Book Blogging: A Dramaturgy Packet for Macbeth

Hello Everyone!

I think that Macbeth really is a great play for fall. It’s got a Halloween vibe with all the ghosts, witches, and murders. Yet I still can’t find anyone to dress up with me as the apparitions for Halloween. What gives?Last year in APLit we read Macbeth in class and I know a lot of other schools do too. To help you out in English class this year, I decided to share a  mini dramaturgy packet I made in my Shakespeare class last year.

Last year in APLit we read Macbeth in class and I know a lot of other schools do too. To help you out in English class this year, I decided to share a  mini dramaturgy packet I made in my Shakespeare class last year. This took me a look time to make (I went through the play and found every bird reference. Be gentle if I missed a few) and I hope this helps you with your classes this year! It’s not complete by any means, but I think I got the main points across.

At this point, you may be thinking, “Yes Katie! Thank you so much for saving my English grade! But what’s dramaturgy?” That’s actually a pretty tough question since dramaturgs have a lot of different roles and specialties, but for our purposes, a dramaturg is the person who helps bring a playwright’s vision to life. A lot of the time (I’m speaking from experience here),  dramaturgs help craft educational materials for the rest of the cast and crew to explain the social and historical context of the play and other things such as symbols, themes, and motifs. This packet isn’t only good for the theater, though. Chock-full of everything you need to know about Macbeth, this packet will be sure to help you in your English class too.




  • Born in 1564
  • Most likely would have attended Stratford grammar school; there he would have acted in and written Latin plays
  • Married Anne Hathaway in 1582
  • Wrote 37 plays
  • Died in 1616


  • Shakespeare had no direct descendants
  • Some historians have suggested that his relationship with his wife was strained because he lived in London, while his wife and children lived in Stratford




  • After Elizabeth I died, James I took the throne; it is rumored that he is a descendant of Banquo and Malcolm III
  • Because he was not a direct descendant of Elizabeth, many felt that the throne did not belong to him
  • James writes the Basilikon Doron, in which he claims the ideal king does his duty to God and his kingdom
  • Also writes the Daemonologie about the supernatural
  • James was involved in witch trials; belief in witches was widespread and women were regularly burnt at the stake
  • James claimed that once witches tried to sink his ship; this was immortalized in Macbeth in 1.3
  • Gunpowder plot- 1605 Guy Fawkes and others attempted to blow up Parliament and the King
  • “The Great Chain of Being” – idea that God created a hierarchy within the world for all humans. To try escaping your station was considered a sin.
  • By writing Macbeth, Shakespeare validates James’s claim to the throne, repudiates civil dissenters, and justifies the burning of witches



  • Born in 1005, real name was Mac Bethad mac Findláich
  • In August 1040, he kills the current king Duncan I in battle and becomes king
  • He marries Gruoch, the daughter of a nobleman, which strengthens his claims to the throne
    • She has one son from a previous marriage
  • Ruled for 14 years, known for his efficient government and promotion of Christianity
    • Led several successful campaigns in Northumbria
  • Challenged by Siward, Earl of Northumbria, in 1054 in an attempt to restore Malcolm III, Duncan’s son to the throne
    • Macbeth died at the Battle of Lumphanan in 1057 by Malcolm III


  • Duncan I is the grandson of Malcolm II
    • Some historians argue that Macbeth is also the grandson of Malcolm II
  • King Duncan reigns from 1034-1040 after Malcolm dies in battle
    • Because Duncan is so young, the early part of his reign is uneventful
      • He has two sons Malcolm III and Donalbain
  • Macbeth is a duke
  • Duncan leads an army into Moray, Macbeth’s territory, and is slain in battle by Macbeth
  • Macbeth assumes the throne with little resistance and rules from 1040-1057
    • Was known for promoting law and order and Christianity
  • Dies in 1057 after being killed in battle by Malcolm III, and is succeeded by his stepson, Lulach.
    • Lulach reigns for eight months before being assassinated and usurped by Malcolm III




“I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on the other.” ~ Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 7, Lines 25-8.

