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Macbeth by William Shakespeare

asteriskI have put asterisks by my favorite activities and assignments.


asterisk32-Second Macbeth lesson from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Famous as way to introduce the play.

60-Second Macbeth Newsletter from the BBC.

Act-by-Act Quotations includes the most important quotes in the play.

Historical Context from Gale Research Literature in Context covers the background of the play.

Holinshed’s Chronicles, the source of Macbeth, is analyzed in detail by Shakespeare Online. Exerpt “The Murder of King Duffe”.

Geographical Picture.

Macbeth: Scotland’s Last Celtic King.

Plot Synopsis.

Laying the Foundation Vocabulary — definitions, pronunciations, sample sentences.

Macbeth Parts lists all the parts in the play so students can sign up for reading aloud.

asteriskMemory Work (“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…” V, v, 22-31)

Performance History covers the historical background and traces the versions and adaptations of the play.

asteriskQuoting from Macbeth demonstrates rules for quoting from a Shakespearean play.

Trial Simulation for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth — in-depth full class activity with detailed directions for two trials.



Anticipation Guide and Pre-Reading Questions introduce major themes addressed in the play.

asteriskMacbeth’s richness in imagery lends itself to analysis. (This is my primary emphasis when I teach the play.)

asteriskAnalyze the Arguments offers rhetorical topics for each act (developed by Marcie Belgard).

asteriskEnvelope Activity includes fourteen close reading topics to focus student note-taking and discussion (developed by Marcie Belgard). Allows multiple ways to organize students into groups as well.

asteriskComposition Assignments for each act require a paragraph response, total of 30 for play. Scene by Scene Questions are more numerous, but less in-depth.

Highland School’s Study Questions are 85 questions that check recall and comprehension for the whole play.

Is this a murderous villain I see before me? No, it’s a cuddly, peace-loving king. Analyze this Times article about the Scottish Parliament’s efforts to clear Macbeth’s name.

Lady Macbeth & How to Get What You Want is a detailed lesson on her persuasive techniques (from the British Council).

asteriskScene Analysis allows students to choose a passage for in-depth analysis.

asteriskResponding to Critics requires students to analyze six literary criticism statements about the play.

Macbeth Crossword Puzzle (free from Prestwick House).


caricatureEssay Assignments

asteriskAP Prompts — eight previous open prompts particularly well-suited to Macbeth. Handout can be used as an final exam for the play, or to train students to apply AP style prompts to a familiar title.

Character Essay and Plan Page — Macbeth or Lady Macbeth.

asteriskImagery Essay and Plan Page — Analyze imagery in the play.

Essay Prompts developed by Donna Tanzer offer a wide range of possible topics, not necessarily AP level.

Macbeth Soliloquy Analysis -- Close examination and annotation, leading to an analysis of the effect of literary and rhetorical devices in a major soliloquy.

Compare and Contrast Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with Macbeth. Also applies the Hero’s Journey motif.

asterisk When MIT chose Macbeth as its All School Read for incoming freshmen, each student had to select one of these MIT Essay Topics. MIT also provided a set of Discussion Questions which would work well with AP or Regular classes.



Pawâkan Macbeth

newPawâkan Macbeth draws upon Cree legends and traditions. Development. Indigenous playwright Reneltta Arluk sets Pawâkan Macbeth in Cree territory in 1870s Alberta, where Macbeth is the cannibal spirit, Wihtiko. Strangely compelling Zoom Scene introduces the cast and makes the connection through actor discussion.

Students could be asked to explore ways that this storyline could be adapted for other times and other cultures. Several possibilities are discussed elsewhere on this webpage.


Creative Projects

Acting Presentation & Rubric lists approved scenes for student performance.

Macbeth Body Biography Project from Teachers Pay Teachers includes templates with basic designs for the art-challenged.

Casting Major Characters asks students to justify cast selections for major roles.

Freeze Frame is a tableau activity to help students make meaning of text. Can be used with multiple scenes, various plays.

Macbeth Masks uses Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “We Wear the Mask” as a springboard for an original illustrated poem relating Dunbar’s poem to masks worn by either Macbeth or Lady Macbeth.

Macbeth Mandala Project includes directions, samples, and a grading rubric.

Macbeth One-Pager -- a written and graphic presentation of your understanding of the play. Have fun. Templates available.

asteriskMacbeth Persona selects five particularly appropriate assignments from the Autobiography Portfolio to be written assuming the persona of either Macbeth of Lady Macbeth. (My favorite creative project.)

