1. What effect do the witches' prophecy have on Macbeth? On Lady
2. Do you think that the tragedy would have occurred without the
prophecy? Does the prophecy leave room for choice? Would this be
a tragedy, if the actions of the tragic characters were fated?
3. What do Macbeth's musings in his soliloquy at the beginning
of Act I, scene 7 indicate about time? What do they indicate about
Macbeth? How does the human relation to time play a role in this
4. When Macbeth says, "I dare do all that may become a man,"
what does he mean? Does Lady Macbeth use "man" in the
same way her husband does? Does Macbeth prove himself a man in the
scene with Lady Macbeth immediately after he murders Duncan? How
does the play equivocate on the meaning of man?
5. Is Macbeth a religious man? Why does Lady Macbeth advise him
not to consider the matter "so deeply"? (Act II, scene
6. Why does Macbeth kill Banquo and try to kill his son?
7. Analyze what the exchange between Malcolm and Macduff reveals
about each of their characters.
8. What qualities does Malcolm show in his testing of Macduff?
9. What qualities does Macduff look for in a good ruler? What are
the virtues of a ruler that emerge from this exchange, and how do
they differ from those Machiavelli praises in The Prince?
10. Why does Shakespeare include this scene in the play? How does
it provide relief for the audience from the horrors of Macbeth,
and suggest a similar relief for Scotland in the future?
11.Could you argue that Shakespeare's play is not only about what
constitutes a bad ruler but what constitutes a good ruler?
12. Why does Shakespeare include the passage about the British
king, Edward the Confessor, in this play? Does Shakespeare offer
a number of different kinds of rulers for our consideration? What
do we learn from this?
13. Discuss Shakespeare's presentation of illness and healing in
this play, Edward's healing the body and the doctor's inability
to heal Lady Macbeth's soul? Does Shakespeare as a tragic poet offer
any kind of "healing" to his audience?
14. Does Macbeth's famous "tomorrow, and tomorrow" soliloquy
present Shakespeare's view of human life? How is Shakespeare's play
not "a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/ Signifying
1. How do the issues of Shakespeare's play overlap with those of
Machiavelli's Prince and Plato's Apology?
2. Would Machiavelli approve of Macbeth's actions? What advice
would he give him? In what ways is Macbeth a Machiavellian figure?
Does he demonstrate what happens when one separates politics from
morality in the way that Machiavelli did? On the other hand, how
does Macbeth fail to live up to Machiavellian standards?
3. Discuss whether Shakespeare's Macbeth serves as an
implicit criticism of Machiavelli's Prince.
4. How would Socrates respond to the prophecies of the witches?
How would his response differ from Macbeth's?
5. Compare the place of religion in Macbeth with its place
in Machiavelli's Prince and Plato's Apology.
6. What figure, if any, in Macbeth, resembles Socrates?
7. Does Shakespeare's concerns in Macbeth come closer
to those of Machiavelli or Plato?
8. Do Malcolm and Macduff escape Socrates' charge that politics
is corrupting? How? Will Malcolm be able to remain a good man as
king? (Was Macbeth not thought to be virtuous at the beginning of