Thursday, October 16, 2014


Brutality and Beauty are both aspects of the human spirit and therefore are evident in society and have been through the ages. History can be examined to bring forth examples of both, often side by side, often in times of great destruction such as in times of war. In the novel, The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak explores and compares the juxtaposition between great brutality and beauty in the human spirit evident in the German town of Molching during WW2. The author demonstrates how the characters in the novel can overcome cruelty and ruthlessness with acts of extraordinary kindness and humaneness. This is shown through the novel with Max and Liesel’s friendship, when Hans gives one of the Jewish camp prisoners a piece of bread and when Rosa and Hans protect Max from the Nazis. Zusak illustrates that a human’s capacity for hope is difficult to destroy regardless of the circumstances.

Throughout The Book Thief, Max and Liesel’s friendship is developed amidst war and suffering. Given the circumstances of the time and Max’s background, they still manage to develop a special bond between the two of them. This is made evident several times in the novel including when Max gives Liesel the book, The Standover Man for her birthday. This story that Max writes himself defines the significance of their friendship, as he says in the story; ‘Now we are friends, this girl and me’. He illustrates and expresses his love and friendship with Liesel by comparing their dreams with each other as they have both have this in common. It also allows Max to ‘understand that the best standover man I’ve known isn’t a man at all...’, so his friendship with Liesel helps him uncover things he wouldn’t have been able to without her. Furthermore, the message that Zusak is trying send is that friendships can still be made no matter what the circumstances are.

Zusak shows that regardless of the cruelty and brutality of humanity, beauty can always overcome brutality somehow. This is evident when Hans gives one of the starving Jewish camp prisoners a piece of bread when they are marched through Molching on their way to the Dachau death camp. When Hans ‘held his hand out and presented a piece of bread, like magic’ to the Jew it symbolises the beauty amongst all the war and suffering. This was a very risky decision that Hans made and despite the fact that he regretted it afterwards and asked himself ‘what was I thinking?’. Hans was possibly more concerned with the danger to which he had exposed his wife Rosa and his ward Liesel. Such a character as Hans was not concerned with his own safety even in the face of the brutality of the German prison guards.

Offering asylum to a Jew during the time of the Holocaust was what some would see as either an act of great bravery or great stupidity. Hans owed the Jew Max's father a great favour accrued in WW1. Hans had always promised to repay a debt, and thus Max arrived on his doorstep in his attempt to avoid being sent to a concentration camp in Hitler's campaign to rid Europe of Jews so the Aryan race would not be sullied. The Hubermanns offer Max love and friendship in contrast to the hatred the general populace shows Jews in response to Hitler's edicts. in Rosa accepts Max without considering turning him away. Even though her character is presented as brusque, foulmouthed and impatient, she has a good heart. Sheltering Max puts the whole family in danger of being shot as traitors, but Max lives as comfortably as possible in the freezing basement, never venturing outside except if the air raid siren goes off. In 1933, 90 percent of Germans showed unflinching support for Adolph Hitler. That leaves 10 percent who didn't. Hans Hubermann belonged to that ten percent. (10.9) The beauty of this harbouring of a Jew in the time of the Holocaust was an act of breathtaking bravery in the face of Nazi brutality, showering hope on Max who was in a hopeless situation.

Markus Zusack demonstrates how the characters in The Book Thief overcome cruelty and ruthlessness with acts of extraordinary kindness and humaneness. Max and Liesel’s friendship is heartwarming in the face of the brutality occurring outside the relative safety of the basement. Hans' extraordinary act of kindness in the face of great danger when giving one of the Jewish camp prisoners a piece of bread and showed great beauty in the face of great brutality. It was a kind act punishable by death, but Rosa and Hans protect Max from the Nazis. In his novel, Zusak illustrates that a human’s capacity for hope is difficult to destroy regardless of the circumstances. As the narrator Death himself says that humans are capable of both brutal and beautiful things.

This essay does not generally have referenced quotes. You will need to find some for your essay.

This essay is compiled using Anti Essay and Denise Covey's input.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Characterize the relationship between Macbeth and Lady
Macbeth. If the main theme of Macbeth is ambition, whose ambition is the driving force of the play—Macbeth’s, Lady Macbeth’s, or both?

The Macbeths’ marriage, like the couple themselves, is atypical, particularly by the standards of its time. Yet despite their odd power dynamic, the two of them seem surprisingly attached to one another, particularly compared to other married couples in Shakespeare’s plays, in which romantic felicity appears primarily during courtship and marriages tend to be troubled. Macbeth offers an exception to this rule, as Macbeth and his wife are partners in the truest sense of the word. Of course, the irony of their “happy” marriage is clear—they are united by their crimes, their mutual madness, and their mounting alienation from the rest of humanity.
Though Macbeth is a brave general and a powerful lord, his wife is far from subordinate to his will. Indeed, she often seems to control him, either by crafty manipulation or by direct order. And it is Lady Macbeth’s deep-seated ambition, rather than her husband’s, that ultimately propels the plot of the play by goading Macbeth to murder Duncan. Macbeth does not need any help coming up with the idea of murdering Duncan, but it seems unlikely that he would have committed the murder without his wife’s powerful taunts and persuasions.



