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Macbeth is the story of a Scottish nobleman, related to King Duncan of Scotland, who is tempted into murdering the king to gain the crown for himself. He is aided by his wife, both of whom are honored and respected members of the aristocracy. He is one of the greatest defenders of his nation — and is willing to sacrifice such honor up for absolute dominion — even giving up eternal life. He sells his soul to gain the world, and loses all.
Shakespeare based his play on an actual Scottish king, Macbeth of Moray, who ruled Scotland from 1040 – 1057 , and by all accounts was a just and honorable ruler. While there exists some common ground between the historical and the dramatic, there are far more points of contrast to examine. The following quest will allow students to explore many of the facets of the historical and dramatic Macbeth, and share their findings with classmates in a variety of innovative and creative ways.
You will be divided into eight possible research teams. Each team will be researching some aspect of either the historical Macbeth’s life or of Shakespeare’s play. Research sources will include links to research sites and classroom resources / books. These links will be posted on the class website. Each team will present / teach their findings to the class and provide presentation notes either as handouts, on the blackboard, or on your personal blogs. All slideshows will be posted here on mrpuley.ca.
- Team 1 will compare and contrast the background of the historical Macbeth with the portrayal in Shakespeare’s play.
- Team 2 will examine the use of the supernatural in Macbeth. Research areas will include the origin of the witch story from Holinshed’s Chronicles, witchlore of the Celts, and views on witchcraft during the Renaissance.
- Team 3 will examine the character of Macbeth as a Tragic hero/villain (psychological profile).
- Team 4 will examine the character of Lady Macbeth, comparing and contrasting her with her historical counterpart, and analyzing her nature and relationship with Macbeth.
- Team 5 will examine imagery and symbolism in Shakespeare’s play, focusing on clothing, food, and blood imagery (food and blood both vital symbols of life).
Team 6 will examine the symbolism/ importance of children within the play.
Team 7 will examine the legend of Macbeth as a cursed production.
Team 8 will examine Christian symbolism/ Biblical imagery within the play.
The Presentation & Report
Part One – Present to the class
Each team will present / teach their findings to the class and provide presentation notes either as handouts or on the blackboard.
You must use Google Slides to present your findings to the class; but you should consider incorporating video, live dramatization, artwork, audio, etc. to present the material you have learned in creative and dynamic ways. You must provide a Reference List of works cited composed of both on-line and text resources in MLA format (last slide).
*Each student must have their own responsibility (divided equally) in the presentation – you will be graded individually on the rubric provided.
Part Two – Report
Following the presentation, you will submit your written report to me. It must include all of your findings, in your own words (do NOT cut-and-paste), under appropriate sub-headings, with appropriate references and a ‘References Cited’ page (*only reference what you use – not every site you visit).
You must complete the report using Google Docs. One group member should create the document and share with the rest of the group (…and me). I will be checking regularly to monitor progress, offer support, and to assess group / individual contributions.
*The report will be graded individually by contribution and commitment to the project, but must have unity and cohesion. Individual students will not receive credit if they do not contribute to the project!
Each team will receive a collective grade based upon the following criteria. If for some reason a problem develops within a group (where it is perceived that a group member has not done his/her share of the work), please notify me well before the date of your presentation so I may make the appropriate adjustment.
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As a result of this research activity, you should have acquired a variety of skills. You will continue to hone your research skills (Internet and from books of literary criticism), your ability to work together in a collaborative effort, your ability to evaluate research materials, and your presentations skills – building the knowledge of your peers in a clear and organized fashion.
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Credits & References
Ms. Deborah L. Borden
New Bedford High School