Robert L. Harrison is Dean of the College of Professional Studies and Associate Professor of Education at West Virginia State University. He previously taught English at Bluefield High School in Bluefield, WV.
What's On for Today and Why
The purpose of "Macbeth: A Three Dimensional Approach" is to provide a framework for teaching Macbeth which reviews and builds on student prior knowledge from previous Shakespeare study and provides a cross-curricular approach that incorporates NCTE standards as well as standards in history, music, and theater.
This lesson will take five 60-minute class periods.
What You Need
Folger edition of Macbeth
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
A complete film version of Shakespeare's Macbeth
A complete film version of Verdi's Macbeth
Holinshed's Chronicles Excerpts (see below)
3 Dimensional Macbeth Essay Rubic (Optional)
3 Dimensional Macbeth Handout 1
Holinshed excerpt 1
Holinshed excerpt 2
Holinshed excerpt 3
What To Do
1. Divide the class into three learning communities. Each community will be responsible for becoming experts on one dimension of Macbeth and for sharing that expertise with their classmates.
- Learning Community I will explore and become experts on the First Dimension of Macbeth—Holinshed’s Chronicles.
- Learning Community II will explore and become experts on the Second Dimension of Macbeth—Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
- Learning Community III will explore and become experts on the Third Dimension of Macbeth—Verdi’s Macbeth.
2. Once the groups are assigned, distributes Handout 1 to each learning community. Over several class periods, each community will study their assigned dimension of Macbeth and complete the appropriate column. Notes for each group should include:
- A concise summary of the Macbeth story
- Identification and description of key characters
- Notes on how Macbeth is staged (those using Holinshed's Chronicles may note how Holinshed describes Scotland)
- Other notable details on their assigned dimension
3. During their first meeting, each learning community meets should select a team chair who will lead their discussions. However, each student should actively participate in the discussion and completion of their group's portion of Handout 1. During these meetings, circulate among the student groups and serve as a facilitator/resource person for the learning community. This practice also helps to keep the students on task.
4. Next, each learning community team presents its findings to the rest of the class. While each team presents the other teams should take notes and complete the grid on Handout 1. During these presentations, teams may present portions of the films of the play and opera versions of Macbeth.
5. Optional: As an assessment, students may write an essay in which they compare or contrast Holinshed’s Chronicles with Shakespeare’s Macbeth or Shakespeare’s Macbeth with Verdi’s Macbeth.
Note: For performance-based ideas for teaching Macbeth, check out our additional resources in the sidebar. Our "Play by Play" section has additional lesson plans, activities, and teachin tips, and the "32 Second Macbeth" handout allows your students to perform the entire play in less than a minute!
How Did It Go?
Were students able to effectively summarize and present the story, characters, setting or staging, and other notable details from each dimension? Were students able to note key differences between Holinshed, Shakepeare's, and Verdi's interpretation of the Macbeth story?
If you assigned the compare and contrast essay, use the Essay Rubric to assess your students' work.
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.