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Cranston High School West Library: Perentin - Macbeth

Essay Prompts

Preliminary Essay Assignment

Directions: Because writing a research paper involves utilizing both primary and secondary sources, it is important for you to develop a sound argument before attempting to incorporate other people’s opinions. For this assignment, you are to write a multi-paragraph essay utilizing only Macbeth to answer one of the following prompts. These are your research paper prompts and this essay is the first step in the research paper process.

1. Do the witches (or weird sisters) control the events in the play? Why or why not?

2. Does Shakespeare want us to believe that the witches are real, supernatural, and/or projections of Macbeth's imagination?

3. What is the function of (dramatic, situational, and/or verbal) irony in the play?

4. What kind of marriage do Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have? Do you think it is a good one? Why or why not?

5. How would you characterize Lady Macbeth? Does her appearance in the sleepwalking scene alter your perception of her from previous scenes? Why or why not?

6. One of the major themes in Macbeth is appearance vs. reality. What effect do the episodes or instances dealing with appearance vs. reality have on our understanding of the play?

7. What is the purpose of comedy and the comedic characters in Macbeth?

8. What is the importance of imbalances of nature in Macbeth?

9. Macbeth is the central character in the play who is described as both brave Macbeth and butcher Macbeth. Which of these descriptions fits Macbeth best?

10. Who is responsible for Macbeth’s downfall? (The witches, Lady Macbeth and/or Macbeth himself?)

11. How is the mood of evil developed in Macbeth? (Consider the setting, themes, actions of the characters, etc.)

12. What is the importance of the supernatural elements in Macbeth? How do they affect the action of the play?

13. The theme of sleeplessness is introduced early in the play and carried throughout. What causes these sleep disturbances? What ends them for each of the characters involved? Is sleep regarded as a soothing balm for a life well-lived? (Remember that sleep is often another metaphor for death.)

14. Some playgoers and readers say that Lady Macbeth is the reason that her husband murders King Duncan. Others claim that the killing was his responsibility alone. What do you think?

15. How is Macbeth an example of a Shakespearean tragic hero? What is his tragic flaw and how does it affect the events of the play?

16. Do gender roles actually have an impact upon the course of events in this play? (Consider, for example, the roles of Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff—and even the witches)

17. The characters and actions of the play Macbeth suggest very strongly what qualities a good king needs to have. What are those qualities, and who, if anyone possesses them? (Consider comparing Duncan, Macbeth and/or Malcolm)

18. What is the purpose of soliloquies in Macbeth? How do they reveal the stages in the process of Macbeth’s and/or Lady Macbeth’s downfall or moral decline?

19. In what ways is Shakespeare significantly changing the original historic record of the real Macbeth in his play?

20. What would have been the attitude of Shakespeare’s audience toward the supernatural events in Macbeth? After all, three witches, a ghost, and extremely odd events in nature are included for a reason. Explore what those reasons are.

Research Assignment Requirements

* The paper you produce must have 3 secondary sources plus the primary one—Macbeth for a total of 4 sources minimum.

* All sources must be authoritative; that is, they MUST be scholarly. You may not use sources outside of the library databases or library books unless approved by the teacher in writing. Avoid using .com, .net, .org type websites outside the school databases. Sources that are a full-length chapter or article in a book or periodical pertaining to your topic will be more helpful.

* You may not use anything from Wikipedia or any encyclopedia. You may not use any material from Spark Notes, Cliff’s Notes, Pink Monkey, or any other commercially prepared study guide of that nature. Other unacceptable sources include plot summaries such as Bloom’s “Plot Summary,” Foster Masterplots, and

* Your final essay must be 3 full pages typed (5 pages max.), not including the Works Cited page which should be the last page of your paper.

* No paper will be considered for grading without submission to

e-Book = "How to Write About Shakespeare's Tragedies"

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  1. Type in How to Write About Shakespeare's Tragedies in the "Find" field above and click Title.
  2. Click on "Open"
  3. Log in: your username is chw followed by your student ID number (ex. chw12345) your password is your date of birth (ex.012199)
  4. Check out the book.
  5. The chapter on Macbeth begins on page 152.

This is how to cite this source:

Gleed, Paul. Bloom's How to Write about Shakespeare's
Tragedies. Chelsea House, 2010. Digital File.


Print Sources for Macbeth

Bloom's Literature

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