Macbeth Portfolio lists multiple challenging projects in three required categories — Art/Graphics/Design/Audio, Creative Writing, and Analytical Writing.

Special Student Projects offers a dozen activities from each of four categories: the Historian’s Studio, the Artist’s Studio, the Writer’s Workshop, and the Speaker’s Platform.

Movie Trailer Project requires students to actually produce a movie trailer for a film version ofMacbeth. Includes directions and rubric. Great website with tips for making trailers -- “ 9 (Short) Storytelling Tips From A Master of Movie Trailers” PDF.

washAdditional Activities are performance-centered, having students imagine staging, costumes, and music; improvisations in character; group presentations of five significant tableaux; a soliloquy dramatization; statue gallery illustrating specific quotes. Unlike other assignments.

Literary Criticism

A set of critical articles on Macbeth can serve as a controlled research paper packet, much like the Synthesis Essay on the AP Languge test. Since I provide the research, I can more easily teach proper use of integrating quotes for evidence and protect against plagiarism. Background and context essays could also be part of the packet.

Critics’ Comments -- a one-page set of exerpts; could be used to introduce the play.

The Land of Macbeth -- Seven essays -- pyschoanalytical, Christian, deconstruction, feminist, new historical, Marxist and structuralist. No idea of the original source.

Multiple Critical Perspectives (Prestwick House) -- feminist, psychoanalytical, and new historicism. Includes several activities for each critical lense.

Bradley Oxford Lectures -- Seventeeen short lectures

asteriskMy Research Packet -- Twelve Essays for a controlled research paper.

Macbeth Quote Reponse offers seven analytical quotes and requires applying each to the play. Could be a good group activity to teach evidence citation.


classicJust for Fun

asteriskClassics Illustrated, the original series, helps students visualize the staging very effectively. Example page.

asteriskJames Thurber’s “Macbeth Murder Mystery,” originally in The New Yorker, offers a humorous investigative approch to Duncan’s death. An in-joke that only makes sense if you know the real Macbeth.

Not Exactly Macbeth from TeachIt is a clever poetic retelling of the play.

Scots on the Rocks, a parody by Richard Nathan.

Macbeth’s Twitter Feed -- yes.

McSweeney’s Letter from the Condo Association to Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth is only funny if you know the play well!

TV Tropes for Macbeth -- A trope is a storytelling device or convention, a shortcut for describing situations the storyteller can reasonably assume the audience will recognize. This site collects them, for the fun involved.

Who Are You in Macbeth?deathclock


Good Tickle Brain offers up a stick-figure Macbeth, scene by scene, plus much more. One-Page Summary of the Whole Play. Even Macbeth Valentines. Seriously. Click on Death Clock thumbnail to see full-size image.



The Macbeth Navigator from Shakespeare Navigators is impressive. Includes a scene index to go directly to any scene, a search engine for any word in the play, a character index of all appearances and all mentions of a character, notable quotes annotated, links to passages particularly relevant to significant themes and motifs, and more.

Shakespeare Online has a dedicated section for Macbeth, which includes the full text with interactive annotations and commentary for every scene in the play. Emphasizes background and context, as well as literary elements. A favorite page is an analysis of the Biblical allusions in Macbeth.

asteriskEd Friedlander, the Pathology Guy, has a unique approach which is actually particularly appropriate for this play.

Emory University has a special page dedicated to Macbeth Paintings, illustrations of characters and scenes in the play.


The Text




Hands (or ears) down, the Paul Scofield 1966 BBC radio reading of Macbeth is the best. It is available free from Youtube and as audio files for each scene from Amazon.


Teacher Guides

College Board Special Focus article on “The Importance of Tone” uses Macbeth as its exemplar text.

English Journal approaches both Othello and Macbeth as performances in “Imaginative Departures with Two Shakesperean Plays.” Workshop handouts from the authors.

Applied Practice has a set of 10 passages with AP style multiple-choice questions and excellent answer explanations. These do not work as a simple reading check. Sampler.

Course Hero (28 pages) includes a study guide and an infographic, particularly good at quotation and scene analysis. Most of their materials can be accessed for free.

The Folger Shakespeare Library has offered teachers units twice, each slightly different. Old and New.

Gale Shakespeare for Students has an extensive analytical guide (64 pages). Probably more than we really want to know.

Hofstra University Guide (21 pages) includes three pages of critical exerpts and an overview of the play’s controversial performance history.

Latitudes (60 pages) offers creative enrichment activities, including a massive list of student projects.

