Past Exam Questions on ‘Macbeth’ – Update

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2013

‘The variety of significant insights that we gain into Macbeth’s mind proves critical in shaping our understanding of his complex character’. Discuss this view, supporting your answer with suitable reference to the play, ‘Macbeth’.

or

Shakespeare makes effective use of disturbing imagery in the play, ‘Macbeth’. Discuss this statement with suitable reference to the text.

2009

‘Macbeth’s murder of Duncan has horrible consequences both for Macbeth himself and for Scotland.’ Write a response to this statement. You should refer to the play in your answer.

or

‘”Macbeth” has all the ingredients of compelling drama.’ Write a response to this statement, commenting on one or more of the ingredients, which in your opinion, make ‘Macbeth’ a compelling drama.

2007

‘The relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth undergoes significant change during the course of the play.’ Discuss this statement, supporting your answer by suitable reference to the text.

or

‘Essentially the play ‘Macbeth’ is about power, its uses and abuses.’ Discuss this view of the play, supporting your answer with the aid of suitable reference to the text.

 

2004

‘Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ invites us to look into the world of a man driven on by ruthless ambition and tortured by regret.’ Write a response to this view of the play ‘Macbeth’, supporting the points you make by reference to the text.

or

‘The play ‘Macbeth’ has many scenes of compelling drama.’ Choose one scene that you found compelling and say why you found it to be so. Support your answer by reference to the play.

 

2003

‘We feel very little pity for the central characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play.’ To what extent would you agree with the above view? Support your answer by reference to the play.

or

‘In Macbeth, Shakespeare presents us with a powerful vision of evil.’ Write your response to the above statement. Textual support may include reference to a particular performance of the play you have seen.

 

1995

Discuss the course and nature of the resistance to Macbeth’s rule in the play. Support your answer by relevant quotation or reference to the play.

or

‘Kingship, with all its potential for good or evil, is a major theme of the play ‘Macbeth’.’ Discuss this view, supporting your answer with quotation from or reference to the play.

 

1991

‘The eternal struggle between good and evil – a struggle in which evil comes very close to victory – is the central them of the play ‘Macbeth’.’ Discuss this view and show how the struggle is illustrated in the imagery of the play. Support your answer by reference or quotation.

or

‘While there are redeeming features in the character of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as a ruthless opportunist whose ambition for her husband supersedes all moral considerations.’ Discuss this view, supporting your answer by reference or quotation.

 

1987

‘The Banquo Macbeth has killed is not the innocent soldier who met the witches and scorned their prophecies, nor the man who prayed to be delivered from temptation. He is a man whose principles have been deeply compromised.’ Discuss this view, supporting your answer by quotation or reference.

or

Discuss the way in which the language of the play ‘Macbeth’ contributes to the creation of the atmosphere of evil and violence which pervades the play. Support your answer by relevant quotation or reference.

 

1983

‘The witches in ‘Macbeth’ are malevolent creatures, who originate deeds of blood and have power over the soul.’ Discuss the role of the witches in the play in the light of this statement. Support your answer with appropriate reference or quotation.

or

Discuss the way in which light/darkness, violent imagery and unnatural happenings are used in ‘Macbeth’ to create atmosphere. Support your answer with appropriate quotation or reference.

 

1979

‘Their partnership in guilt, which at the beginning of the play is a strong bond between them, gradually drives Macbeth and his wife apart, until they go down to their separate dooms, isolated and alone.’ Discuss this view, with the aid of suitable quotation or reference.

or

‘Lady Macbeth is no monster. She is a loyal (though misguided) wife, not without tenderness and not without conscience.’ What do you think of this estimation of Lady Macbeth? Support your answer with relevant quotation or reference.

 

1975

‘In ‘Macbeth’ Shakespeare does not present Macbeth as a mere villain, but succeeds in arousing some measure of sympathy for him.’ Discuss the character of Macbeth in the light of this statement, supporting your answer by relevant quotation or reference.

or

‘In ‘Macbeth’ the inner self is conveyed, not through the ideas expressed, nor through the actions performed, but by means of an elaborate pattern of imagery and symbolism.’ Test the truth of this statement by considering any two of the play’s central characters and the images and symbols associated with them. Support your answer by relevant quotation or reference.