Ambition is what causes both Macbeth’s rise to power and his downfall. At the beginning of the play, it is said that Macbeth is ambitious and dangerous on the battlefield, but he is a loyal friend of the king, who might even be his successor. It is not until the witches’ prophecy that Macbeth’s ambition is sparked. He kills Duncan to become king, and numerous other innocent victims meet their death at the hands of Macbeth so that he can cement his rise to power. Macbeth’s reign as the king doesn’t last long, though. His reign doesn’t survive the end of the play, and control of Scotland is turned over to Malcolm, Duncan’s true successor. Lady Macbeth, who encouraged Macbeth to follow through with his plans, is haunted throughout the play by their evil acts. Because Macbeth’s reign is punctuated with murder, and Lady Macbeth is troubled by her past actions, the play is a cautionary tale of overreaching ambition. Some ambition is okay- especially when that ambition is not self-serving, but instead, serves one’s country- as evident through the character of Macduff, but Shakespeare argues that too much ambition can be dangerous. This warning could stem from the Guy Fawkes’s Gunpowder Plot. By illustrating Macbeth’s downfall as a result of his ambition, Shakespeare rejects the idea of civil dissent, which also validates the reign of James I.


“Foul whisperings are abroad: unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles”~ (5.1)

In Macbeth, the three witches are portrayals of the three fates. They are the ones who suggest to Macbeth that he will become king. It is because of their influence that Macbeth murders Duncan, Banquo, and Macduff’s family. As their spiral into madness begins, the Macbeths begin to talk like the witches, proving that the witches have full control over the Macbeths’ lives. Lady Macbeth begins to hallucinate, once again proving the supernatural’s control over her life, and this eventually leads her to her death. Also, it is the prophecies given by the apparitions that cause Macbeth’s downfall. The apparitions claim that Macbeth can be killed by no man of woman born and that he will be king until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. Macbeth believes in the prophecies so much that he becomes overconfident and is defeated in the final battle of the play. Before he dies, Macbeth says “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/ And then is heard no more: it is a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/ signifying nothing” (5.5.25-31). Here Macbeth is saying that it was actually the witches who told the story or controlled his life, and Macbeth was just an actor.


