A* and Level 9 essays are always properly planned before they are written. But how should you plan a Macbeth Essay?
Here is a list of practise plans and notes that students have completed for a range of essays on Macbeth. Some are focused on ideas, and others on structuring. To get the best out of your plans, you should try to keep a balance between both of these.
Always plan a thesis before writing — this is your main argument, the main answer to the question that comes in the intro of your essay. The rest of the essay should then explore and argue on this thesis.
This page is suitable for students aged 14–18 (GCSE — A-Level), particularly those studying the following exam boards: CIE / Cambridge, AQA, OCR, WJEC / Eduqas, CCEA, Edexcel.
Thanks for reading! If you find this resource useful, you can take a look at our full online Macbeth course here. Use the code “SHAKESPEARE” to receive a 50% discount!
This course includes:
- A full set of video lessons on each key element of the text: summary, themes, setting, characters, context, attitudes, analysis of key quotes, essay questions, essay examples
- Downloadable documents for each video lesson
- A range of example B-A* / L7-L9 grade essays, both at GCSE (ages 14-16) and A-Level (age 16+) with teacher comments and mark scheme feedback
- A bonus Macbeth workbook designed to guide you through each scene of the play!
For more help with Macbeth and Tragedy, read our article here.
PRACTICE ESSAY 1:
Explore how Shakespeare discusses the theme of deception in Macbeth.
Trickery begets trickery — Macbeth deceives Duncan at the start, Banquo shortly after, he himself is deceived by the Witches > negative comment on deception.
Feudal system / divine right of kings vs New Politics / Machiavelli.
Deception creates temporary power, but the order of the world will be restored.
God ignores the castle — sinful behavior causes God to turn away.
Thesis: deception is evil and creates more evil and chaos, both for the individuals who deceive and the kingdom as a whole. For the human characters, it leads down a path to insanity, Shakespeare is drawing a parallel between deception and evil to show that it is ungodly and sinful.
P1 — Intro — Shakespeare discusses the theme of deception in Macbeth by exploring Macbeth’s insanity, showing the Macbeths covering their tracks and the temporary success with long term failure that deception brings.
P2 — Macbeth’s insanity — “oh full of scorpions is my mind”, “could not I pronounce Amen” “Is this a dagger I see before me”.
P3 — Showing the Macbeths covering their tracks — creates a climate of panic and paranoia — “I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal”.
P4 — demonstrates the religious messages of Macbeth — don’t commit sinful behavior.
P5 — demonstrates Shakespeare’s political beliefs — his faith in the Feudal system / his mistrust of New Politics.
PRACTISE ESSAY 2:
How does Shakespeare make this scene particularly terrifying?
500–600 Words essay.
- Intro — 50 words — Go over points quickly > thesis at the end
- Paragraph 1 (PEAL) — 165 words
- Paragraph 2 (PEAL) — 165 words
- Paragraph 3 (PEAL) — 165 words
- Conclusion — Recap strongest points quickly > Link back to the thesis
- Shakespeare makes this scene particularly terrifying by… (religion)
- Furthermore, the scene is particularly terrifying due to … (fear)
- Another way that Shakespeare has made this scene particularly terrifying is… (supernatural)
Point — 1 Sentence
Evidence — Quotation (no longer than 7 words).
Analysis — Identify techniques, language features, vocabulary, and dramatic devices ‘how / why’ something works in a certain way.
Evaluation — assessing the importance/significance of something.
Link — Link back to text and thesis.
Thesis: The significant turning point for Macbeth in the play as he realizes that he is unable to say amen and might be haunted due to his deed. Macbeth is a dynamic character, a tragic hero who undergoes a tragic fall, and this moment demonstrates the point at which his mind begins to disintegrate and he is abandoned by God, which would be very terrifying for a Shakespearean audience.
Top Level Mark Scheme:
- Answers in this band have all the qualities of Band 2 work, with further insight, sensitivity, individuality, and flair. They maintain a sustained engagement with both text and task.
- Sustains a perceptive, convincing and relevant personal response
- Shows a clear critical understanding of the text.
- Responds sensitively and in detail to the way the writer achieves her/his effects (sustaining a convincing voice in an empathic task).
- Integrates much well-selected reference to the text
‘Make’ > understand and discuss dramatic devices
‘Particularly’ > evaluation word
Thesis: ‘what we think/feel/realize’
Shakespeare makes this scene particularly terrifying through the implicit meanings in the text. He uses varying vocabulary and language features such as allegory and allusion, which are seen throughout the text, to create a frightening atmosphere. This mainly revolves around Macbeth, a dynamic character, whose insight to murder has changed. We realize that Macbeth is unable to cope with his past actions due to his current actions.
