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)