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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.
Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 11-12

Difficulty Level 4 (Difficult / Complex)

Type of Assignment Individual or Group

Type of Activity: Tragic Hero

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

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", 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.


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

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The Tragedy of Macbeth

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