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Bewitching Three Sisters: Introducing Macbeth Through Performance

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May 2002
Rick Hummel teachers IB English 1 and English 12 at Edison High School in Alexandria, Virginia.

Plays/Scenes Covered
What's On for Today and Why
This lesson is intended to serve as an introduction to Macbeth. Students inevitably find the witches to be among the most intriguing characters in the play; having them briefly focus on their appearances should "hook them" on the play. At the same time, they will be introduced to the character Macbeth and get a general sense of the major conflicts.

This lesson will take two 90-minute class periods.
What You Need

Folger edition of Macbeth
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts

What To Do
1. Organize your class into small groups—performance troupes—and assign each group one of the witches scenes—1.1, 1.3.1-35, 1.3.36-86, 3.5, 4.1.1-38 and 4.1.44-75. (You need not assign all scenes; this will vary according to your class size.) 2. Have the groups "leap" into their scenes by performing a choral reading. Next, have them read the scene round-robin style, stopping (and passing on to the next reader) at all punctuation marks other than the comma. 3. Finally, let them finish reading their scenes in character. Require them to read the scenes two or three times, switching characters after each reading. At this point, students should be relatively familiar with the language and action in their respective scenes. Nevertheless, questions will abound. 4. Have the students spend the rest of this first day asking questions: What words are unfamiliar? What is puzzling and/or intriguing about the language? Who are these characters? What is happening in my scene? What happened just before it and what is likely to happen afterwards? Where should this scene be set? Who would I play? Why? How would I play her/him? This should begin as a group discussion. For homework, the students should answer these question in writing. 5. Have the students regroup and share the ideas they generated from their homework writing assignment. 6. Once they complete their discussion, the students should begin thinking about how they want to perform the scene. They need to negotiate: Who will play what role? In what context? Encourage the different groups to play their scenes in different contexts. You may even want to assign different scenarios. 7. Give the students about 15 minutes to rehearse their scenes. Remember, they are not memorizing lines and have spent considerable time thinking about and discussing the scene. In this case, spontaneity is key. 8. Let the plays begin! 9. Ask students to reflect on the process: What did they learn about language and performance? About Macbeth? This project could also be assigned for homework and discussed in class the following day.
How Did It Go?
Did the students integrate the reflections from their writing assigment and group discussions into their performances? Did the students work together to produce a coherent vision of the scene? Do the students now approach the play with greater understanding?

If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.

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