2. All writers are ‘book thieves' for they discover secretive tactics for undermining the
reader's capacity to interpret a narrative, and steal into their hearts with their
expression and style. Zusak's way with words is singularly inventive, since he uses
figures of speech in a totally original, cryptic and poetic manner . eg ‘When the train
pulled into the Bahnhof in Munich , the passengers slid out as if from a torn package.' (p
25) Rosa ‘looked like a small wardrobe with a coat thrown over it.' (p 28) ‘Burning words
were torn from their sentences.'(p 121) ‘Birds above did laps.'(p 121) ‘Rudy…barely able to
contain a grin. It ran across his face like a skid.'(p 175) ‘The town hall stood like a giant,
ham-fisted youth, too big for his age.' (p 183) ‘There were no people on the street
anymore. They were rumours carrying bags.'(p 410) ‘They were going to Dachau, to
concentrate.'(p 415) ‘Faces like ghost towns.' (p 443)
Did you notice a particularly evocative piece of writing like these?

3. Setting is particularly resonantly evoked by often ascribing ‘emotions' to a place. eg
‘The house was pale, almost sickly-looking, with an iron gate and a brown spit-stained
door.'(p 184) What impression does this give the reader of the atmosphere on Himmel
Street? Read the description of Molching and Liesel's arrival on Himmel Street (pp 26-27).
What techniques does the writer use to create a picture of this place?

4. The humour in this novel has an edge of darkness (understandably since it is narrated
by Death!), and despite the fact that it is largely seen through German eyes, it is also
coloured by the distinctive tone of Jewish humour . ‘How do you tell if something's alive?
You check for breathing.' (p 39) When Rosa is at her bleakest clutching the accordion after
Hans has left, Liesel hears her snoring: ‘Who needs bellows, she thought, when you've got a
pair of lungs like that?' (p 458) ‘It kills me sometimes, how people die.'(p 494)

Did you find this novel amusing? Find examples where you appreciated the black humour at work.


Essay on The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Teacher: Adrienne Buckingham of Otago Boys' High School

In the novel The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, the narrator who is known only as ‘Death’ is a critical thinker which makes Death’s point of view very engaging for a modern audience.  Death tells the story of Liesel, an ordinary German girl living in Germany during World War Two.  Death’s point of view is very engaging for a modern audience because he provides his own insights and observations about humanity and tells the story from a German perspective rather than an Allied perspective, which is what we are used to reading.

Through his insightful narration, Death conveys to us Zusak’s idea of the duality of humanity.  One of the main ideas within this idea is that of the beauty in ugliness.  This idea is best shown to us through Liesel’s best friend, a young man named Rudy Steiner.  Rudy is the perfect physical example of a Nazi; he has “beautiful blond hair and big safe blue eyes” and he is a fine athlete.  However, mentally he hasn’t got a Nazi moral in him.  Zusak tells us this through Rudy’s actions.  When the Jews are being paraded through Molching (where Rudy and Liesel live) to the death camp, Dachau, Rudy puts bread on the road for the Jews to eat, even though this is very dangerous and he is starving himself.  This small act of kindness is a beautiful act in the ugly world of Nazi Germany.  Death foreshadows Rudy’s untimely demise by saying “he didn’t deserve to die the way he did.”  Zusak is using Death as a narrator to make insightful judgements of human’s character through their actions to portray the idea of beauty in ugliness.

The triumph of love over hate is another part of the duality of humanity which Zusak uses Death to show.  This idea is best portrayed to us through the relationship of Liesel and Max, a Jew who Liesel’s foster parents, the Hubermans, take in and hide in their basement during the Holocaust.  In Nazi Germany at the time, their relationship is very much illegal due to the antisemitic  laws and views of Nazism.  However, it is this hate and oppression which brings them together and helps to develop the love between them.  Zusak uses two events to really show us the strength of their love.  The first is when Max is being marched through the main street of Molching on his way to Dachau after being caught.  Liesel spots him in the crowd, and despite the danger of even waving to him, she runs out and hugs him.  “Her feet heavier than they had ever been before, heart swelling in her chest, she stepped onto the road.”   Zusak uses this act to show that sometimes the pull of love is far stronger than the fear of any punishment.  The second event is when after the war, Liesel is working in a shop and a man comes in looking for her.  She comes out and sees Max and in the words of Death “They both fell to the floor, and hugged and cried.”  Through the narration of Death, Zusak shows us that Max somehow managed to survive Dachau.  Zusak is suggesting that the power of Liesel’s love was enough to overcome the hate of Nazism and gave Max the strength to survive. 

Death tells the story of World War Two from the perspective of a German civilian which is very different because we are so used to hearing the story from an Allied point of view.  This critical perspective makes the story even more engaging for a modern audience as Death gives us a look into a side of the war we have not really seen before.  In one of Death’s asides throughout the novel, he states “I have observed and been horrified by humans.”  This statement captures our attention because normally humans theorise about, and are horrified by, the thought of death.  Zusak has Death say this shocking statement to convey the reality of World War Two.  Not only was it the Nazis, Allies and the Jews who suffered terribly during the war, but it was also the civilians and the people left behind after loved ones had died.  Liesel is a perfect example of the ordinary civilian who doesn’t support the Nazis but has got caught up in their war.  At the start of the book, she loses her brother and is adopted by a new family.  Then when Himmel Street is bombed, she loses just about everyone she loves.  Death illustrates to us the pain and even the survivors guilt that this causes: “It was the survivors I couldn’t stand to look at… They had torn hearts.  They had beaten lungs.”  Through Death, Zusak shows us a side of the pain which war causes that is often overlooked, but which can be worse than dying itself.  Zusak also reminds us that this pain was not limited to the Allies who had lost loved ones, but was just as relevant in the heart of Germany.

