ENG 20-1: Shakespeare's Macbeth

Mr. Steel


            Abraham Lincoln once said that Macbeth is the most politically-astute of Shakespeare's plays. Indeed, the play gravitates around the problem of tyranny, and it asks the question of how one ought to take and maintain political power. Macbeth is also Shakespeare's shortest tragedy; and yet it is one of the most fast-paced of his works. This suggests that time is of the essence in politics and political decision-making. We will read Shakespeare's tragedy in order to explore the real world of politics theoretically, and to question our own understanding of both action and decision-making.




Minor Assignment

Every student will write a brief, double-spaced reflection on each of the FIVE acts of the play (no more than a page please). These reflections should not be expository or descriptive in nature (ex.: "This happened, then this, then this..."). Rather, students are expected to encounter the text deeply; they must investigate a major theme, question, idea, problem, or symbol encountered in each particular Act of the play. Every student reflection MUST end with a question about the Act. Again, no "Trivial Pursuit" questions will be accepted. The point of the questions is to engage students in a class discussion, and to use student inquiry to engage deeply in the play's meaning and significance. Students MUST keep on top of these assignments, since it is imperative that they come prepared to discuss the play each class.


Minor Assignment

Students will be exposed to selections from the writings of Machiavelli, a political philosopher with whom Shakespeare was intimately familiar, and with whose ideas on power Shakespeare toyed and analyzes in Macbeth. Student understanding of the political underpinnings of Shakespeare's Macbeth will be gauged through short reading comprehension assignments.


Minor Assignment

Students will watch Roman Polanski's 1971 movie version of Macbeth, and write a short movie review. The movie review will develop critical-analytic skills. It will take the following form:

q       Students must discuss what they liked about the movie and why.

q       Students must discuss what they did not like about the movie and why.

q       Students must discuss whether or not the movie is "true" to the play as written by Shakespeare. Did anything get left out? Was anything added?

q       Students must grade the movie on a scale of one to ten (ten being the best).


*** Minor assignments are to be kept in a duo-tang folder by each student. Each assignment will be marked in class and placed in this duo-tang. Students who miss assignments are expected to complete them as soon as possible. Students will not receive credit for missing assignments unless prior arrangements have been made; however, all assignments must be finished. Missed assignments are not accepted late (unless through prior arrangement) because the allure of copying other students' work is too great for many students, and plagiarized work from classmates is hard to police. Rather, students who miss assignments will receive credit for completing extra reading comprehension assignments located on the back wall of the classroom.

*** Any student who wishes to improve his or her mark in English 20-1 can complete extra reading assignments located on the back wall of my classroom. I use these assignments both to fill in blank/missing assignment grades, and to replace lower marks on older assignments where a student is ambitious enough to take advantage of this opportunity. Every student, through his/her own initiative, is thereby given ample opportunity to excel in English class. (NOTE: In order to avoid the "plagiarism factor" among the student populace, extra assignments are NOT handed back to students.)


Major Assignment

Students will write a Personal Response to the play in the format mandated by Alberta Learning. All students must learn the Personal Response format in order that they may find success in their provincial examinations at the 30-level.


Imagine you are Machiavelli. Write a letter advising either Macbeth, or a tyrant like Macbeth, about how to take and maintain political power. Remember to rely on your knowledge of Shakespeare's play for examples! Cite these examples in your creative writing.


Major Assignment

Students will write a multiple choice reading comprehension test based on selections from the plays of William Shakespeare.