What are 5 quotes from Macbeth that gives insight into the difficulty of the language, examines issues, human condition and english history of MacbethI'm arguing both for and against for an English...

What are 5 quotes from Macbeth that gives insight into the difficulty of the language, examines issues, human condition and english history of Macbeth

I'm arguing both for and against for an English essay on whether Shakespeare's plays should be taught in schools and I need a quote for each argument. I'm thinking of doing 2 arguments for Shakespeare and 2 arguments against Shakespeare but the quotes have to be Macbeth and it has to relate to the things I described above.

Asked on by kim-c

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dstuva's profile pic

Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Concerning Shakespeare's Macbeth, I'll cite one quote and explain the benefits of studying it. 

In Act 5.1, the Doctor and Gentlewoman witness Lady Macbeth sleepwalking.  Her words and actions demonstrate the extent of her guilt over having directly contributed to the assassination of Duncan, and indirectly contributed to the deaths of Banquo and Macduff's family.  While ringing her hands, trying to get imaginary blood off of them, she says:

Out, damned spot!  Out, I say!--One, two.  Why, then, 'tis

time to do't.  Hell is murky!--Fie, my lord, fie!  A soldier,

and afeard?  What need we fear who knows it, when none

can call our power to account?--Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.

The passage may be difficult because of the allusions, extensive use of dashes, the knowledge of previous content it requires in order to be understood, and the irony involved.     

But the rewards are well worth the effort. 

The passage alludes to and repeats the ideas revealed in the assassination and Macbeth's guilt-filled reaction to it (Duncan's blood on his hands).  It alludes to and repeats the ideas revealed by Lady Macbeth's urgings and words at the time of the assassination (about the dangers of being caught being worth the risk, and her manipulation of her husband).   The dashes represent turns and hesitations in Lady Macbeth's thoughts.  And the hand rubbing reveals the extent of her guilt, as well as the irony of her now being the one suffering guilt, instead of her husband.

To interpret this passage, students need to understand, apply, synthesize, and draw conclusions.  In only one short passage from the play, students use four of the six stages of learning from Bloom's famous taxonomy:  skills they will use the rest of their lives.

Not only that, but they also get to see Shakespeare present a case of O.C.D.-like symptoms--the hand rubbing--hundreds of years before modern psychology even had a name for the disease.

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lynnebh's profile pic

lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I will try to help you with the "against" argument, because it is the most difficult in my view.

I take it your argument for not teaching Shakespeare in schools is because of the difficulty of the language. I would like to say up front, that I do not agree with this, and it is my belief that although difficult, Shakespeare SHOULD be taught in schools.

There, I had to say that. I'm an English teacher.

But, back to your argument. The fact that oodles of "modern translations" exist to put Shakespeare's language into modern English could be a point you might use in the "against teaching" argument. You can find a modern translation of almost every Shakespeare play. In fact, right here on enotes, we have MANY "ehanced" versions of Shakespeare, attesting to the difficulty of the language. Also, you could argue that if Shakespeare's language is so difficult as to require modern translations, won't students get bored? And if they are bored and tune out, why bother? Teach literature that they can "get into" because it is written in modern English.

So, what you can do is go to the link below and look on the left column to find the original words. On the right, are the translated words into modern English. There are TONS of examples you could use. In fact, just in Act I, Scene I, I found:

When the hurlyburly's done;

I come, Graymalkin.

Paddock calls. Anon!

Do we know the meaning of the words "hurlyburly", "Graymalkin," "paddock" and "anon"? Probably not. So there you go.

As for the other points you mention, most of them would be arguments "for" teaching Shakespeare.........but..........you could argue that the history that Shakespeare presents in his play is "revisionist" - that is, some of the plays are based on historical events, but Shakespeare does not present the history "exactly" as it happened and puts thoughts into the characters heads that really were not true. Again, there is help right here on enotes at the link below under "historical background." Keep in mind though, that if you are doing a debate, you have to prepare for the opposing argument and for this point, the opposition would simply say, "It's a play! Everyone KNOWS it's fiction."

Good luck.

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