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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Shakespeare: Macbeth

Macbeth & Banquo with the 3 Weird Sisters (Image Source)

Macbeth is the scheduled Shakespeare play this term at, and as usual, we'll be following the rotation. We will be adding some new things this time around though, and I'm writing those down here, for posterity's sake. Because I may need to be reminded some years down the road, as I am in this for the long-haul. I have a mere 18 years to go... at least if we're done making babies who turn into future students. ;) Speaking of babies, I have lately discovered that I hold a very divergent view to that of Lady Macbeth in regard to suckling babes...


So, Macbeth...

What we usually do: 
Listen to an (abridged) version: Bruce Coville's rendition in audiobook format is what we used this time around.
Do a sketch, or more correctly termed, a schematic sketch of all the characters (everybody usually wants to do their own version):
Read the play aloud as a group, dividing into character parts.
I've decided on a couple monologues from Macbeth that we'll read aloud weekly during the term. The olders will use these for recitation. The littles just benefit from exposure. :)
See links below for sites I used to find the monologues...

What's new:
This year, my eldest AOy4 student is participating in the readings. Traditionally, before each scene, we divide up the speaking characters and then read the lines aloud together. Now, we have another reader! Because of the nature of this play and because of the fact we'll be using a study guide (see next point), I've dismissed my younger AOy4 student from the readings. He can listen/read if he wants to, but otherwise he's free to do something else.

With my AOy9 students, I'm experimenting with using Brightest Heaven of Invention to guide our study. So far, we've covered the Intro and the first two lessons. It's been a little choppy navigating how to divide the readings and commentary and questions and all over 12 weeks as BHI divides the play into four lessons. I haven't figured out a completely streamlined way yet, but I'll be posting my speculative plan (see end of post, if that's of interest to you). Then hopefully, I'll re-evaluate at the end of term what I think could have been done better. You know, for posterity's sake.

Helpful Links:
The University at Adelaide offers the best free kindle versions of Shakespeare that I can find online, with great formatting and linked table of contents! Check out their version of Macbeth here. I also like and have used MIT's version which I push-to-kindle.
Youtube version of the Orson Welles 1948 movie of Macbeth - The author of BHI, recommends this one as the best of the four versions he previewed. We may watch it... I'd really rather see a live performance though...
My friend Nancy just taught through Macbeth with her co-op students, how handy of timing is that? Here is her post: Recommended resources for Macbeth. Matter of fact, upon her recommendation, I purchased the kindle version of Leland Ryken's study guide for Macbeth. While he and the author of BHI have made distinct observations on the play, I definitely think one or the other is sufficient. BHI features six plays (Henry V, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth, Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing). There are Ryken study guides for Hamlet (coming soon) and Macbeth.
Monologues for recitation and memorization: here and here.
Arkangel audio version of Macbeth (unabridged) from
Brightest Heaven of Invention: A Christian Guide To Six Shakespeare Plays by Peter Leithart, find it on here:

Miss Charlotte's commentary and application from Macbeth: 
"Every child, every man, who comes to a sudden halt watching the action of his own reason, is another Columbus, the discoverer of a new world. Commonly we let reason do its work without attention on our part, but there come moments when we stand in startled admiration and watch the unfolding before us point by point of a score of arguments in favour of this carpet as against that, this route in preference to the other, our chosen chum as against Bob Brown; because every pro suggested by our reason is opposed to some con in the background. How else should it happen that there is no single point upon which two persons may reason,––food, dress, games, education, politics, religion,––but the two may take opposite sides, and each will bring forward infallible proofs which must convince the other were it not that he too is already convinced by stronger proofs to
strengthen his own argument. Every character in history or fiction supports this thesis; and probably we cannot give a better training in right reasoning than by letting children work out the arguments in favour of this or that conclusion.

Thus, Macbeth, a great general, returns after a brilliant victory, head and heart are inflated, what can he not achieve? Could he not govern a country as well as rule an army? Reason unfolds the steps by which he might do great things; great things, ay, but are they lawful, these possible exploits? And then in the nick of time he comes across the 'weird Sisters,' as we are all apt to take refuge in fatalism when conscience no longer supports us. He shall be Thane of Cawdor, and, behold, confirmation arrives on the spot. He shall also be king. Well, if this is decreed, what can he do? He is no longer a free agent. And a score of valid arguments unfold themselves showing how Scotland, the world, his wife, himself, would be enhanced, would flourish and be blessed if he had the opportunity to do what was in him. Opportunity? The thing was decreed! It rested with him to find the means, the tools. He was not without imagination, had a poetic mind and shrank before the horrors he vaguely foresaw. But reason came to his aid and step by step the whole bloody tragedy was wrought out before his prescient mind. When we first meet with Macbeth he is rich in honours, troops of friends, the generous confidence of his king. The change is sudden and complete, and, we may believe, reason justified him at every point. But reason did not begin it. The will played upon by ambition had already admitted the notion of towering greatness or ever the 'weird Sisters' gave shape to his desire. Had it not been for this countenance afforded by the will, the forecasts of fate would have influenced his conduct no more then they did that of Banquo." vol 6 pg 140

