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Macbeth Act 1

The first of five courses!

This course covers Act 1 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Each class covers a new scene to assist students’ awareness of Jacobean context, staging, props and audiences. It is designed for Year 10s & 11s who are fairly new to the play but want to gain a solid understanding of the play

Session 1 – Act 1 Scenes 1 and 3


Two short extracts from Act 1 Scene 1 and Act 1 Scene 3 introduce the witches to us. We will read the extracts aloud as a group before considering Jacobean attitudes towards witches, Shakespeare’s use of lines, meter and language to construct these threatening, strange antagonists.

Session 2 – Act 1 Scene 3

Bravery and Loyalty

This extract occurs while King Duncan hears news of the battle against the ‘merciless MacDonald’, revealing the bravery and courage of Duncan’s warriors. We will read the extract aloud before considering Shakespeare’s use of punctuation, lines, staging, figurative language and foreboding.

Session 3 – Act 1 Scenes 4 and 6

Kingship and Duty

This 48-line extract depicts king Duncan’s decision to formally name prince Malcolm his heir, pronouncing him the Prince of Cumberland. We will consider the significance of kingship and duty before discussing the relevance of staging techniques, figurative language and the divine right of kings.

Session 4 – Act 1 Scene 5

Gender and Ambition

When Jacobean audiences first met Lady Macbeth, they would likely have had mixed feelings. After reading the extract aloud we will consider the importance of the soliloquy, stage directions, tone of voice, characters sharing lines, figurative language and foreboding.

Session 5 – Act 1 Scene 7

Scheming and Plot

By the end of Act 1, audiences would be very tense as they anticipate the Macbeths plot against Duncan. In this hour we will consider the rising tension in the plot, and look at Shakespeare’s use metaphors, repetition, personification and rhetorical questions to present the deceitful nature of the Macbeths.

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Macbeth Act 2

The second of five courses!

This course covers Act 2 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Each class chronologically continues through the play to assist students’ awareness of Jacobean context, plot progression, use of language and audience responses. It is designed for Year 10s & 11s who are new to the play but want to gain a solid understanding of the play.

Session 1 – Act 2 Scene 1

Loyalty and Duty

As Macbeth prepares to commit the most disloyal act imaginable for Jacobean society Banquo and Fleance display their mutual duty to one another in Fleance’s filial respect for his father and Banquo’s paternal care for his son. This session will reflect upon Shakespeare’s use of symbolism, figurative language and staging.

Session 2 – Act 2 Scene 2

Guilt and Gender

This hour’s extract depicts the tense guilty atmosphere that the Macbeths experience moments after carrying out King Duncan’s regicide. We will consider the significance of gender and religion in relation to the guilt that the Macbeths feel, looking at staging, atmosphere, symbolism and foreboding.

Session 3 – Act 2 Scenes 2 and 3

Religion and Tension

Scenes 2 & 3 of the second Act bring the notion of consequences and religion into sharper focus. The haunting guilt that the Macbeths evidently feel within Scene 2 is clear but the Porter’s supposed light comedy cannot alleviate audiences’ awareness of the horrifying event.

Session 4 – Act 2 Scene 3

Deceit and Disorder

Act 2 Scene 3 shows Macduff’s horrified discovery of Duncan’s corpse, the Macbeth couple’s deceitful scheme begin and the social disorder that follows an unjust regicide. We will consider the significance of figurative language and context, along with the importance of stage directions and tone of voice.

Session 5 – Act 2 Scene 4

Authority and Suspicion

Towards the end of Act 5 the Old Man, Ross and Macduff discuss the strangeness of events after Duncan’s abrupt death. After reading the extract aloud we will note the importance of minor characters, figurative language, the motif of birds within the play and the theme of appearance versus reality.

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Macbeth Act 3

The third of five courses!

This third course covers Act 3 of the Jacobean tragedy play Macbeth. Each class chronologically charts a new scene to pay attention to key quotes and important contextual points so that students may effectively study the play. It is designed for Year 10s & 11s who are new to the play and want to gain a solid understanding of the play.

Session 1 – Act 3 Scene 1

Judgement and Suspicion.

Suspicions are running high by Act 3 of the play. As a clear role model for loyalty and responsibility, Banquo displays a strong awareness of morality at the start of Act 3.  This session will reflect upon Shakespeare’s use of atmosphere, figurative language and the importance of private opinions versus public appearances.

Session 2 – Act 3 Scene 2

Fear and Sin.

By this scene, Macbeth has realised that he has lost control over his own spiral of sinful ‘deeds’. Lady Macbeth also begins to fear that they are losing control over the plotting and sin. In this hour we will consider Shakespeare’s use of figurative language, references to religion, and the relationship between two fearful sinners.

Session 3 – Act 3 Scene 3

Morality and Symbolism.