In conclusion, the narrator must be a critical thinker if the point of view of the text is to be engaging for a modern audience.  Death as a narrator is a critical thinker who Zusak uses to portray the idea of the duality of humanity and to show us a part of the war which is rarely presented to us.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Appreciating Shakespeare's Language

When Shakespeare wrote his sonnets and plays, the language he used was popular and would have been easily recognized by seventeenth century audiences. However, in the twenty-first century, we have a more difficult time comprehending the words Shakespeare used. What we must remember is that Shakespeare’s words can be easily “translated” into modern English, and once we become familiar with these words, it becomes easier to read and understand the language, and then we are able to appreciate the story Shakespeare is trying to tell.

Below is a list of common words found in Shakespeare’s works, along with a modern “translation” of the word or phrase.

1.    mark: pay attention to                            2.    attend: listen to
3.    nay: no                                                   4.    withal: with
5.    discourses: speaks                                 6.    an: if
7.    will: desire                                             8.    thither: there
9.    anon: at once                                         10. thy: your
11. thou art: you are                                     12. woo: to court a woman/man
13. soft: hush                                                14. methinks: I think
15. dispatch: to send away or to kill
16. nought: nothing                                      17. marry: of course; indeed
18. good-den or do-den: Good Evening
19. hap: lucky                                               20. maid: an unmarried young girl
21. humor: mood or moisture                       22. wot: know
23. stay!: wait!                                              24. hie: go
25. tidings: news 26. pray: beg                     27. decree: order
28. resolve: plan                                           29. foe: enemy
30. coz: cousin                                             31. hither: here
32. plague: curse                                          33. adieu: goodbye
34. woe: grief                                               35. heavy: sad
36. counsel: advice                                    37. thee: you
38. sirrah: fellow                                       39. would: wish
40. doth: does



Essay Questions

1.    Compare and contrast the characters of Macbeth and Macduff. Consider their personalities, relationships, and what motivates each character. Is one man good and the other evil, or are they both good or both evil, as outside influences affect their decisions? What kinds of relationships do they have with their families? How are their views on life similar or different?

2. Analyze the character of Lady Macbeth. What is her role in Macbeth’s life? How does her role change? Is she an evil human being, or are there other forces that drive her? How does she change? Why? Is she to blame for Macbeth’s demise? If so, explain. If not, who or what is responsible for the tragedy? Also, could such a woman exist in today's society? Would she still be capable of the same power over her husband? Or might she have even more? Explain your response.

3. Write a diary from either Macbeth or Lady Macbeth's point of view. You are writing in the character of Lady Macbeth or Macbeth. Choose 5-6 important events from the play and respond to each event as the character would respond.

4. Is Macbeth purely evil in your opinion? Is he sane? What are the witches’ roles in Macbeth’s actions? Discuss their prophecies and the forces involved to make them come true. Do you think their predictions are what caused Macbeth to behave as he did? Support your opinion with evidence from the play.

5.    How does Shakespeare use the technique of dramatic irony in Macbeth? Give examples from the text to support your response.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Poetry Movements through history.

Throughout history, there have been hundreds of major and minor poetic movements and communities. Major community-based movements – such as the Ancient Greek poetry schools, Provencal literature, Sicilian court poets, Elizabethan and Romantic poets, Victorian poets, American Transcendentalists, Paris expatriate (Surrealist), and Beat poets – changed the course of poetry during and after their respective eras.

SAPPHO – GREEK LYRIC POET (#67 on best poet’s list) Somewhere between 630 and 612 BC


Awed by her splendor 
stars near the lovely 
moon cover their own 
bright faces 
when she 
is roundest and lights 
earth with her silver 



Victorian Poetry

The Victorian Period literally describes the events in the age of Queen Victoria’s reign of 1837-1901. The term Victorian has connotations of repression and social conformity, however in the realm of poetry these labels are somewhat misplaced. The Victorian age provided a significant development of poetic ideals such as the increased use of the Sonnet as a poetic form, which was to influence later modern poets. Poets in the Victorian period were to some extent influenced by the Romantic Poets such as Keats,William Blake, Shelley and W.Wordsworth. Wordsworth was Poet Laureate until 1850 so can be viewed as a bridge between the Romantic period and the Victorian period. Wordsworth was succeeded by Lord Tennyson, Queen Victoria’s favourite poet.

Rudyard Kipling (1865 -1936) was an English short-story writer, poet, and novelist. Many of his stories were based on his life in India. To some Kipling was a prophet of British Imperialism, but whatever his political views, his literary talents are widely admired.

IF (#7 on list of favourite poems)
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

- Rudyard Kipling

ROMANTIC POETS - Percy Bysshe Shelley

Love’s Philosophy

The fountains mingle with the river
   And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
   With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
   All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
   Why not I with thine?—

See the mountains kiss high heaven
   And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
   If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
   And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
   If thou kiss not me?

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792–1822


Tuesday, September 9, 2014


QUESTION: Who is the most evil character in Macbeth--Macbeth of Lady Macbeth?

RESPOND in analytical essay (PEEL) style.

Not all quotes are referenced. You can look them up yourself!!

