"They Smack of Honor Both": Macbeth and a Nonfiction Source

Author: Maya McElroy teaches senior English at Rockport-Fulton High School in Rockport, TX

Editor: Greta Brasgalla, Folger National Teacher Corps and Curriculum Specialist at El Dorado High School, El Paso, TX

Common Core Anchor Standards: R.1, R.5

Text: Macbeth 1.1-2

Lesson Overview

Students will critique Shakespeare's text in terms of plot, themes, character motivation, and character development through a comparative analysis with Holinshed's 1577 book, The Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande. Students will complete a Venn diagram of the similarities and differences of the source and Shakespeare’s play.

Time: One 45-minute class period


What To Do

Before class students will read 1.1-2 of Macbeth.

Day One

  1. Before the class accesses the Chronicles, give them a quick lesson on spelling/typography. You may want to show a section of the primary source and have students brainstorm on how to read the text.
  2. Students will access the online version of Holinshed’s Chronicles and complete a Venn diagram of similarities and differences between the primary source and the play.
  3. As a whole group, ask students what their findings were. What are the obvious similarities and differences between the two texts? How do the characters differ from one version of the story to the other?


  1. Students will turn in their completed Venn diagram. Class may want to create one together to add to throughout reading.
  2. As an exit ticket, have students complete the following tasks:

    a. Name three things that Shakespeare changed in his play from the original source.

    b. Name two things that Shakespeare kept the same.

    c. Name one thing that surprised you about the primary source.
  3. Open ended response: What dramatic elements does Shakespeare add to create a more complex main character than the one that is depicted in the primary source?

TM7 - They Smack of Honor Both image.jpg

View Image Assets
Raphael Holinshed. Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande. 1577
Item Title: 
Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande
Item Call Number: 
STC 13567.8 Vol. 1
Item Creator: 
Holinshed, Raphael
Item Date: