For this unit we will be watching the 2015 Kurzel movie version starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. It is imperfect, so we will supplement it with clips from other movies and with text from the play.



When this movie fails us, we will be filling int he gaps with the 1971 Roman Polanski version. We will not be watching the whole version of this movie because WOW! some scenes are a bit rough.

Opening Scene - Witches

Why witches? King James is the king of England and Scotland when Shakespeare writes this play. He writes this play to suck up to King Jame.

  • King James was fascinated by witches, so there are a lot of witches in the play (unfortunately, King James hates witches, so therefore hated their inclusion in the play).
  • Banquo is an ancestor of King James.
  • It is Shakespeare's shortest play because James has a short attention span.

The witches make a huge impact on the whole mood of the play, so choosing how to interpret them is key to a movie's success. Here are three different movies and their approach to Act I scene i:


When Shall We Three Meet Again activity

Two other opening scenes:

































Full soundtrack of the 2015 movie




We made our own movie of this in 2003. The class did Act V in the Lord of the Rings setting. Lots of fun. Sadly, the film is lost to posterity. :(
We based it off of a student project that did Star Wars Macbeth.

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Opening Battle Scene - The Battle of Ellon

Here is the opening crawl:

Civil war rages in Scotland.
The traitor Macdonwald leads mercenaries against King Duncan.
Few remain loyal to the crown.

Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, leads a weary army.
The king has sent him his last reserves.
The war will be decided at the battle of Ellon.



Social Media Worksheet

How is this different from the play? Well, there are two traitors in the play - Macdonwald and the Thane of Cawdor. Also, the play does NOT mention that few are loyal - in fact, from the play, it seems that a large majority of Scotland is loyal to King Duncan. This changes the movie at bit because now Macbeth has a reason to not like Duncan and Duncan is just a fool for trusting the wrong people.

Whatever the case, the important thing is to know that Macbeth is a hero in every sense of the word. He fights for what is right against overwhelming odds, he does not back down in the face of opposition, and he serves his country. For this he gets rewarded by the title of Thane of Cawdor.

Why that is important:

  • This is a huge step up from Thane of Glamis
  • Thane of Cawdor is the third in line from the king, but right now it is second in line because even though Duncan has two sons, neither have been named as heir to the crown (Prince of Cumberland), so if anything happens to the king, the Thane of Cawdor is the new king (which is why the old Thane of Cawdor participates in the civil war.


The Witches Prophecy

We already know that the witches are bad news (they are witches) and that they want to meet up with Macbeth. They are going to plant the seeds of discord into this hero's head.



When he comes, they call out to him and call him:

  1. Thane of Glamis (which he already is and knows it)
  2. Thane of Cawdor (which we know he has been promoted to, but he does not)
  3. King

This clip leaves out that Banquo wants in on the fun and asks about his own future. They say several things, but the most important is:

  1. Thou shall 'get kings, though thou be none

They think this is all a joke until the Thane of Ross and the Thane of Angus ride up and greet him as Thane of Cawdor. So now, could he be king?


Big point in the play:

  • Macbeth doesn't believe in what the witches said until one part comes true. Now he starts thinking about being king.
  • If someone becomes a king, that means the old king must die. Macbeth immediately starts thinking that he will have to kill the king.
  • He comes to his senses and says these words: "If chance will have me king, then chance will crown me without my stir." This is important. It shows what sort of man Macbeth is.
  • He is fine until Malcolm is named Prince of Cumberland - heir to the throne.


Lady Macbeth's Freaky Unsex Me Soliloquy

A soliloquy - a speech made by a character when he/she is alone on stage. Why is this important? Because it is only then that we can truly trust what the character is saying.

The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry 'Hold, hold!'


Missed this day in class? Complete this worksheet.

Watch it: (you may want to get to the 1 minute 30 second mark)


When he balks at her plan, Lady Macbeth questions his manhood, but that doesn't work. Then she attacks him with the "you promised" angle. Listen to what she says:

What beast was ’t, then,
That made you break this enterprise to me?
When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place
Did then adhere, and yet you would make both.
They have made themselves, and that their fitness now
Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know
How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me.
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.


The Dagger Soliloquy

OK, so Macbeth has decided to kill the king. The plan? Lady Macbeth gets the guards drunk, rings a bell, Macbeth goes in to kill the king, and plants the daggers on the drunken guards. What could go wrong? Well, Macbeth, for starters. He is starting to feel very guilty. Here is his soliloquy:

Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going;
And such an instrument I was to use.
Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses,
Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,
And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
Which was not so before. There's no such thing:
It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes. Now o'er the one halfworld
Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate's offerings, and wither'd murder,
Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,
Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.
With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design
Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
And take the present horror from the time,
Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.
[a bell rings]
I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell.