YELLOW - broad statement on the topic
BROWN - general statement on the topic
GREEN - plot summary
PINK - thesis
 BLUE - arguments (3) using characters (3)
LINK: link to thesis

In the 15th Century play, Macbeth by William Shakespeare, there are many expressions of evil, but evil is mostly expressed in the characters Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It is often debated which of the Macbeths was the most evil. At the beginning of the play Macbeth appears a brave soldier, loyal to King Duncan, while Lady Macbeth appears the more evil of the two, overstepping her role in the Great Chain of Being, pushing Macbeth to  murder the king. However, events unfold which reveal that Macbeth is the most evil character in the play, degenerating from the time of the witches' prophecies due to his "vaulting ambition". Once Macbeth hears the witches' prophecies, he vows to murder King Duncan, then Banquo, his best friend must die because of the succession to the throne, then his evil reaches its zenith when he arranges the murder of the good wife, Lady Macduff and her children.

When the play begins, Macbeth appears a brave character who is loyal to his King and cousin, but not for long.  When he meets the weird sisters on the heath when returning from battle, they promise him he will become Thane of Cawdor, then the King hereafter. He sends a letter to Lady Macbeth, telling her of the "fateful news." It is his wife who encourages him to go through with King Duncan's murder, goading his masculinity. He probably would not have killed the king without his wife pushing him, although he admits to "vaulting ambition". Macbeth equivocates, then falls in on fate's side, blaming the "...dagger, which I see before me..." (1.6...) Once he kills the king, even though at first repentant, wishing he could wake King Duncan, he continues on his murderous rampage. He no longer tells his wife of his plans, protecting his "dearest chuck". From this point on, once partners in crime, Macbeth now appears the most evil character of the two, relegating his wife to the subservient position expected of women in Elizabethan times.

Once King Duncan's murder is achieved and Macbeth is crowned king at Scone, he is not content. As the weird sisters prophecied to Banquo that "Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none." (1.3.68) Macbeth feels insecure in his position as he feels it is pointless that he has killed the rightful king just so Banquo's sons can inherit the throne. Macbeth does not carry out the murders himself, instead his evil heart plans it; he hires three murderers to do the deed, first blackening Banquo's name to them. He says of his best friend: "Banquo, thy soul's flight, If it find heaven must find it out tonight" (3.1.62-63). Banquo is killed, but Fleance flees, so Macbeth cannot relax in his kingly position. At this stage of the play, evil still drives Macbeth's actions, and he sees the ghost of Banquo at the feast, revealing his guilty conscience at murdering his friend. Lady Macbeth spends the night covering up for her husband's shattered mental state, as Macbeth is the only one who can see the ghost of Banquo. Lady Macbeth protects Macbeth by sending the lords home before Macbeth can reveal his evil acts to them all.

By the time Macbeth decides to kill Lady Macduff due to his suspicions of her husband who has flown to England, he is a seasoned murderer, moving from evil act to evil act. Lady Macduff, although warned of pending disaster, holds her ground, stating "Whither should I fly? I have done no harm." (4.2.82-83) That Lady Macduff is an innocent does not stop Macbeth from sending murderers to kill her and her children. He has become, as Macduff says to Malcolm, "treacherous". Malcolm replies "Macbeth is a tyrant" (4.3.20-21). Macduff, even before hearing that Macbeth has killed his family says, "Not in all the legions of horrid hell can come a devil more damned In evils to top Macbeth." (4.3.63-65).

Macbeth, the play personified evil through the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Once Macbeth murders once, he goes on a rampage unassisted by his wife. Perhaps his most evil act is killing Lady Macduff and her children. When he faces Macduff on the battlefield, he expresses some regret at the evil act. Macduff calls Macbeth a "Hell-hound" (5.8.4) and that is the way Shakespeare crafts his character through the play. Therefore, Macbeth is the most evil character. After her initial involvement in King Duncan's murder, Lady Macbeth deteriorates into madness, shocked at her husband's murderous rampage.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


FRAU Diller was a sharp-edged woman with fat glasses and a nefarious glare. She developed this evil look to discourage the very idea of stealing from her shop, which she occupied with soldier-like posture, a refrigerated voice and even breath that smelled like Heil Hitler. The shop itself was white and cold, and completely bloodless. The small house compressed beside it shivered with a little more severity than the other buildings on Himmel Street. Frau Diller administered this feeling, dishing it out as the only free item from her premises. She lived for her shop and her shop lived for the Third Reich. Even when rationing started later in the year, she was known to sell certain hard-to-get items under the counter and donate the money to the Nazi Party. On the wall behind her usual sitting position was a framed photo of the Führer. If you walked into her shop and didn't say Heil Hitler, you wouldn't be served.

(Zusack, pp.55-56)


  1. What sort of a person do you think Frau Diller is from the description in this passage? Quote from the passage to justify your answer.
  2. What does 'a sharp-edged woman' mean?
  3. What literary technique is used in 'fat glasses'?
  4. The author says: 'The shop itself was white and cold, and completely bloodless.' Why do you think he described the shop in such a way? 
  5. What literary technique is used in this passage: 'The small house compressed beside it shivered with a little more severity...' 
  6. Can a small house 'shiver'? Why does the author use this term?
  7. What was the Third Reich? (You may have to google this one if you don't study history).
  8. What term do we use for goods bought under-the-counter?
  9. Who was the Führer? Why was he referred to as such?
  10. What was the significance of the Heil Hitler salute? 