“Didst thou not hear a noise?” — Macbeth builds tension/suspense, a small amount of fear, later layers up into terror.
“The owl scream” — Lady Macbeth, possible link to Duncan’s death, possible horror sound, ‘scream’ > personification.
“As I descended?” — Macbeth, descent downstairs, but also perhaps signifies hell/degeneration into evil + madness.
Disjoined / lack of connection between characters — Macbeth is jumpy. They disagree. Macbeth is empathetic towards Donalbain > ‘ sorry sight’, Lady Macbeth is cold and says he is ‘foolish’.
“There’s one did laugh in’s sleep, and one cried ‘Murder!’,” > terrifying, because two random people woke up during Macbeth murdering Duncan, they have a premonition or some sort of awareness.
“I had most need of blessing, and ‘Amen’/ Stuck in my throat.” > he’s under the influence of evil, so God has abandoned him, he’s past the point of redemption, perhaps the turning point where he realizes he can’t go back, psychological?
“It will make us mad” > Lady Macbeth feels that the two of them will be mad if they dwell on their deeds in a negative way.
“Macbeth does murder sleep” > this is particularly terrifying as sleep also means rest and peace. Not only is Macbeth murdering sleep, but he is murdering rest and peace which he will not get as he will be haunted by the murder. (personification)
“Smear / The sleepy grooms with blood” > the fact that they can pass the blame so easily and effectively is terrifying, what else can they pass the blame for if they can pass the blame for the murder.
“Painted devil” > the image of a dead body is likened to a painted devil seen by a child. They are just images that are feared.
“Clean from my hand? No” > No amount of water will be able to wash the blood off of Macbeth’s hands. He will never be able to forget about the blood on his hands, in a metaphorical sense.
“Making the green one red” > His hands will turn the sea red. That is the amount of blood which he bears.
Foreshadowing Lady Macbeth’s ‘out damned spot’:
“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 knows 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?” > 5.1, just before she commits suicide, a descent into madness — she sees spots of blood on her hands, paralleling Macebeth’s visions of blood.
Motif – recurring element of a story (lack of sleep/blood on hands).
ESSAY PLAN 3:
In what ways does Shakespeare make the relationship between Macbeth and Banquo so compelling?
P1 — Intro — Shakespeare makes the relationship between Macbeth and Banquo so compelling through the exploration of the themes of deception, death, and good versus evil. The discussion of such themes leads us, as the reader, to come to the conclusion that Macbeth is a sinister character who has somehow managed to befriend an honest, decent man, Banquo which leads to a relationship filled with tension.
P2- Deception- “I fear thou have played most foully for it” “fruitless crown” “I wish your horses swift and sure of foot”
P3 — death- “Banquo, thy soul’s flight…find heaven” Enter the Ghost of Banquo and sits in Macbeth’s place (stage directions)
P4 — good versus evil- juxtaposing of characters
Conclusion — strongest points again
ESSAY PLAN 4:
‘Macbeth is not an evil man, but one led astray by those around him’.
To what extent do you agree with this view?
You should write 500–600 words.
Thesis — I believe that Macbeth is an evil man and is responsible for his own actions. His sheer greed for power is what has led him astray and it was his choice to kill Duncan and have Banquo and Fleance as well as Macduff’s family killed. He has shown throughout the play that his greed, not those around him, has led him astray.
Paragraph 1: — Intro- include thesis and quick overview
Paragraph 2: — Disagree paragraph
Paragraph 3: — Disagree paragraph
Paragraph 4: — Agree paragraph (counter)
Paragraph 5: — Conclusion (quick overview of strongest points, thesis)
Point -main point
Analysis -why/how does it relate to argument
Context -context to shakespearean times
Alternative interpretation -alternative view
Link -back to thesis
- Told by the witches that he will be king.
- Pressured by Lady Macbeth to kill Duncan.
- Witches tell him that Banquo’s descendants shall be king, incites Macbeth. Witches may have known that this would have riled Macbeth up.
- Witches told Macbeth he will be king so he could have waited until he became King the right way.
- Macbeth could have stood up to Lady Macbeth and told her no.
- Macbeth felt the need to have Banquo and Fleance killed, nobody pressured him to do so.
- Macbeth had Macduff’s family killed for no good reason.
- Macbeth acted on his own accord.