LitCharts has detailed activities for every scene.

LitPlan (140 pages) emphasizes recall and comprehension activities but is thorough and detailed. Teachers, contact me directly for answer keys.

Prestwick House Individual Learning Packet (87 pages) includes AP-style passages and multiple-choice questions.

Signet Classic Edition Guide focuses on language and dramatic interpretation.

Standard Deviants Video Guide includes activities that could also work without viewing the video.

Extensive anonymous guide, obviously by a teacher, includes a scene- by-scene  explanation, with analysis and debate/discussion points (57 pages).


Study Guides

  • Barron’s Book Notes (54 pages) does a particularly good job of explaining language and character. Removed at request of publisher.
  • Course Hero (28 pages) does an especially good job of analyzing quotes.
  • eNotes (171 pages) has scene and character analyses, sample quizzes, essay topics, and criticism.
  • Pink Monkey Literature Notes (40 pages) explains plot well. Removed at request of publisher.

Worksheets from a Special Source


I recently discovered TeachIt, a United Kingdom site (for their teachers) whose worksheets approach texts in a different way than we do. Though designed for their “regular” classes, the emphasis is usually on the kind of analysis we do in Advanced Placement classes. PDF files are free to download if you register. Here’s some of what they offer just for Macbeth:

Other titles are well worth exploring.



asteriskThe Animated Shakespearean Tales is a must-have. You can find a full version on YouTube, but quality is poorer than on a purchased copy.

asteriskCompare & Contrast presents five different film versions of the opening witch scene (I,i)

From Orson Welles to Michael Fassbender: More than a dozen versions of “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” (V,v). Patrick Stewart all by himself in clip from PBS version.

Shakespeare Uncovered has a series of video clips wherein Ethan Hawke explores the character and the play. Very much a performance approach to the play. Sometimes difficult to get access to through PBS.

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth films, Paul Duncan presents a history of film versions in his 18-minute review. Serves as a good introduction to the play. Definitely full of spoilers.

Trailers are also useful for introducing a play:

Cliff Notes and SparkNotes each have a short overview/review.

asteriskSky News has a superficially serious breaking news version of the events in the play. Exclusive interviews included. A must-see.

Macbeth Rap by Flocabulary is surprisingly catchy.

asteriskFolger Shakespeare Society’s Encore “Blood Will Have Blood” discusses the influence horror films had upon their gorey staging. OMG! Don’t turn out the lights! There are eight additional Encore scenes that nicely illuminate performance choices.

TED Talk: “Why Should You Read Macbeth?” -- great overview.

John Green offers Part I: Free Will, Witches, Murder and Macbeth and Part 2: Gender, Guilt and Fate

Thug Notes is one of those sites you love or you hate. Language may be inappropriate, but analysis is excellent.



Theater Guides

Teacher Guides developed by various Theater companies offer a different approach to the play. Many include excellent background material, as well as performance-oriented discussion and analyses. Even the interviews with actors and how they perceived their character and prepared for the performance can offer unique insights.


Films / Videos

Shakespeare’s Macbeth Films by Wordsmith -- An introduction to the play and an historical overview of several major film versions (Welles, Polanski, Kurosawa, Kurzel, etc.).

wellesOrson Welles (1948) had a particular affection for Macbeth, directing and playing the title role in his black and white feature film. Very dramatic, liberties are taken with plot and dialogue, but its high drama is still impressive.
spacer A lesser known Welles production, the 1936 stage version, commonly called Haiti or Voodoo Macbeth was part of the WPA. A short newsreel and an interview with the original players still survive.


Roman Polanski (1971) is famous for his adaptation’s copious amounts of bloody gore, expert use of location settings, and Lady Macbeth’s nude sleepwalking scene. Despite those warnings, students find it interesting. It would be wise to screen it before you show it.





Royal Shakespeare Company’s Macbeth (1979) stars Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen. Acting is excellent but staging is bare bones and the pace is slow.




Macbeth (2006) uses a modern-day Melbourne gangster setting, and the actors deliver the dialogue in Australian accents, but it largely maintains the language of the original play. Young actors and dark settings interest kids, but it is sometimes very hard to find. A major Australian version with dedicated teacher guide.



newMacbeth (2008), Folger Shakespeare Society’s Encore Performance, co-directed by Magician Teller, is influenced by horror films. Full play available on YouTube. Part I (Act I, scene i – Act III, scene iv) and Part II (Act III, scene vi – Act V, scene viii). NYT Review: “This Macbeth Goes for the Gore.”