Thursday, August 28, 2014


One of the most important themes in Macbeth involves the witches' statement in Act 1, Scene1 that "fair is foul and foul is fair." (Act 1, Scene 1, Line 10) This phrase aptly describes the macabre status quo within the character of Macbeth and without.  When Macbeth and Banquo first see the weird sisters, Banquo is horrified by their hideous appearance.  Conversely, Macbeth immediately began to converse with these universally known evil creatures.  After hearing their prophecies, one can say that Macbeth considered the witches to be "fair" when in reality their intentions were quite "foul." Macbeth's possession of the titles of Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland came by "foul" means.  Macbeth became the Thane of Glamis by his father Sinel's death; he became Thane of Cawdor when the former namesake was executed for treason; and he was ordained King of Scotland after murdering the venerable Duncan.  Thus, Macbeth had a rather ghastly way of advancing in life.

This theme is further verified by King Duncan's statement "There's no art/ To find the mind's construction in the face." (Act 1, Scene 4, Lines 11-12) Although Macbeth has the semblance of the amicable and dutiful host, ("fair") he is secretly plotting Duncan's death ("foul").  Furthermore, Lady Macbeth's orchestration of the murder exemplifies the twisted atmosphere in Inverness Castle.  Both a woman and a host, she should be the model of grace and femininity as described by King Duncan.  She is also described, however, as a "fiendlike queen" (Act 5, Scene 6, Line 69) and exhibits a cold, calculating mentality.  In addition, the very porter of Inverness likens the place to the dwelling of the devil Beelzebub.  This implies that despite its "pleasant seat," as described by the king (Act 1, Scene 6, Line 1) Inverness is a sinister and evil place.  It is also interesting to note that Macbeth is unable to say a prayer to bless himself after murdering Duncan.  It is strange and "foul" that he should think of religion after committing such an unholy act.  The very sanction of sleep and repose is also attacked in Macbeth.  What is normally considered a refreshing and necessary human activity is "murdered" by Macbeth after he commits his heinous crime.  Neither Macbeth nor his wife is able to sleep after killing Duncan. 

Macbeth's lack of sleep turns him into a brutal killer; Lady Macbeth begins to sleepwalk and inadvertently reveals the source of her distress through her nightly babble which is overheard by the Gentlewoman and then the Doctor.  In addition, Macbeth gains an almost inhuman strength and courage after his first crime.  He is more courageous in crime than he has ever been in virtuous deed, which is indeed bizarre.

A second theme in Macbeth is that of the tragic hero.  A tragic hero is a character that the audience sympathizes with despite his/her actions that would indicate the contrary.  Macbeth, in spite of his horrible murders, is a pitiable man.  His saving grace is that he did not initially want to kill Duncan but later changed his mind after listening to his wife.  In addition, Macbeth internally suffered because he could not enjoy his royal status.  Fear, paranoia, exhaustion and sleeplessness plagued him despite his sovereignty.  Lady Macbeth is also a tragic hero.  Her initial courage and daring did not last long, and she quickly deteriorated into a delusional, hapless somnambulist.  She broke down mentally and physically because of the strain of the crime.  Macbeth and his wife are pitiable characters because the reader is able to follow their every thought and action.  Thus, the reader sees not only their gruesome effects on the Scottish people but also on themselves.

Another important theme in Macbeth is that of indecision and internal conflict.  Macbeth was indecisive up until the very night of the murder about whether or not he should kill Duncan.  Afterwards, he was unsure of a course of action and would like to have undone the foul deed.  He rashly decided to kill Banquo, visit the witches and remain confident even when his castle was besieged.  Lady Macbeth's initial lack of indecision is what brought about the pair's downfall.  Later, however, she becomes tentative about the potential benefits of Banquo's murder.  By the end of the play, she has become a delusional recluse that is almost entirely ignored by her husband.

A fourth important theme in Macbeth is the creation of an internal/external hell.  This creation of a place of damnation begins when Macbeth freely converses with the sinister witches.  Banquo calls the weird sisters "instruments of darkness," (Act 1, Scene 4, Line 124) but Macbeth still decides to take their advice.  Several times in the play both Macbeth and his wife invoke the night, a universal symbol of evil and darkness.  Furthermore, many of the scenes in the play take place at night or in murky areas and are accompanied by the shrieks of ominous animals.  Macbeth is unable to bless himself after the crime and he "murders sleep," (Act 2, Scene 2, Line 35) one of the only positive associations with night.  Thus, hallucinations, sleepwalking, disembodied voices and ghosts all pervade Inverness.  One can recognize the climax of this creation of an external hell when the porter himself likens the castle to the residence of the devil.  Furthermore, Macbeth is indirectly compared to Edward the King of England.  Whereas Edward cures people, Macbeth kills them.  In addition, Lady Macbeth commits suicide in the castle, an act considered worthy at the time of eternal damnation in hell.

This creation of an external hell also corresponds to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's internal suffering.  Macbeth is never at peace after the murder of King Duncan - he is either delirious, enraged, brutal and/or paranoid.  He cannot enjoy the material and mortal pleasures of being a king despite all of the sacrifice that it took on his part.  Lady Macbeth's courage and resolve quickly deteriorates and she is left as an incurable somnambulist who unconsciously tries to erase her memory of the crime.  Macbeth and his wife's unintentional creation of an external hell for Scotland is pitiable because they suffered internally as well as externally.


