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How to Build a Theme
CCSS ELA-Literacy RL. 11-12.2 Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development
over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account;
provide an objective summary of the text.
Assignment: Look at the text of Macbeth. From the notes you took while examining the images in class, choose TWO
thematic categories, for which you will find a series of TWO quotes per act that support your thoughts for those themes.
Explain how each selected quote SUPPORTS each theme, DEVELOPS the theme, and BUILDS upon both themes
throughout the play. You should have TWO (or more) quotes per act & therefore TEN quotes with explanations by the
end of the play. Begin by identifying TWO quotes to support TWO themes in ACT I. Include the speaker, act, scene, and
line #s for your quotes. Then find TWO quotes to support the SAME themes in ACT II, etc. BE SURE YOUR EXPLANATIONS
Thematic Topics: Blood, Guilt, Deceit, Greed for Power/Wealth, Ambition, Supernatural, Fear
Examples of Quotes and Responses for the thematic topics of FEAR & AMBITION:
Quote #1: “Good sir, why do you start and seem to fear/Things that do sound so fair?” (I, iii, 51-52). This quote, said by
Banquo, is the first indication that Macbeth has any fear. Macbeth seems to fear the prophecies of the witches, even
though they are making what sound like favorable predictions for Macbeth. His fear is apparently seen on the look on
his face, which is what causes Banquo to question it.
Quote #2: “The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be, Which the eye fears, when it is done , to see.” (I, iv, 53-54) Just
one scene later from the first quote, Macbeth’s fears have now grown from only imagining what he might do to be king
to actually hoping for the king’s murder, even though he doesn’t want to see it. His fear grows, even as his ambition to
be king grows. It seems that Macbeth even fears his own ambition and his own potential actions.
Quote #3: “I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition...” (I, vii, 25-27) As Macbeth
contemplates the murder of King Duncan, he can think of no good reason to kill him. In fact, he lists several reasons
NOT to kill him, including the fact that the angels will cry and Macbeth will damn his own soul. He is full of fear about
carrying out the plan, yet he still mentions his ambition. His desire to be king is still very strong and it seems as though
his ambition and his fear are at war with each other.
Quote #4:
M: “We will proceed no further in this business...”
LM: “…Art thou afeard / To be the same in thine own act and valor / As thou art in desire?” (I, vii, 32 & 39)
Here, Macbeth’s fears (and probably his conscience!) finally get the better of him and he decides he will NOT go through
with the plan to murder Duncan. Lady Macbeth, however, actually plays on Macbeth’s ambition, by asking about his
fear. She taunts him, asking if he is afraid to be as courageous as he is ambitious. By asking him about his fear, she
actually fuels his ambition further and proceeds to tell him both the plan she has in mind and how far she would go if
she swore to carry something out. Her ambition and fearlessness encourages Macbeth to hide his fear and go forward
with the plan to carry out his ambition to be king.
NOTE: Each response above shows how the quote supports the theme(s) AND how the themes begin to
interact or build upon each other AND how the themes develop throughout the play. Your responses should
do the same.