- Macbeth is set in Scotland – it’s part of the United Kingdom, but a separate country from England. The country is in the far North, and it is known for dramatic weather and wild landscapes – particularly the moors or ‘blasted heath’ upon which we meet the Witches. The opening of the play begins this way: [Thunder and Lightning. Enter three Witches]. A storm is brewing and they talk of ‘rain’. This creates a dark, dramatic mood that lasts throughout the play, using pathetic fallacy to foreshadow the brutal events that are about to come.
- The play is set in the 11th Century (the 1000s). Shakespeare wrote it in 1606, so it is set about 500-600 years before the time of writing. It is in some senses based on historical events; Macbeth was a real king, though Shakespeare alters his behaviour and personality a lot to suit his own story.
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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!
- Within the play, there are many changes in the setting. Macbeth moves from his own castle at Inverness to Dunsinane when he becomes king. The Witches are always depicted in wild, implacable landscapes. Pay attention to the different atmosphere of each place, and think about how it reflects the action of the scene:
The barren moorland / A desert place – the opening of the play
A cavern – an unspecified places where the witches meet in Act 4
Duncan’s army camp at Forres
Macbeth’s castle at Inverness – in the North of Scotland
Dunsinane Hill – the castle that the Macbeths move into once Macbeth is king England
Macduff’s castle at Fife – where Lady Macduff and their son are killed
Birnam Wood – the forest that Malcolm’s soldiers cut down as they march towards Dunsinane
- In Shakespeare’s time, there were no settings onstage – so audiences had to imagine castles and backdrops themselves.
- Most of the scenes take place either in darkness at night, or in a foggy atmosphere. How do these two atmospheric conditions contribute to the mood and overall feeling of the play?