Divide Macbeth (using BHI as study guide) over a 12 week term:

For now, we're going with the Option 2. (see below)

#1 - Either split the readings in half: read half of the reading selection each week (designated in BHI 'lessons'), read only half of the commentary and deal with half of the review & thought questions (pick several from those that apply to that week's reading).
#2 - Read the whole selection from the play one week, narrate and pick several of the review questions. The next week, read the commentary and choose several thought questions for discussion and/or for essay format of written narration.

Possible 12 week term schedules using BHI:
Option 1
Option 2

wk1 intro (Colville audiobook or Lamb's) and schematic sketch of characters, read BHI intro
wk2-3 Act 1.1 - 1.4 + commentary, review and thought Qs (half/week)
wk4-5 read Acts 1.5-2.4 + commentary, review and thought Qs (half/week)
wk6-7 read Acts 3-4 + commentary, review and thought Qs (half/week)
wk8-9 read Act 5 + commentary, review and thought Qs (half/week)
wk10 video, choose from essay questions, start paper (outline + first draft), write play
wk11 edit paper + second draft, practice play
wk12 hand in paper & perform drama

wk1 intro (Colville audiobook or Lamb's) and schematic sketch of characters. y9 - read BHI intro
wk2 Act 1.1 - 1.4 + review Qs
wk 3 BHI lesson 1 &thought Qs
wk4 Acts 1.5-2.4 + review Qs
wk5 BHI lesson 2 &thought Qs
wk6 read Acts 3-4 + review Qs
wk7 BHHI lesson 3 + thought Qs
wk8 Act 5 + review Qs
wk9 BHI lesson4 + thought Qs
wk10 watch video, choose from essay questions, start paper (outline + first draft), write play
wk11 edit paper + second draft, practice play
wk12 hand in paper & perform drama


Maybe some of this will prove handy for somebody. Most likely, that somebody will be me come 'bout 15 years from now... Oh my, I can hardly imagine that far out.


Kelly Petrie said...

Oh my! You have out done yourself. Thank you so much for all of the links. We just finished Coville's Macbeth and I was debating on what to do next. You have single-handedly solved that!

accessible art historian said...

Thanks for the idea about a character sketch - my kids will love this! And also for the U of Adelaide link. We're actually doing Julius Caesar this term as we're sort of 'Macbeth'd out' (this being the favorite of my older two for some years now) but these links are all so helpful.

Nicole Williams said...

Thank you so much for sharing all of your work! We are using mostly the same resources, but I didn't know how I was going to break it all down. I appreciate you doing it for me! ;) We will indeed get to see the play live later this month - even as we just begin our study of it. If I had a choice, I would want to see it after we have studied it, but I think it might make studying it more meaningful. I'll let you know how it goes.

amyinperu said...

oh goody! i was hoping it'd be helpful!

amyinperu said...

i can't remember now with whose help i came up with the schematic or if it was my own adaptation of something else. i know with my littles when we read some stories we'd use paper dolls to represent the characters. this might have been an extension of that. anyway, it has been fun. we work on it together. the kids like to add their personal flair to their own renditions. i just do a quick cartoony version to kind of help us visualize everybody. the kids usually keep theirs handy while we're reading and i have to pull mine out sometimes too! :)

amyinperu said...

oh, you're welcome. ;) i'm not so sure i wouldn't like seeing a live play any old time! i used to feel like that or even reading an abridged version might work as a serious spoiler and ruin it for everybody. i REALLY felt like that. but now, i think piling on several layers of exposure sometimes helps us to be able to grasp some of the deeper stuff as we're not spending so much of our attention on the basics... know what i mean? i don't ALWAYS read the abridged version first, but lots of times we do... tammy suggested listening to or watching a non-abridged version before the reading (section by section) so the kids could get a feel for the language and expression. that would be one way to avoid the spoiler factor. i really like that idea but haven't yet been disciplined enough to have that prep done ahead of time!

BartandVeronica G said...

Amy, I LOVE how you do this. I have done this with the kids, but not as in depth. I would love to though! We actually have a timeline type of thing going right now with a comedy of errors because the kids and I were getting confused as to which twin was which!

amyinperu said...

we've come a long way with shakespeare, thanks to trial and error and help from friends!! :)
i can see how a timeline of sorts would help to keep things straight... good plan.

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