 

1971

‘In the play ‘Macbeth’, Shakespeare had heightened our experience of wickedness and disorder by setting them against a background of goodness and order.’ Discuss this view with the aid of appropriate reference or quotation.

or

Discuss the view that Lady Macbeth has more in common with the Witches than with Lady Macduff. Support your answer with suitable reference or quotation.

‘Blood will have blood’ – The role and symbolism of blood in ‘Macbeth’

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What is the role and function of bloody imagery in ‘Macbeth’? 

  • Representation of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s conscience
  • Imagery of blood constantly haunts their minds
  • Reflects changes in Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s characters

 

Thesis statement

Throughout Shakespeare’s play ‘Macbeth’, the recurring imagery of blood is used as a symbol to demonstrate the constant feelings of guilt felt by the characters, ultimately leading to their endless feelings of fear and horror.

 

Quote 1

‘What hands are here! Ha! They pluck out mine eyes.
Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.’
Act 2 Scene 2 lines 60-64

 

Context and meaning

The strong imagery of blood in this scene demonstrates his inability to remove the blood from his hands.
‘All of Neptune’s ocean’ represents the degree of guilt within Macbeth.
Guilt will always remain to haunt Macbeth as the image of the crime will always remain in his consciousness, causing him to experience greater remorse and fear.
The permanent change in colour from green to red in the seas, indicates that the guilt within Macbeth is everlasting.

 

Back to the thesis:

Blood symbolises the guilt within Macbeth after murdering King Duncan, causing him to experience eternal fear for the crime he has committed.

 

 

Quote 2

‘And with thy bloody and invisible hand
Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond
Which keeps me pale!’
Act 3 Scene 2 lines 48-50

 

Context and meaning

Macbeth is obligated to conceal his thoughts and feelings of guilt to prevent further suspicion among other characters.
Oxymoron of ‘bloody and invisible hand’ also demonstrates a contrast between appearance versus reality by comparing guilt and innocence.
Strong imagery of blood on Macbeth’s hand symbolises guilt by showing level of cruelty.
‘Invisible hand’ is a representation of hiding the thoughts and feelings of guilt.

 

Back to the thesis:

Blood imagery is used to emphasise guilt due to the cruelty of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s crimes as they attempt to hide their constant fear and remorse from their sinful crimes.

 

 

Quote 3

‘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 the gouts of blood,
Which was not so before. There’s no such thing’
Act 2 Scene 1 lines 44-47

 

Context and meaning

His obsession with thoughts of murder causes his hallucination.
The ‘gouts of blood’ represent his guilt.
It foreshadows ‘bloodier’ visions.

 

Back to the thesis:

More blood, more guilt.
He is haunted by an unforgiveable sin which will lead to endless fear and horror.

 

 

Quote 4

‘Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! Oh! Oh!’
Act 5 Scene 1 lines 46-47

 

Context and meaning

Lady Macbeth is incapable of washing away her ‘bloody guilt’.
She is full of remorse and resentment.
The ‘smell’ of the guilty and shameful blood will never be ‘sweetened’.

 

Back to the thesis:

She is forever cursed by the ‘smell of the blood’.
She is drowned in immense guilt due to being haunted by fear and horror.

 

 

Quote 5

‘Out damned spot! Out, I say! One; two: why, then, ‘tis time to do’t. Hell is murky! Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who know it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?’
Act 5 Scene 1 lines 32-37

 

Context and meaning

Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking in Macbeth’s castle.
She sees blood that isn’t there.
She senses her own guilt and realises the mistakes she has made but is incapable of rubbing the blood off her hands.

 

Back to the thesis:

She made herself out to be a soldier, sexless, but now she is afraid.
She is in a dark place, alone.

 

 

Quote 6

‘This is a sorry sight.’ [Looking at his hands.]
Act 2 Scene 2 line 22

 

Context and meaning

Guilt overwhelms Macbeth immediately after the murder of Duncan.
The blood on his hands represents the severity of the murder and indicates his guilt.

 

Back to the thesis:

Macbeth’s guilt and realisation cause him to fear the consequences that he may face and other negative things that may come due to his actions.

 

 

Quote 7

‘Why did you bring these daggers from the place?
They must lie there: go carry them, and smear
The sleepy grooms with blood.’
Act 2 Scene 2 lines 49-51

 

Context and meaning

Macbeth brings back evidence of the murder – he can’t think straight.
Fear of suspicion.
Lady Macbeth plans to frame the guards.

