic hero, defining the qualities and characteristics that define this archetype. Provide a brief overview of Macbeth as a tragic hero, emphasizing his character traits and tragic flaws. Initiate a discussion about other well-known tragic heroes in literature and ask students to share their thoughts on characters they are familiar with.


Comparative Analysis and Reading

Distribute texts or excerpts featuring other tragic heroes like Hamlet or Oedipus Rex. Encourage students to read these excerpts independently or in small groups. Provide a character profile template that students can use to compare Macbeth and the tragic figure from the text they are analyzing. Use visual aids or charts to facilitate comparisons, highlighting common traits, motivations, and flaws.


Group Discussion and Analysis

Initiate a group discussion where students share their findings and insights about the connections and differences between Macbeth and the other tragic figure. Use the whiteboard to create a visual comparison chart or diagram based on students' input, allowing for easy reference. Encourage critical thinking by asking questions like, "How do their tragic flaws impact their stories differently?"


Individual Reflection and Conclusion

Assign students a brief written reflection in which they summarize their key observations about the character connections. Encourage them to express their thoughts on why understanding tragic heroes is important in literature. Conclude the lesson with a class discussion to summarize the character connections between Macbeth and other tragic figures.

Frequently Asked Questions about Macbeth as a Tragic Hero

What is the definition of a tragic hero, and how does Macbeth fit this archetype?

A tragic hero is a character of noble birth or high status who possesses a fatal flaw (hamartia) that leads to their downfall. Macbeth exemplifies this archetype as a Scottish nobleman whose unchecked ambition, his tragic flaw, drives him to commit regicide and a series of heinous acts, ultimately resulting in his tragic fate.

How does the concept of free will versus determinism play a role in Macbeth's tragic journey?

Macbeth's journey is shaped by a tension between free will and determinism. While he is influenced by the prophecies of the witches, he still has the agency to make choices. His ambition and actions are driven by his own decisions, showcasing the interplay between personal choices and predestined elements in his tragic journey.

What role does Lady Macbeth play in Macbeth's tragic journey?

Lady Macbeth plays a pivotal role in Macbeth's downfall. She goads him into pursuing power at any cost and questions his masculinity when he hesitates to commit murder. Her influence on Macbeth's decisions and her own descent into guilt and madness contribute significantly to the tragic path he follows.

How does Macbeth's story serve as a cautionary tale for the audience?

Macbeth's story serves as a cautionary tale by illustrating the destructive consequences of unchecked ambition and the corrupting nature of power. It warns the audience about the perils of sacrificing morality for personal gain and the moral decay that can result from such choices.

This Activity is Part of Many Teacher Guides

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