This hour covers the murderer characters in the play: we will discuss the themes of morality, guilt, and identity, focusing upon the dramatic techniques of symbolism, pathetic fallacy and references to animals. We will practice incorporating quotes from elsewhere to develop an effective planning approach.

Session 4 – Act 3 Scene 4

Tyranny and Duty.

We will consider Shakespeare’s use of staging, irony and context as Macbeth’s descent into guilty madness strains his new identity as a suitable king and respected husband. Lady Macbeth dutifully struggles to lessen the Lords’ suspicion of Macbeth’s when her increasingly tyrannical husband spirals out of control.

Session 5 – Act 3 Scenes 5 and 6

Supernatural and Blame.

While Hecate blames the witches for leading Macbeth to sin without her permission, Lennox and a Lord discuss whether the princes are truly to blame for Duncan’s regicide, exposing a countrywide suspicion that Macbeth is responsible for unnatural events since. We will focus on the use of characters, plot, rhyming and motifs.

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Macbeth Act 4

The fourth of five courses!

This course delves into further moving scenes within Act 4 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Continuing on with the play from our Act 3 course we will consider the importance of staging, audience responses and more characters like the witches, Ross, the Macduffs, the English king and Malcolm.

Session 1 – Act 4 Scene 1


By Act 4 Scene 1 the witches’ power over Macbeth is apparent. This extract will focus on the witches’ characterisations and of Jacobean attitudes towards witchcraft. It will also encourage students to consider how stage directions, songs, gesture and meter impacts both meaning and performance.

Session 2 – Act 4 Scene 1

Fate and Self-Control.

Macbeth’s discussion with the witches goes badly. Instead of receiving the reassurance that he had craved, the witches reveal that his actions have merely served Banquo’s line of succession, not his own. We will consider the importance of references to time, fate and self-control during this hour.

Session 3 – Act 4 Scene 2

Innocence and Loyalty.

This harrowing scene brings Macbeth’s monstrously guilty choice to ‘surprise’ Macduff’s innocent family into reality onstage. We will consider the significance of innocent characters in the play, before discussing instances of symbolism, the importance of tone of voice and boy actors in this class.

Session 4 – Act 4 Scene 3

Honesty and Monarchy.

This scene is a pivotal moment for our understanding of Malcolm’s nature. In Act 2 he was innocent, young and honest. By Act 4 he reveals wisdom by not trusting everyone's word at face value as his father Duncan had. We will focus upon listing, personification and important links to elsewhere.

Session 5 – Act 4 Scene 3

Guilt and Revenge.

The end of Act 4 reveals painful events for Malcolm. Having read the extract aloud we will consider how Malcolm and Macduff handle their grief differently, focusing upon tone of voice, personification, the motif of birds, references to religion and their separate ways of avenging injustice.

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Macbeth Act 5

The fifth and final class in this course series!

This last installment of the Macbeth course series brings our deep study of this Jacobean tragedy into fresh focus. We will explore the final nine scenes of the play in magnificently gory detail and reflect upon the importance of genre, language, context, staging, props and audience receptions.

Session 1 – Act 5 Scene 1

Guilt and Treason.

Lady Macbeth’s guilty conscience forces her to unwittingly reveal the horrendous treason each night. As the scene progresses, the doctor and gentlewoman realise that they are in a dangerous situation. They must choose to either morally ‘report’ Lady Macbeth or to amorally conceal her treasonous words.

Session 2 – Act 5 Scenes 2 & 3

Reputations and Fear.

As Malcolm’s thanes prepare for the imminent battle and Macbeth ‘fortifies’ his position at Dunsinane, we consider the importance of contrasting figurative language by the opponents, the importance of every reputation mentioned, and the key themes of fear, loyalty and power.

Session 3 – Act 5 Scenes 4 & 5

Tension and Irony.

The plot tension rises in Act 5 Scenes 4 and 5 as Malcolm reveals himself a clever, authoritative monarch just before Macbeth becomes extremely distracted by the horror of his wife’s unexpected death. We will focus upon dramatic irony and references to time and blame in this hour.

Session 4 – Act 5 Scenes 6 & 7

Courage and Honour.

These very brief scenes propel the plot into an atmosphere of swiftness and looming peril. Numerous avenging characters fill the scenes with a strong sense of Macbeth’s impending doom. The themes of courage and honour will be addressed alongside stage directions, figurative language and settings

Session 5 – Act 5 Scenes 8 & 9

Justice and Kingship.

The final scenes supposedly right Macbeth’s wrongs. Macduff avenges his family’s slaughter, killing the tyrannical Macbeth. Malcolm becomes Scotland's king. Macbeth’s tragic fall is depicted onstage as the prophecies are realised. We'll recap the act, then focus upon the cycle of kingship, hamartia, and historical backgrounds.


If you enjoyed this course series...

Go for the Booster Course!

Top up your knowledge with the Macbeth booster class!

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