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Macbeth: Sample Study Questions and Answers

written by: Terry Ligard • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 6/6/2012

Review these important questions from Macbeth to secure your understanding of the play and prepare for an essay or test.

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    Act I

    1. What mood is established at the beginning of the play? How does Shakespeare develop this?

    At the beginning of the play, a sinister and mysterious mood is established. This is initially presented by thunder and lightning that starts in scene i. Such weather symbolizes unnatural elements at play. Indeed, this materializes in the form of the witches, as they symbolize evil. Furthermore, the contradictory words spoken by the witches expresses disorder and chaos. "Fair is foul and foul is fair" (line 11) emphasizes this to a large extent.

    2. The importance of Macbeth's aside should not be overlooked. What does it show us about the nature of Macbeth's ambition?

    This soliloquy shows us ambition has a strong influence on Macbeth. In fact, it seems he is taken over by it--the need to murder the king to satisfy the third prophecy revealed to him by the witches. Therefore, his ambition can be perceived as a flaw as it is putting Macbeth in an uncontrolled and unnatural state of mind.

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    Act II-III

    3. In Act II, what is Macbeth questioning about the dagger he sees before him?

    When Macbeth suddenly sees an illusion of a dagger pointing him towards Duncan's bedchamber, he tries to grasp it, but can't. Then he asks himself what it is he is beholding, for it is simply an illusion of the mind. Seemingly, Macbeth questions his sight and reason. In fact, it appears he doesn’t know whether to trust himself. This soliloquy serves to provide suspense before the murder. Again, an inner conflict is raging in his mind, of whether or not to commit murder.

    4. What is the purpose of the porter scene?

    The purpose of the porter scene is to bring a change of tone into the play. After the dark tone of the previous scenes, this scene introduces good-natured comedy. Nonetheless, the jokes made also comment on the play's theme.

    5. What does the escape of Fleance symbolize for Macbeth?

    The escape of Fleance represents a possible threat to Meacbeth, for the prophecy regarding Banquo's children leading a line of kings could still be fulfilled. Moreover, Fleance's escape brings about the initiation of Macbeth's decline, as this is the first time he has failed in executing his plans to perfection.

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    Act IV-V

    6. Shakespeare has created a variety of short scenes that cut back and forth. What is his purpose in doing this?

    Shakespeare has made the scenes cut back and forth so that he can instil a feeling of urgency, tension, and anxiety in the audience.

    7. Explain how the apparitions' prophecies are fulfilled.

    The first apparition is of Macduff, armed and warning Macbeth. This comes to happen at the end, when Macbeth meets his end at Macduff's hands. Another apparition is of a bloody child, who reveals a prophecy that none of a woman born will harm Macbeth. This comes true, for young Siward battles him and is killed. However, Macduff isn't woman born and succeeds in killing Macbeth. Thirdly, a child crowned and holding a tree warns Macbeth that he will not see his demise unless when Birnam Wood comes against him. This happens, however, when Malcolm’s soldiers use wood as camouflage, march to Macbeth’s castle, where he is killed.

    8. State two themes that dominate the last part of Act V, scene iii.

    One theme is loyalty. This is emphasized after Macbeth's death, in which the leaders of the army are victorious, and a sense of loyalty to the cause of Scotland's well-being is strongly felt by everyone, especially after defeating Macbeth the tyrant. Another theme is restoration of order, after Malcolm promises the establishment of peace and order in the lives of his subjects.