 

Back to the thesis:

Lady Macbeth and Macbeth no longer share the same thoughts or actions. This denotes the beginning of the end of their relationship.

 

 

Quote 8

‘Blood hath been shed ere now, i’ the olden time,
Ere human statute purg’d the gentle weal;
Ay, and since too, murders have been perform’d
Too terrible for the ear: the times have been,
That, when the brains were out, the man would die,
And there an end; but now they rise again,
With twenty mortal murders on their crowns,
And push us from our stools: this is more strange
Than such a murder.’
Act 3 Scene 4 lines 75-83

 

Context and meaning

Macbeth loses composure during his first formal banquet as King.
He tries to rationalise his actions.

 

Back to thesis:

Banquo’s bloody wounds make Macbeth feel guilty.
His loss of composure shows his fear and guilt in a public forum.

 

 

 

Other bloody quotes

 

‘If he do bleed,
I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal;
For it must seem their guilt.’
Act 2 Scene 2 lines 56-58

 

‘Be bloody, bold and resolute’
Act 4 Scene 1 line 79

 

‘For brace Macbeth – well he deserves that name –
Disdaining fortune, with his brandish’d steel,
Which smok’d with bloody execution’
Act 1 Scene 2 lines 16-18

 

‘It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood;
Stones have been known to move and trees to speak;
Augurs and understood relations have
By maggot-pies and choughs and rooks brought forth
The secret’st man of blood.’
Act 3 Scene 4 lines 123-127

 

‘I am in blood
Stepp’d in so far, that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er.’
Act 3 Scene 4 line 136-138

 

‘I think our country sinks beneath the yoke;
It weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash
Is added to her wounds.’
Act 4 Scene 3 lines 39-41

 

Revising ‘Macbeth’

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One way for students to revise the play ‘Macbeth’ is to watch a production of it. At this stage of 6th year, we are unlikely to find the opportunity to see another theatrical performance but some students may be interested in the 2012 film version of the play. You could order it from www.amazon.co.uk or download the movie from iTunes by going to the official movie website.

www.macbeththemovie.com

In this production Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are cast as eager twenty-somethings, thirsty for fame and fortune. Watch the trailer to see if you think it is worth purchasing this film.

‘Macbeth’ by Boil in the Bag

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Senior students in the college were given a treat today – we welcomed Boil in the Bag productions to the College to perform scenes from ‘Macbeth’. The scenes were performed in a classical Shakespearean manner but were also given a modern twist. It is easy to see from their production why ‘Macbeth’ is a timeless classic.

The focus of the production was the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and it was clear how that relationship deteriorated as the play progressed. The modern twist helped us to fully understand that Shakespeare’s characters and themes are just as relevant today as they were 400 years ago. The actors were outstanding. It was a pleasure to watch them combine humour, ambition, superstition, grief and tragedy into a show that was truly spellbinding.

For more information about the production see:

www.boilinthebag.ie

Winners of Macbeth Challenge

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Congratulations to all fifth years who took part in the Macbeth Challenge 2012. They are all winners!!! All performances were outstanding.

Participating in the Soliloquy Challenge were:

  1. Liam Schnober Smyth – Hecate’s speech
  2. Cian Harrington – Two truths
  3. Dylan Brady – Two truths
  4. Jamie Daly – Thou hast it all
  5. Eoin Sweetman – Dagger
  6. Duncan Walker – Dagger
  7. Sean Hayes – Dagger
  8. Niamh Kelly White – The Prince of Cumberland
  9. Chris Mullen – Two truths
  10. Matthew Mollahan – Thou has it all
  11. Robert Tully – Tomorrow and tomorrow
  12. Joe Dunne – The raven is himself is hoarse
Participating in the Drama Challenge were:
  1. Robert Tully and Duncan Walker – Macbeth and Banquo (2.i)
  2. Ciaran McGinley, Cathal Niall, Matthew Mollahan – Witches  (4.i)

Those presented with trophies were Duncan for the Dagger Soliloquy and Ciaran, Cathal & Matthew for the Witches Scene!! Excellent performances by each of them.

Here you can see the participants and those who received trophies. Thanks to Mr Flynn for his great photos.

5th Year Macbeth Challenge