  • The civil war in the beginning of the play
  • Macbeth as a warrior on the battlefield
  • Macbeth’s murders
  • Bloody hands of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth
  • The final battle and death of Macbeth
  • The dagger speech
  • Banquo’s ghost
  • The sleepwalking scene
  • “The sleeping and the dead/ are but as pictures: ’tis the eye of childhood/ that fears a painted devil” (2.2.64-5)
  • Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor
  • Banquo’s heirs will be king
  • Birnam Wood
  • No man born of woman can harm Macbeth
  • “Yes, as sparrows, eagles, or the lion, the hare” (1.2.34-5)
  • “The raven himself is hoarse” (1.5.38-40)
  • “The temple-haunting marlet does approve” (1.6.4)
  • “It was the owl that shriek’d, the fatal bellman” (2.2.3)
  • “The obscure bird/ clamored the livelong night” (2.3.60-1)
  • “A falcon, towering in her place of pride/ was by a mousing owl hawk’d and killed” (2.4.12-3)
  • “Light thickens: and the crow / makes way to the rooky wood: / Good things of day begin to droop and drowse; / While night’s black agents to their prey do rouse” (3.2.53-6)
  • “If charnel-houses and our graves must send/ Those that we bury back, our monuments / Shall be the maws of kites” (3.4.70-2)
  • “By magot-pies and choughs and rooks brought forth” (3.4.124)
  • “He loves us not; / He wants the natural touch: for the poor wren / the most diminutive of birds, will fight, / Her young ones in her nest, against the owl” (4.2.8-11)
  • “How will you live? / As birds do, mother” (4.2.31-2)
  • “Poor bird! thou’ldst never fear the net nor lime” (4.2.34)
  • “Did you say all? Oh hell-kite! All? / What, all my pretty chickens and their dam / at one fell swoop?” (4.3.217-220)
  • “Geese, villian?” (5.3.14)
  • “The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon!/ Where got’st thou that goose look?” (5.3.12-4)
  • “Dearest chuck” (3.2.50)
  • “If you can look into the seeds of time, / and say which grain will grow and which will not” (1.3.59-60)
  • “I have begun to plant thee, and will labor/ to make thee full of growing.” (1.4.32-3)
  • “There if I grow/ the harvest is your own” (1.4.37-8)
  • “I will advise you where to plant yourselves” (3.1.143)
  • “To dew the sovereign flower and drown the weeds” (5.2.36)
  • “There’s no art/ to find the mind’s construction in the face” (1.4.13-4)
  • “Look like the innocent flower, / but be the serpent under ‘t” (1.5.73-4)
  • “False face must hide what the false heart doth know” (1.7.91-2)
  • “And make our faces visards to our hearts” (3.2.37)
  • “But I have none: the king-becoming graces” (4.3.103)
  • “Let every soldier hew him down a bough,/ And bear ‘t before him: thereby shall we shadow/ The numbers of our host, and make discovery/ Err in report of us.” (5.4.6-9)
  • “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/ And then is heard no more: it is a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/ Signifying nothing” (5.5.26-31)
  • “And yet your beards forbid me to interpret/ that you are so” (1.3.46-7)
  • “Which would be worn now in their newest gloss” (1.7.36)
  • “Let old robes sit easier than new” (3.1.49)
  • “Why do you dress me/ In borrow’d robes?” (1.3.112-3)
  • “Stars, hide your fires;/ Let not light see my black and deep desires” (1.4.57-8)
  • “And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell” (1.5.55)
  • “Nor heaven peep trough the blanket of the dark” (1.5.57)
  • “The moon is down” (2.1.2)
  • “Their candles are all out” (2.1.6)
  • “Come, seeling night, / scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day” (3.2.51-2)
  • “Hell is murky” (5.1.33)
  • “Out, out brief candle” (5.5.25)
  • “I ‘gin to be a-weary of the sun” (5.6.54)
  • “the fog and filthy air” (1.1.11)
  • “Yet do I fear thy nature; / It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness” (1.5.16-7)
  • “Come to my woman’s breasts,/ And take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers” (1.5.51-2)
  • “We are men, my liege” (3.1.98)
  • “Are you a man?” (3.4.68)
  • “And keep the natural ruby of your cheeks,/ When mine is blanch’d with fear” (3.4.134-5)
  • “But I must also feel it as a man” (4.3.258)
  • “That I may pour my spirits in thine ear/ And chastise with the valor of my tongue/ All that impedes thee from the golden round” (1.5.26-8)
  • “I dare do all that at become a man;/ Who dares do more is none” (1.7. 50-1)
  • “Mark Anthony’s was by Caeser” (3.1.61)
  • “There the grown serpent lies” (3.4.33)
  • Seyton
  • “Why should I play the Roman fool” (5.8.1)
  • “Memorize another Golgotha” (1.2.44)
  • “Bellona’s bridegroom” (1.2.61)
  • “Will plead like angels” (1.7.20)
  • “Pale Hecate’s offerings” (2.1.60)
  • “Tarquin’s ravishing strides” (2.1.63)
  • “I could not say ‘Amen,’/ when they did say ‘God bless us!'” (2.2.35-6)
  • “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood/ Clean from my hand?” (2.2.73-4)
  • “I’ the name of Beelzebub?” (2.3.3-4)
  • “Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope/ the Lord’s anointed temple” (2.3.73-4)


  • Foul weather occurs throughout the play, but most notably in the first scene with the witches, after Duncan’s death, after Banquo’s death, and the thunder when the apparitions predict the future.
  • The weather is reflective of the violence of Macbeth’s actions that happen throughout the play
  • Also is an example of pathetic fallacy
  • Blood is present throughout the play, but is especially apparent in Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene and Macbeth’s dagger speech.
  • Macbeth’s bloody hands
  • Representative of the Macbeths’ spiral into madness and their guilt
  • “Macbeth does murder sleep” (2.2.34)
  • The sleepwalking scene
  • Sleep represents innocence and peace of mind, something that both of the Macbeths lose after killing Duncan
  • Lady Macbeth, after witnessing Macbeth’s reaction to Banquo’s ghost: “You lack the season of all natures, sleep.”(3.4)
  • Hallucinations are very prominent in the play, from the dagger Macbeth imagines before murdering Duncan and the images the witches conjure up to speak to him
  • The dagger speech: “Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible/To feeling as to sight? or art thou but/A dagger of the mind, a false creation” (2.1)
  • The three apparitions that prophesize Macbeth’s future
  • The ghost of Banquo
  • Macbeth after murdering Duncan: “Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!” (2.2)
  • Lady Macbeth hallucinates blood on her hands and tries to wash it off in her sleep: “Out, damned spot! out, I say!–One: two: why, then, ’tis time to do’t.–Hell is murky!”(5.1)

Here’s a presentation version :


Should I make a printable PDF version of this? Let me know in the comments!