Watch it two ways. Once without the dagger at all and another with the dagger:

No dagger:


Allowing the audience to see what Macbeth sees:

Here is what follows - the big question is, why did Shakespeare opt to not show this scene in the play?

The next morning, Macduff and Lennox come to wake the king. They mention several things of importance that happened the night before. They are:

  • Harsh winds - enough to blow over chimneys
  • Strange noises - the wind sounded like crying and death screams
  • Eerie voices that sounded as if they were prophecying
  • Owls hooted all night long (remember the symbolism)
  • The earth shook as if it had a fever

Remember the theme of the land and the king are one from Excalibur?

Macduff goes in to wake the king and discovers him murdered. This sets off a chain of events:

  • They wake everyone up
  • Lady Macbeth acts all innocent and sad
  • Lennox claims that the guards killed Duncan, so Macbeth, in a false sense of rage, goes and kills them for it (and thus silencing anyone who can say differently).
  • Lady Macbeth faints (to draw attention away from Macbeth's murder of the guards)
  • Malcolm and Donalbain figure if someone killed their dad, then they must be next, so they split (Malcolm to England and Donalbain to Ireland).


The Third Murderer

Unfortunately, the movies all decide to ignore the intrigue around the third murderer. Macbeth hires two people to kill Banquo, but three show up and the third murderer doesn't seem to know all the details, or knows the details and intentionally fouls things up. That leads us to think that:

  • Macbeth or someone in his employ is there to oversee the deed.
  • Lady Macbeth or someone she sent is there to make sure Macbeth doesn't screw this up.
  • The witches, or some minion in their service, show up to make sure their prophecy comes true.
  • Macduff or some other thane knows more than they let on and is trying to sabotague Macbeth's plans.
  • Any other wild theory!

Does it matter? I guess not. But it is cool to speculate. What was Shakespeare thinking when he set this up? Why didn't he follow up on it?

Gone, but not Forgotten

Banquo may be muyrdered (20 gashes in his head!), but he still manages to show up for the feast! Is he real or is he in Macbeth's head?

Key point in this scene? Now the thanes are wary of Macbeth. Too many murders. Too much suspicion. Plus, who didn't show up for the feast? Macduff. Why? We'll find out soon enough. so will Macbeth because he says he has spies in every house.

Double Double Boil and Trouble

We will read this scene in class. Wow! This scene is cool. Just look at all those ingredients they put in!

Read the scene


Do those words sound familiar to you? Maybe you remember them from this Harry Potter movie.


What to get out of all of this? Well, Macbeth is now convinced that he cannot be harmed. You will need to know the following for the test:

  • What does each appartition look like?
  • What does each apparition tell Macbeth?
  • How does each apparition come true?
  • The line of kings look like Banquo. Who is the last king to walk past Macbeth?


The Macduffs

Macbeth crosses the Rubicon here. Should he be afraid of Macduff? Yes. Now he makes it worse. The killing of the Macduff household shows a gradual progression deeper into Macbeth's misery. Let's look at who he kills:

  1. Macdonwald - a good righteous kill on the battlefield to defend his country.
  2. Duncan - Not good, but at least there was something to gain from it
  3. Duncan's guards - there was a reason - to keep him and his wife safe, so understandable, if not forgivable.
  4. Banquo and the attempt on Fleance - reaching here - Macbeth sees a threat where there is not one, but he is acting on what he perceives is a problem, so he has motive.
  5. Macduff's family - no reason to kill them. In fact, killing the family only serves to further Macduff's resolve to kill Macbeth.

This is the point of no return for Macbeth. A phrase that means this is "crossing the Rubicon". This means that Macbeth cannot return to being a hero from this.


Lady Macbeth Sleepwalking

Now we see that Lady Macbeth is not handling things as well as she thought she would be able to. You hear her mention the killing of Duncan, the killing of Banquo, and her suspicion of the killing of Lady Macduff. Remember what she said earlier about washing her hands?



Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow...

Macbeth delivers this soliloquy right after he hears about Lady Macbeth's death.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
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.

I will ask you on the test what that means. If you are having a difficult time breaking it down, may I suggest Googling the answer.

Title Fight of the Night: Macbeth v Macduff!