  1. What is Macbeth's initial reaction to the weird sisters' prophecy? When does his attitude change? If so, when? (Answer using quotes/paraphrasing from the play)
  2. Macbeth is continually described as giving the witches his 'rapt' attention. Why is that? What does this suggest about Macbeth?
  3. Do all the witches' prophecies come true?
  4. What role does Lady Macbeth play in her husband's actions? Is she always involved in Macbeth's decision making?

Monday, August 25, 2014


QUESTIONS to consider:

How does Shakespeare play with gender roles in Macbeth?

Lady Macbeth tries to take on the masculine characteristics to make herself a stronger person, and in doing so, she belittles Macbeth by attacking his own masculinity - a reversal in gender roles.


Lady Macbeth is the focus of much of the exploration of gender roles in Macbeth. As Lady Macbeth propels her husband toward murdering King Duncan, she indicates that she must take on masculine characteristics. Her most famous speech addresses this issue. In Act 1, Scene 5, after reading Macbeth's letter in which he details the witches' prophecy and informs her of Duncan's impending visit to their castle, Lady Macbeth indicates her desire to lose her feminine qualities and gain masculine ones. She cries, "Come, you spirits/That tend on mortal thoughts? unsex me here, /And fill me from the crown to the toe top full/Of direst cruelty" (1.5.38-41).

Clearly, gender is out of its traditional order. This disruption of gender roles is also presented through Lady Macbeth's usurpation of the dominant role in the Macbeth's marriage; on many occasions, she rules her husband and dictates his actions. This, of course, disrupts the Great Chain of Being which operated in Shakespearean times--the woman was to be subservient to the husband, yet Macbeth does not put her in her place, rather he says to his wife: "Bring forth men-children only/For thy undaunted mettle should compose/Nothing but males." (1.5.80-83) (Consider that Lady Macbeth does not have children--the only way for her to gain status as a woman would be with a title. Keeping royal blood in the family was very important--very relevant at the time).

This disruption of gender roles is also represented in the weird sisters. The trio is perceived as violating nature, and despite their designation as sisters, the gender of these characters is also ambigious. Upon encountering them, Banquo says, "You should be women,And yet your beards forbid me to interpret/That you are so" (1.2.45-47) Their facial hair symbolises their influence in the affairs of the male-dominated warrior society of Scotland at the time. The question of the witches' gender is a device Shakespeare uses to criticise the male-dominated culture.

Lady MacDuff is the opposing example of a woman--good versus Lady Macbeth's and the witches' evil. Lady MacDuff's home is the opposite to the Macbeth's. She plays the expected role of the time--a home-maker who cares for her children. When she is told that MacDuff has disappeared, her response is an emotional one of believing that is because he does not love them anymore. On the other hand, Lady Macbeth's harsh front is made more extreme when she is regarded next to the saintly Lady MacDuff.


Throughout Shakespeare's play we see that Macbeth is the victim of evil seduction by women. He is perplexed by the witches: "...My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, Shakes so my single state of man that function is smother'd in surmise, and nothing is But what it is not." (1.3.140-143)

Lady Macbeth also plays a strong role in his moral corruption. Her instigation of supernatural power all combine to crush Macbeth's better nature. Do you think Macbeth would even have thought of killing Duncan if it were not for the influences of the witches and his wife?

Historically, men have been corrupted by women--from the time of Adam and Eve.

Lady Macbeth's actions parallel those of the witches. The witches planted the idea that Macbeth should become king. Lady Macbeth followed through with this idea by pushing Macbeth to kill Duncan. There is definitely an evil connection between the witches and Lady Macbeth.

