Maya McElroy teaches senior English at Rockport-Fulton High School in Rockport, Texas.
What's On for Today and Why
The objective of this lesson is for students to critique Shakespeare's text in terms of plot, themes, and character motivation and development through comparative analysis with Holinshed's 1577 book, The Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Ireland. Students will study this likely source of Macbeth and examine Shakespeare's decisions in crafting his version of the story.
This lesson will take one class period.
What You Need
Folger edition of Macbeth
Computers with Internet access
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
What To Do
1. Students will read 1.1-2 of Macbeth before class.
2. Move the class to a computer lab and ask the students to bring up our links to pages from Holinshed's Chronicles on their Web browsers to read the part of Holinshed's Chronicles that corresponds to Macbeth 1.1-2. Students should read through this page and the next three using the right arrow at the top of the site. Tell them to note the similarities and incongruities they find between the two texts as they read. Be sure to circulate and answer any questions they may have about spelling and typography.
3. Ask students to discuss their findings. What are the obvious similarities and differences between the two texts? How do the characters differ from one version of the story to the other? Expect some feedback about the issue of plagiarism.
4. Students should answer the following questions for homework:
What did Shakespeare have to do as a writer to change the prose story into a play? Discuss some of his changes and provide examples.
What do you think motivated Shakespeare to make the changes that he did?
Are Holinshed's Macbeth and Shakespeare's Macbeth the same character? Support your answer with textual evidence.
Does reading this section of Holinshed's Chronicles change your perception of Shakespeare and his work?
5. As an optional extension, encourage students to read more of Holinshed's Chronicles from the Web site as they continue to read Macbeth.
How Did It Go?
Were the students engaged in discovering what Shakespeare "borrowed" from Holinshed? Can they identify and explain his deliberate attempt to establish a more complex main character? Are they more aware of the process of writing a play and creating characters and dialogue?
If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.
Common Core State Standards
There are no standards associated with this Lesson Plan.