What is a good discussion question for Shakespeare's Macbeth, Act I, Scenes i through iii?
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I think that a fairly good starting point for discussion would be with the role of the witches. Do they tell the future or create it? From this, we can move to Macbeth's association with the witches. How does Macbeth seem to view his freedom in light of the witches' prophecies? Where does the acting upon his autonomy seem to lie with such conditions as the witches' prophecies and the ideas of what they are presenting? Another discussion point would be in what the witches predict for Banquo, in terms of him being happier and more successful than Macbeth but lacking the name and stature of Macbeth. I think that this discussion point is an interesting one. Is it better to be famous through the ages or to be happy without any fame attached to one's name? It might be interesting gauge if people seek immortality or happiness and if there is a trade off between them, which do individuals choose?
Act One of a play should accomplish two important things:
- Introduce all the main characters and give the audience some idea of what kind of people they are.
- Introduce the main problem or question of the play -- a question that the main character will grapple to solve or overcome throughout the play's events.
So, I would ask some questions that relate to these two things. Here are some suggestions.
- Duncan is introduced in Act I, scene ii. What sort of king does he appear to be?
- Why does the play open with the Weird Sisters on a battlefield?
- What do Macbeth and Banquo make of the prophecy that they hear in Act I, scene iii? Are their reactions similar, different? Explain.
- What is the problem that is presented Macbeth once he hears the Weird Sisters' prophecies for himself and Banquo?
- Why is Lady Macbeth, a central character in the play, not introduced until near the end of Act I?
- Why is Macduff, a central character in the play, not introduced until Act II, scene iii?
For more on the opening scenes of the play, please follow the links below.
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