High School Essay Topics Macbeth

Macbeth Essay

Choose one of the following topics for your essay. Develop it thoroughly and specifically with "sparkling prose." This is half of your semester exam grade.

1. In many works of literature, the main character is developed partially through the use of a "foil,' that is, a character who, by providing a strong contrast to the main character, underscores the characteristics of the main character. In a well-organized essay, discuss the ways in which either Banquo or Macduff serves as a foil to Macbeth. Draw evidence from the play to support your assertions. Do not merely summarize.

2. Some readers argue that Macbeth was completely a victim of the Witches' misleading prophecies (and later, of Lady Macbeth's manipulation). Others argue that the Witches and Lady Macbeth simply provided the impetus to Macbeth's carrying out his own desires. In a well-organized essay, discuss which position you consider to be most accurate. Support your points with evidence from the play.


So, here's the deal...

The above was the original assignment, but then I got to thinking...maybe the above two topics do not buzz your buzzer. There is the issue of the supernatural in the play...then there is the character of Lady Macbeth, the most dominating female in all of Shakespeare's plays, who basically disintegrates before our eyes as the play goes on...then there are the themes of blinding ambition and appearance vs. reality and good vs. evil and the destructive force of power and the influence of superstition and on and on and on...then there are the powerful images and motifs...then there are the soliloquies...

Well, you get the picture...

So I decided to let you pick a topic, one about which you have at least a smattering of interest, and plan an essay about it. You must make a statement about the topic and defend it with specific support of two kinds, quotes from the play itself and commentary from an outside source. We will be in the library the week we come back from Christmas break. The essay in word processed, double-spaced format will be due at the end of the week on Friday. You may work on it between now and then as much as you like. You will also need to turn in a copy of the article that you use for a source in the essay. So, essentially, the opinions in the essay will be yours, the interpretation will be yours, the thoughts will be yours. You will just validate them from the play and source. (Or you can disagree with the source, if you wish.)

In case you are thinking...I think I will just exempt...not so fast...you will still have to write this essay. It will count as a test grade or as half of your semester exam. So choose wisely and have fun!

Additional Resources



1. Discuss how two of the following influenced Macbeth's actions in the play Macbeth: the witches, Lady Macbeth, Macbeth's own ambitions

2. Shakespeare's women are not slaves or subordinates to the men in the plays. They are complete characters in their own right; they influence other characters, and by so doing they influence the plot; they have dreams, ambitions, feelings, and desires; they are capable of sin and guilt, as well as joy and love; they (like men) can become tragic figures. With specific reference to scenes and events in the play, discuss how much of this is true for Lady Macbeth.

3. Sometimes a person's actions are determined largely by some aspect of his character, sometimes by some external force or forces exerting pressure on him, and sometimes by a combination of both. Using the character of Macbeth, illustrate whether the motivations for the actions of the character are internal, external, or both. Refer to specific incidents in the play and support your answer.

4. Themes or messages are very important to Shakespeare's plays. Discuss fully the development of one major theme or message the play has for its audience. 

5. The idea of deception—that is, things are not always as they seen—is presented in Macbeth. Using specific references, trace the theme of deception as it is presented in the play.

6. To what extent is Lady Macbeth responsible for Macbeth becoming king of Scotland? Use specific evidence from the play to support your answer.

7. Below is a passage taken from the play. Answer the following questions about it: Who is speaking? What is the situation in which this passage is spoken? In your own words, summarize what is being said. Finally, with specific references to the plot of the play, explain the significance this passage has to the theme and to the character.

“I have almost forgot the taste of fears;                
The time has been, my senses would have cool'd                
To hear a night-shriek, and my fell of hair
would at a dismal treatise rouse, and stir                
As life were in it; have supp'd full with horrors:                
Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts,              
Cannot once start me.” 

8. One of the themes of Macbeth is that wrongdoing has serious consequences. Discuss this statement with careful reference to the play and to the decline of both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth.

9. The misfortunes that befall us are sometimes due to our own acts and sometimes due to fate or ill luck. By referring to Macbeth explain the situation the character finds himself in and the extent to which the character is responsible.

10. By referring to Lady Macbeth's actions, thoughts and words and the things that are said about her, develop a character sketch of her.

11. One of the themes of Macbeth is that our actions have certain consequences, and that some of these consequences can be terrible and unexpected. Discuss this statement with reference to both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

12. A writer such as Shakespeare was able to create in the reader a feeling (such as respect, sympathy, love, hate, admiration, or several of these together towards one or more characters. Choose a character in the play and write your feelings towards that character and explain how the author managed to make you feel as you do.

13. Macbeth has not been a scoundrel all of his life. Instead he is a good man who has gone wrong. This is a real tragedy. Discuss this statement by focusing on Macbeth's good qualities some of which are used for the wrong purposes. 

14. Shakespeare not only presents the actions of characters but also helps us to understand what motivates characters to act in the way that they do. Discuss the factors that motivate Macbeth's own ambitions.


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