Friday, August 22, 2014


Lord of the Flies:  Reading Comprehension Questions

Chapter One

  1. What was Ralph's reaction to the idea that there are no grown-ups with them? (p. 8)
  2. Who does Ralph say will rescue them? (p. 13)
  3. What does Piggy believe has happened back home in England? (p. 14)
  4. What does Piggy want to do now that they're on the island? (p. 14-15)
  5. What do Piggy and Ralph find as they are wandering the island? (p. 15)
  6. What does Piggy suggest they do with the conch?  (Notice that Piggy knows how the conch works, not Ralph) (p. 16)
  7. What happened when the conch was blown? (p. 17)
  8. When all of the boys sit in front of Ralph (who has the conch), what does Piggy do? (p. 19)
  9. Who turned out to be the "creature"? (p. 19)
  10.  Describe the boy in charge of the choir. (p. 20)
  11.  What role does the choir take on? (p. 23)
  12.  What decision must the boys make concerning the layout of the land? (p. 23-24)
  13.  Who becomes the chief and how is this determined? (p. 23)
  14.  Why is Piggy upset with Ralph? (p. 24 and p. 21)
  15.  Describe how the boys have fun as explorers. (p. 25-26)
  16.  Who knows who made the tracks? (p. 26)
  17.  What happens to Jack when he tries to kill the pig? (p. 31)
  18.  Describe these characters:
    1. Ralph
    2. Piggy
    3. Jack
    4. Simon
Chapter Two
  1. How does Ralph decide the conch will be used? (p. 33)
  2. Why does Jack want "lots of rules"? (p. 33)
  3. What does Piggy make everybody realize? (p. 34)
  4. Ralph says they will have fun until who arrives? (p. 34)
  5. What do the boys hear about for the first time from the small boy? (p. 35)
  6. How does Jack decide to take care of the "Beastie"? (p. 37)
  7. How does Ralph make the boys feel secure? (p. 37)
  8. What does Ralph say they must do to be rescued? (p. 38)
  9. What does the reaction of the boys to Ralph's suggestion say about them? (p. 38)
  10.  How does Piggy react when Ralph starts climbing the scar? (p. 38)
  11.  Who was not helping with the fire? (p. 39)
  12.  How are Ralph and Jack reacting to one another? (p. 39-40)
  13.  Why is Ralph constantly standing on his head? (p. 39)
  14.  What "society" are they referring to when they say that is "stops around them"? (p. 40)
  15.  How does Jack decide to light the fire? (p. 41)
  16.  Why does Piggy think the others will listen to him? (p. 42)
  17.  What excuse does Jack make for not listening? (p. 42)
  18.  Jack says they are not what? (p. 42)
  19.  What two things are the hunters' responsibilities? (p. 43)
  20.  What happens to the fire and what is the boys' reaction to the fire? (p. 44-47)
Chapter Three
  1. What did Jack look like as he hunted? (p. 48)
  2. What has happened to his physical appearance? (p. 48)
  3. Why is Ralph frustrated? (p. 50)
  4. What has Ralph noticed about the littleuns? (p. 50)
  5. What does Jack want to do before he's rescued? (p. 51)
  6. What does Jack realize concerning the pigs? (p. 54)
  7. How does Jack want to disguise himself? (p. 54)
  8. What does Ralph accuse Jack of liking? (p. 54)
  9. Finish Ralph's quote with something appropriate: "While I..." (p. 54)
  10.   Explain Simon and his retreat (p. 55-57)
  11.  What is the significance of the title of this chapter, "Huts on the Beach"?
 Chapter Four
  1. Explain the meaning of the title of this chapter (you may want to answer this at the end, once you've read the chapter).
  2. What did the boys do in the morning? (p. 58)
  3. What sorts of things would happen during midday? (p. 58)
  4. What are the names of the smaller boys?  The larger boys? (p. 59)
  5. What do the littleuns do in general? (p. 59)
  6. Why did they obey the conch? (p. 60)
  7. What does Roger do to the sandcastles? (p. 60)
  8. What have the boys found? (p. 61-62)
  9. With what does Jack compare hunting? (p. 63)
  10.  What is Jack's reaction to his painted face? (p. 63)
  11.  What was there about Piggy that never seemed to change? (p. 64)
  12.  What does Piggy want to make? (p. 64)
  13.  Ralph sees smoke.  What does the smoke mean? (p. 65-66)
  14.  What does Ralph realize they are going to need?  (p. 67)
  15.  What were the hunters carrying? (p. 68)
  16.  What is the meaning of Jack's statement, "You should have seen the blood"?  What does this show about his character? (p. 70)
  17.  What happens to Piggy's specs? (p. 71)
  18.  What does Ralph do to assert himself as chief? (p. 72)
  19.  Why does Simon "lower his head in shame"? (p. 74)
  20.  What does Ralph decide to do at the end of the chapter? (p. 75)
Chapter Five
  1. What does Ralph realize about himself? (p. 76)
  2. Why does Ralph need Piggy? (p. 78)
  3. Why does Ralph want water brought from the river? (p. 80)
  4. Why does Ralph try to get the boys to act like humans and have rules? (p. 81)
  5. According to Ralph, what is the most important thing? (p. 80-81)
  6. What new rule upsets the assembly? (p. 81)
  7. What does Ralph understand about the boys and their behavior? (p. 82)
  8. What did the little boy see in the trees? (p. 82-83)
  9. What is Simon's excuse for being out? (p. 85)
  10.  Why do all the children cry along with Percival? (p. 86)
  11.  Where does Percival say the beast comes from? (p. 88)
  12. What does Simon think the beast is? (p. 89)
  13.  What example proves Jack's refusal to accept intelligent thinking? (p. 89-90)
  14.  What does Jack want to eliminate? (p. 91)
  15.  What does Ralph want from the adult world? (p. 94)
Chapter Six
  1. Who is tending the fire? (p. 96)
  2. What do they do when they see the dead pilot? (p. 98)
  3. What do they claim they saw? (p. 99)
