High school students often study Shakespeare's "Macbeth" as part of their English curriculum. The play covers themes such as free will, the corruption of power and the supernatural. In the story, three witches predict that Macbeth will become king. With the help of his wife, Macbeth murders and lies to gain the throne. Assign projects that help your students understand Shakespeare's use of tragedy to reveal important truths.
Organize a classroom debate to examine the role the three "weird sisters" play in "Macbeth." Students learn how to critically analyze passages and argue their points. Divide your class into groups of four or five students each. Half of the students in each group should present arguments showing that the sisters -- assumed to be witches -- determined Macbeth's fate. The remaining students must argue that Macbeth sealed his own fate. Students should use the sisters' conversations and Macbeth's reactions to support their arguments. Have each group vote on the most compelling arguments on both sides to share with the class.
Lady Macbeth Translations
Have your students translate Lady Macbeth's lines in Act V, Scene 1. The objective is to help them understand Shakespeare's language and specific word choices. Divide your class into pairs and ask each group to translate Lady Macbeth's words into vernacular that present-day high school students might use. Allow your students to use slang, but remind them that vulgarity isn't permitted. You might allow them to use the word "damned" because Lady Macbeth uses that word herself. Provide an example, such as "I can't get these horrible blood stains off my hands thanks to my murderous husband! I deserve hell for being a part of this." Ask the groups to read their finished translations aloud to the class.
Ask your students to find four examples from "Macbeth" where Shakespeare manipulates words to give them double meaning. For example, the drunken porter makes light of Macbeth's poor decisions and says, "Here you may roast your goose." The phrase refers to heating an iron in the fire for cooking purposes, but the line also means that Macbeth -- and others involved with the murders -- will have to pay for their actions. Have your students write one short paragraph for each example they choose, explaining the two meanings. Encourage them to use details, such as dialogue and character analyses, to support their understanding of the double meanings.
Make book jackets for "Macbeth" as if it were a new book release. Provide rectangular sheets of paper for your students to create their own decorative covers, brief author biographies and summaries of the play -- without giving away any spoilers. This project allows students to use their creative skills to illustrate and summarize the story, while learning about Shakespeare's background and purpose for the play. Students can choose to create their book jacket by hand or using computer software. Display the finished jackets on your classroom wall.
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