Macbeth - Preparing your answer

Before beginning an answer, it is important that you plan it properly so that it is tailored and structured to the question. The bullet points that go with the question will help you to do this. You must also refer to the examiner's Assessment Objectives to ensure you have met the criteria.

Below is a structure that you could use for your answer:

  1. Introduction - what the Macbeths have planned to do and what we know of their characters so far. What has happened to Macbeth to make him change his mind about killing Duncan?
  2. How Lady Macbeth uses her powers of persuasion to change his mind back again.
  3. How her arguments affect Macbeth and the audience.
  4. Where else Lady Macbeth uses persuasive techniques in the play.
  5. Conclusion - what happens as a result of Lady Macbeth persuading her husband.

Sample answers

Point 2 from the above would form the main part of an answer and look in detail at the extract.

Sample answer 1

In this scene, Macbeth wants to stop the murder and says "We will proceed no further". Lady Macbeth makes sure that Macbeth will do exactly as she tells him. She has strong ambitions to be Queen and uses different arguments to make sure that he does do what she wants him to do. She uses a comparison to call him a coward but he tells her that he is a real man. I think that she is right about him at this point. She also says he does not love her if he does not carry out the murder. Macbeth's biggest worry is about what will happen to them if they fail. Lady Macbeth says "We'll not fail" which just dismisses the idea. By the end of the scene she has persuaded him back again and the audience thinks that she is a stronger character than her husband.

Feedback comments – Not bad but room for improvement!

  • This answer shows a reasonable level of understanding of the text and a development of a personal response. However, there is not enough supportive evidence quoted or analysis of the language attempted.
  • There is a limited attempt to analyse key vocabulary or literary devices. The use of a simile is noted but it is not explained what it is, what it means or why it is being used.
  • There is a reference to the effect on an audience but this needs development.
  • Sentences are correctly constructed and punctuated but not always phrased well.

Sample answer 2

Macbeth starts this scene in a decisive mood but by the end of it has given in to his wife's powers of persuasion. She asks him lots of questions but does not give him time to answer; this would unsettle him and make the audience aware of just how ambitious she is. Lady Macbeth uses emotional blackmail when she says "From this time, / Such I account thy love." She also calls him a coward using a simile to compare him to a cat who would like to get hold of some fish but which does not want to get its paws wet; this is an example of one of the many animal images used in the play. I think her biggest insult is to say that he is not acting like a man: "When you durst do it, then you were a man." The key opposites used here are "when" and "then". For a woman to say this to a man in Shakespeare's time would have been totally unacceptable and the original audience would probably have been shocked by it.

Feedback comments – Much better!

  • There is strong evidence here of a very good understanding of the text and an informed personal response to Shakespeare's writing. References are skilfully woven into the answer and are linked to the wider text as a whole.
  • There is clear evidence of language analysis and ability to use correct terminology (simile, images). There could have been some comment on line structure to further improve the answer.
  • There is a good attempt to recognise the effect of the scene on an audience.
  • A well-written answer which uses correct spelling, grammar and punctuation and which aims to develop complex written sentences and use advanced vocabulary.

Now it’s over to you!

Using the skills you have learned and revised, try answering the Macbeth question. Time yourself and make sure you are meeting the examiner's Assessment Objectives.