Macbeth (2010) presents Patrick Stewart’s compelling performance as the ambitious general, with Kate Fleetwood as his coldly scheming, seductive wife. Modernized setting includes some really gruesome images.Kids love it. PBS broadcast the entire play, with an excellent teacher guide. Select scenes available for free. Entire play available on Amazon Prime or Apple TV+.New York Times review of performance.


fassbenderMacbeth (2015) showcases Australian Michael Fassbender in a cinematic big screen treasure. Variety praises it as “fearsomely visceral and impeccably performed, it’s a brisk, bracing update, even as it remains exquistely in period.” It takes some liberties with the back story, but kids love its grittiness (and, yes, goriness). May not be appropriate to show IN the classroom.cohen


new In Joel Cohen’s version of The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021), the lead actors give stellar performances. Black and white, on sound stages, with an almost square frame, this version may be challenging, since our students don’t always appreciate film noir. Available on Apple TV+. Variety review.


macbirdSatirical Adaptation

MacBird by Barbara Johnson is more for teachers, and older ones at that. MacBird is a 1967 political satire that superimposed the transferral of power following the Kennedy assassination onto the plot of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. This counter culture work depicted President Lyndon Johnson as Macbeth, and his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, as Lady Macbeth. Obviously controversial. (Note: If you have a new pristine copy, it could sell for $843 on Amazon.)



kurosawAdaptations work when the students read and understood the original play. Otherwise, they will miss the point of changes made.

asteriskWith Throne of Blood (1961), Kurosawa fuses Shakespeare’s great tragedies with the formal elements of Japanese Noh theater to make a Macbeth that is all his own—a classic tale of ambition and duplicity set against a ghostly landscape of fog and inescapable doom. Subtitles.



Men of Respect (1991) transports the play to a modern gangland milieu. Occasionally effective, this version is surely the most brazenly literal, with a jaw-dropping amount of anachronistic boogying by cast and crew.scotlandpa



asteriskThink of Scotland, PA (2001) as truck-stop Shakespeare. Macbeth is given a drive-through makeover as the deadliest of deadpan comedies. Bizarre methods of dispatch abound. This movie’s hilarious if you’re in on the joke.



Giuseppe Verdi’s Opera is accessible to students, available in many different versions. My favorite is Macbeth (2005) by the Glyndebourne Opera, which is readily available. Several complete operas are also available on YouTube, including this one with English subtitles. Four operatic houses have provided extraordinarily detailed and rich teaching guides: Michigan OperaMinnesota Opera House  Pacific Opera. and The Metropolitan. English translation of Verdi.


Yes, there is a Simpsons version called MacHomer.
Just a clip.


MacHomer has evolved (or devolved) into a short play, with a dedicated website, videos and and study materials. Kidtoons Video Stories, each less than five minutes, introduce Shakespeare and explain the play. Each Teacher Guide is 10+ pages of activities and handouts for younger students, but which are really fun, regardless of the student’s age.



asteriskI love infographs which can be hard to view on screen -- they need to be downloaded, printed,
and taped together to be best displayed.
(Click each image below to launch the full-sized infographic.)

The Scottish Play

scottish play

Course Hero Overview




newMacbeth Body Biography

body biography

Shakespeare’s Macbeth



Doodle Macbeth


newBill Shakespeare Project (TPT)






One Page Summary

one page

Character Map

character map

Study Web

study web

Macbeth’s Kingship






Two Sides of Macbeth

two sides

newMacbeth One-Pagers (TPT)

one pager


Poster Art

This frequently-performed play has inspired powerful posters. Some of these were designed for theater performances,
identified by theater; others for films, identified by director; a few are art projects, identified by artist.
Write an art analysis of your favorite, focusing on what the poster reveals about the play itself.
(Click each poster to see a larger image).
Remember: What is the effect of the poster and how is that effect produced?

Film Posters

Theater Posters

Orson Welles

Roman Polanski

Trevor Nunn

Geoffrey Wright

Rupert Goold

Rob Ashford

Michael Fassbender

Folger Theater

Hull Truck Theater

Landmark Pavilion

North Raleigh Arts

Orlando Shakespeare Festival

Rude Mechanicals

Saratoga Springs

St. Andrew Company

Troika Collective

Tulsa Performingg Arts

Art Posters

Ben McLeod

Ivan Misic

Peter Strain

Daniel Warren

If you download or print anything from this site, please consider making at least a $10.00 donation through PayPal.
I can maintain and expand this website only with your help.

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Updated 23 February 2024.

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