Macbeth close reading assignment

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Presentations begin Wednesday, Feb. 12 with Act 2, Scene 3, lines 106-116. I will announce the rest of the schedule on Monday, Feb. 10.

  1. Read your passage to the class.
  2. Give a 1-2 sentence snapshot summary of the passage.
  3. “Translate” the passage or explain what’s going on, including the context (what has just happened before this speech).
  4. Identify the importance of the passage. Does it reveal Shakespeare’s tone? Is it a pivotal moment? Is it especially revealing of a character’s “character”? Is it a critical moment in the tragic hero’s journey? Does it reveal the theme of the play?
  5. Analyze how Shakespeare uses diction, literary devices, rhetorical techniques, poetic devices, etc. to convey the importance of the passage.


Close reading of Macbeth 2.1.33-64

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K. Harger


AP/UCONN English Literature

6 February 2014

Macbeth Act II, Scene 1, Lines 33-64

            In this scene, Macbeth is hallucinating a dagger as he experiences his final moments of hesitation – and resolve – before murdering Duncan. Just prior to this soliloquy, Macbeth is speaking with Banquo, who is also at Inverness (the Macbeth home). He is trying to ascertain if Banquo still believes in the witches’ prophecy. After Banquo leaves, Macbeth “sees” a dagger floating in the air in front of him; he tries and fails to grab it (lines 33-34). He wonders if the dagger is a supernatural apparition (“fatal vision”) or a hallucination brought on by his own internal conflict (“a false creation / Proceeding from the heat-oppresséd brain?”). He pulls out his own (very real) dagger and declares the imaginary dagger is there to lead him onward in his murder of Duncan. He then sees the dagger dripping in blood (“dudgeon gouts of blood”) and determines that it is his own internal conflict causing the hallucination (“It is the bloody business which informs”). He notes that now that it is night, evil doings are afoot, such as witches casting spells, murders, and rapes (the allusion to Sextus Tarquinius’ rape of Lucrece in line 55). He asks the earth to mute his steps so no one hears him approaching Duncan. He tells himself to stop hesitating – that the deed will not be accomplished unless he acts (“Whiles I threat, he lives / Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives”). A bell rings – the signal from Lady Macbeth that Duncan’s guards are in a drugged sleep – and he affirms his intent to kill the king (“I go, and it is done.”). Read more

1-22-14 Macbeth prompt

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1-22-14: Have you ever faced a situation in which you wanted something from someone but realized it would be best to pursue it indirectly rather than asking for it outright? If not, can you imagine such a situation? Describe your indirect approach for getting what you wanted, or write a brief dialogue between two characters in which one person attempts this with another.

1-21-14 Macbeth prompt

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1-21-14: Write three sentences often said to you by someone close to you: a parent, a brother or sister, a friend. Indicate the typical inflection and meaning for each; then vary the inflection and tell how this changes the meaning.

1-16-14 Macbeth prompt

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1-16-14: Choose two of the characters you have met to this point and draw of cut from a magazine (or download) a picture of them. Under each picture, list three words that capture the character’s personality.

1-13-14 Macbeth prompt

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1-13-14: Has there ever been a time in your life when someone told you that something improbable would happen and it did? Did the fact that the event was “predicted” cause you to behave differently than you have otherwise and make it more likely for the event to occur? Or did the event simply seem to occur without any assistance from you? Recall what happened and include your feelings when you heard the event predicted and when it occurred. If you do not have a personal story, then you may use a friend’s story or make a connection to another text.