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Nice guy, rubbish king? How does Shakespeare present King Duncan in “Macbeth”?

The question of what makes a good leader is central to the plot of Macbeth, and Shakespeare presents his audience with overlapping and contrasting examples of premiership which are used to reveal different virtues and flaws. If Macbeth is overly ambitious, he is also courageous and can – at least initially – command the respectContinue reading “Nice guy, rubbish king? How does Shakespeare present King Duncan in “Macbeth”?”


Macbeth’s “poisoned chalice”: an analysis of Act 1 Scene 7

Macbeth’s soliloquy in Act 1 Scene 7 is a moment of extreme uncertainty. The audience witnesses the great war hero pacing the stage, equivocating about the potential murder of his king, his kinsman, and his guest in a way that seems surprisingly indecisive for someone capable of “unseam[ing]” an opponent “from the nave to theContinue reading “Macbeth’s “poisoned chalice”: an analysis of Act 1 Scene 7″

“Macbeth”: Why did Shakespeare include Donalbain?

The inclusion of Donalbain in Macbeth seems to me to be a curious decision. He is glimpsed amongst King Duncan’s entourage early in the play, and is given only a handful of lines when the murder is discovered in Act 2 Scene 3. Yet whilst in Shakespeare’s version Donalbain is portrayed as cowardly and weak,Continue reading ““Macbeth”: Why did Shakespeare include Donalbain?”

“Macbeth”: To what extent does Shakespeare present Malcolm as a good leader?

Central to Macbeth is the question of what makes a good leader? A country fractured by political and military conflict, Shakespeare’s Scotland is in desperate need of a strong monarch who can unite the thanes and repel invading forces. Yet despite there being a host of possible candidates for this position, from the outset ofContinue reading ““Macbeth”: To what extent does Shakespeare present Malcolm as a good leader?”

“Macbeth”: “She should have died hereafter”

Whenever I show GCSE students clips of the Trevor Nunn production of Macbeth, theyalways react to the intense relationship between the title character and Lady Macbeth.The physical closeness of Ian McKellen and Judi Dench on stage is a clear dramatizationof the love between the power-hungry couple, and is replicated in subsequentproductions (such as the 2015Continue reading ““Macbeth”: “She should have died hereafter””

“Macbeth”: Banquo’s ghost

This week, after watching a clip of Act 3 Scene 4 of “Macbeth”, I asked my Year 11 class an impromptu question: Why does Macbeth see Banquo’s ghost, and not Duncan’s or Macdonwald’s? It turned out to be one of the most successful questions I had asked this very quiet and diligent group of students.Continue reading ““Macbeth”: Banquo’s ghost”

“Macbeth”: “When shall we three meet again?”

When I first ask a class what they know about Shakespeare and his work, a recurring motif in their responses is the witches and their spells. These scenes seem to echo through my students’ cultural consciousness, playing a significant role in shaping their understanding of a what makes a Shakespearean tragedy. What my students rememberContinue reading ““Macbeth”: “When shall we three meet again?””