Study Guide


by William Shakespeare

Macbeth Essay - Critical Essays

Sample Essay Outlines

These analytical papers are designed to review your knowledge of the drama and apply that knowledge to a critical paper. The topics may request that you examine the conflicts, themes, or question a standard theory about the play.

Topic #1
The term tragic hero refers to a central character who has a authoritative status in the drama, but through a flaw in his or her character brings about his or her demise. The flaw may consist of a poor decision that is made and creates a situation the character cannot change or control. The tragic hero recognizes his or her flaw, however there is nothing that can be done to avert tragedy. Macbeth is seen as a tragic hero. Write a paper tracing the sequence of events that contribute to Macbeth’s demise and tragic end.

I. Thesis Statement: Macbeth is seen as a tragic hero. He compromises his honor and negates moral responsibility to attain power and position which result in his tragic end.

II. Definition and characteristics of a tragic hero
1. Fate
2. Weakness
3. Poor decision making resulting in a catastrophe
4. Realization of flaw but unable to prevent tragedy

III. The Witches
A. Plan to meet Macbeth
B. Statement that fair is foul, and foul is fair

IV. Allegiance to Scotland and Duncan
A. Battle with Macdonwald
B. Battle with the King of Norway
C. Duncan’s Response
1. Honor bestowed on Macbeth
2. Duncan’s opinion of Macbeth

V. Witches on the battlefield
A. The prophecy
B. Macbeth’s Response
C. Banquo’s Response

VI. Macbeth’s meeting with Duncan
A. Duncan greets Macbeth with respect
B. Macbeth’s reaction to Duncan naming Malcolm as his successor

VII. Decisions made before Macbeth is king
A. Lady Macbeth’s plan
1. Macbeth’s response
2. Lady Macbeth’s Influence on Macbeth
3. Macbeth’s decision
B. Eve of the Murder
1. Floating Dagger
2. Macbeth’s reaction
C. Duncan’s Murder
1. Murder of the guards
2. Response
D. Discovery of Duncan’s body
1. Macbeth’s reaction
2. Duncan’s sons
3. Macbeth named as king

VIII. Decisions made as King
A. Banquo
1. Fear of prophecy
2. Hires Murderers
B. Banquet
1. Reaction to Murderers
2. Ghost
C. Meeting with the Witches
1. Response to Prophecy
2. Macduff and family
3. Leaving for Dunsinane in England
D. Battle with Malcolm’s forces
1. Dunsinane prophecy
2. Young Siward
3. False sense of security
E. Reactions to Lady Macbeth’s illness and death
F. Meeting Macduff
1. Guilt
2. Revealing prophecy to Macduff
3. Macbeth’s realization that the Witches told him half-truths

IX. Macbeth’s tragic end
A. Macduff’s victory
B. Malcolm’s speech

Topic #2
Lady Macbeth is seen as a controlling factor in Macbeth’s life. She is able to control his actions and events. However, she loses control of Macbeth. Write a paper describing what control she has in Macbeth’s life and how the loss of that power contributes to her demise.

I. Thesis Statement: Lady Macbeth’s desire for power prompts her interest in controlling Macbeth’s actions. However, she loses control which contributes to her tragedy.

II. Introduction of Lady Macbeth
A. Reading Macbeth’s letter
B. Witches prophecy fulfilled
C. Opinion of Macbeth
D. Desire for Power
1. Strength needed
2. Her plan
III. Meeting with Macbeth
A. Affection towards each other
B. Lady Macbeth’s plan

IV. Power over Macbeth
A. Macbeth’s Decision about Lady Macbeth’s plan
1. Lady Macbeth’s response to Macbeth
a. Attacks...

(The entire section is 1614 words.)

Ed. Scott Locklear, Michael Foster