  4. Why didn't Ralph blow the conch shell to call an assembly? (p. 99)
  5. How was the beast described? (p. 100)
  6. Why doesn't Piggy want them to hurt the beast? (p. 101)
  7. How does Ralph and Jack's concern for the littluns differ? (p. 101)
  8. What is Piggy's job during the hunt? (p. 101)
  9. Why do Ralph and Jack argue? (p. 102)
  10. Jack has explored everywhere except for which area? (p. 102)
  11.  What does Simon do? (p. 103-104)
  12.  What was the castle? (p. 104)
  13.  Where is Ralph going and why? (p. 105-106)
  14.  Who joins Ralph? (p. 106)
  15.  What does Jack say the rock place could be? (p. 106)
  16.  While on the mountain top, what does Ralph notice is missing? (p. 107)
  17.  What does Ralph tell them to stop doing?  Why? (p. 108)
  18.  What does Ralph want the boys to do that the others don't want to do? (p. 108)
  19.  Why is Simon the only one to doubt the existence of a beast?
  20.  The conch represents democratic procedure.  Why does Jack say they don't need the conch any longer?
 Chapter Seven
  1. What does Ralph want to do to make himself more comfortable? (p. 109)
  2. What tries to attack Ralph? (p. 113)
  3. What does Ralph do to the boar? (p. 113)
  4. What happens to Robert? (p. 114-115)
  5. Why doesn't Ralph want to leave Piggy alone all night with the littluns? (p. 117)
  6. Who volunteers to go tell Piggy the rest will be late? (p. 117)
  7. Where does Ralph want to go? (p. 118)
  8. In what way is Ralph realistic? (p. 118)
  9. Finally, Ralph lets Jack do what? (p. 120)
  10.   What does Jack do that surprises and frustrates Ralph? (p. 120-121)
  11.  What are the "green lights" in Ralph's head? (p. 123)
  12.  What did Ralph and the other boys see? (p. 123)
  13.  Why does Ralph ask Jack why Jack hates him? (p. 118)
Chapter Eight
  1. What do Ralph and the big boys see? (p. 124)
  2. How does Ralph insult Jack's hunters? (p. 125)
  3. Jack blows the shell and expects others to obey it.  Why? (p. 125)
  4. What does Jack try to do to Ralph as he talks? (p. 126)
  5. Why does Jack call for a vote? (p. 127)
  6. What does Jack mean when he says, "I'm not going to play any longer"? (p. 127)
  7. Why does everyone become cheerful and rather pleased? (p. 129)
  8. What does Piggy realize about Maurice, Bill, and Roger? (p. 131)
  9. Where is Simon? (p. 132)
  10. What does Jack offer to the Beast? (p. 136-137)
  11. What is worrying and frightening Ralph? (p. 139)
  12. What does Piggy say they must do? (p. 139)
  13. What are Jack and his group having/assembling? (p. 140)
  14. Who has joined Jack's tribe? (p. 141)
  15.  Why do the boys refuse to vote for Jack as chief but slip off to join him later? (p. 140-142)
  16.  Why is the killing of the sow described in so much detail? (p. 135)
  17.  What does the Lord of the Flies tell Simon? (p. 143-144)
Chapter Nine
  1. What happens to Simon's nose? (p. 145)
  2. What is meant by "What else is there to do"? (p. 145)
  3. What did Simon see at the top of the mountain? (p. 146)
  4. What does Simon realize? (p. 146-147)
  5. What does he decide he must do? (p. 147)
  6. What does Ralph suggest? (p. 148)
  7. What question does Jack ask that threatens Ralph's role? (p. 150)
  8. How does Jack embarrass Ralph? (p. 150)
  9. What kind of leader is Jack?
  10.  What happens to Simon's body as it goes out to sea? (p. 153-154) (Read these last couple of pages very carefully)
Chapter Ten
  1. Why is Ralph limping, one eye a slit, scab on leg? (p. 155)
  2. Why does Ralph laugh at Piggy's suggestion that they call an assembly? (p. 156)
  3. What does Piggy think they should pretend? (p. 157)
  4. What is going to happen to Wilfred? (p. 159)
  5. What did Stanley almost say? (p. 160)
  6. Why was fire important? (p. 161)
  7. What does Eric say which shocks Ralph? (p. 162)
  8. What does Ralph think the noise outside is? (p. 166)
  9. When a voice calls from the jungle, what does it say? (p. 166)
  10. Describe the attack: who was attacking? what did they want and/or take? (p. 167-168)
  11. How does Jack account for the death of Simon? (p. 161)
Chapter Eleven
  1. How is Piggy blinded? (p. 169)
  2. Where are Ralph and Piggy going to go? (p. 171)
  3. How does Piggy assert himself? (p. 171)
  4. What does Ralph want to do to their physical appearance but can’t? (p. 172)
  5. Regarding the quote, "They passed the place where...," why do they shy away in silence? (p. 174)
  6. What does Ralph do to attract the boys' attention? (p. 175)
  7. What does Ralph tell Piggy to do? (p. 175)
  8. Why do Ralph and Jack begin to fight and who starts it? (p. 176-177)
  9. Piggy reminds Ralph what they came for.  What is it? (p. 177)
  10.  Why does Ralph lose his temper? (p. 179)
  11.  What happens when Piggy tries to use intelligence to reason with the kids? (p. 180-181)
  12.  What is the reaction of Jack's tribe's to Ralph's talk of rescue? (p. 178)
Chapter Twelve
  1. Where is Ralph? (p. 183)
  2. What does he look like? (p. 183)
  3. What does Ralph feel has happened to the boys? (p. 184)
  4. Why does Ralph figure he is an outcast? (p. 186)
  5. What advice does Samneric give Ralph? (p. 187-188)
  6. What is going to happen to Ralph? (p. 188-190)
  7. Why did Ralph plan to sleep near Castle Rock? (p. 190-191)
  8. How is Jack's tribe trying to get rid of Ralph? (p. 192-194)
  9. What does Ralph do to one of the boys? (p. 194)
  10.  What had the tribe done? (p. 194-195)
  11.  How does Ralph think he can escape? (p. 195-197)
  12. What had Ralph "heard before"?  (p. 196)
  13.  What does Ralph see when he staggers to his feet? (p. 200)
  14. What are the most significant events at the end of the chapter? (p. 197-202)