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Reading Shakespeare: Macbeth (5) - Macbeth's Dagger Soliloquy (Act II, Scene 1)

In this worksheet, students will analyse the language of Macbeth's soliloquy in Act II, Scene 1 in 'Macbeth'.

'Reading Shakespeare: Macbeth (5) - Macbeth's Dagger Soliloquy (Act II, Scene 1)' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA, Pearson Edexcel, Eduqas, OCR

Curriculum topic:   Shakespeare

Curriculum subtopic:   Macbeth

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

In this activity you will look at Macbeth's soliloquy in Act II, Scene 1 in Shakespeare's Macbeth. The soliloquy takes place before Macbeth goes to murder King Duncan. He imagines that he sees a dagger in the air in front of him...

Stiletto, vintage engraved illustration. Dictionary of Words and Things - Larive and Fleury - 1895 - stock vector

Read his soliloquy and then answer the following questions.

 

MACBETH:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go bid thy mistress, when my drink is ready,

She strike upon the bell. Get thee to bed.

Exit Servant

 

Is this a dagger which I see before me,

The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.

I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.

Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible

To feeling as to sight? or art thou but

A dagger of the mind, a false creation,

Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?

I see thee yet, in form as palpable

As this which now I draw.

Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going;

And such an instrument I was to use.

Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses,

Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,

And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,

Which was not so before. There's no such thing:

It is the bloody business which informs

Thus to mine eyes. Now o'er the one halfworld

Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse

The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates

Pale Hecate's offerings, and wither'd murder,

Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,

Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.

With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design

Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,

Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear

Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,

And take the present horror from the time,

Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:

Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.

A bell rings

 

I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.

Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell

That summons thee to heaven or to hell.

Exit

Who is Macbeth addressing his soliloquy to and what line tells us this?

the audience

the dagger

"Come let me clutch thee"

"Get thee to bed"

What happens when he tries to grab the dagger?

It disappears.

He can hold it.

He can't hold it but can still see it.

Why do you think Macbeth describes the dagger as a "fatal vision"?

It is a deadly vision which leads him towards a murder.

It frightens him.

It will kill him.

Where does Macbeth think the dagger may have come from?

 

Shakespeare's Macbeth with old books and a dagger - stock photo

the witches

Lady Macbeth

an hallucination from his feverish mind

What direction is the dagger leading Macbeth?

back to bed

back to the witches

towards Duncan's chamber

Reread this part of the soliloquy:

 

MACBETH:

 

 

 

 

 

(...) Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses,

Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,

And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,

Which was not so before. There's no such thing:

It is the bloody business which informs

Thus to mine eyes.

 

What is now on the dagger and what imagery is repeated and why?

water

blood

because Macbeth is about to commit murder

because Macbeth wants all his guilty feelings to be washed away

Macbeth's mind is now in turmoil. Reread the part of the soliloquy once the dagger has vanished:

 

MACBETH:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(...) Now o'er the one halfworld

Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse

The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates

Pale Hecate's offerings, and wither'd murder,

Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,

Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.

With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design

Moves like a ghost.

 

What images does Shakespeare use to suggest that Macbeth is living in a nightmare?

Art skull day of the dead. Hand drawing on paper. - stock photo

Nature has died.

Nightmares are attacking sleep.

Wolves are howling.

Witches are celebrating.

Shakespeare refers to something moving forward. What is he personifying here?

 

MACBETH:

 

 

 

 

(...) and wither'd murder,

Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,

Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.

With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design

Moves like a ghost.

a ghost

fear

murder

Read the final part of Macbeth's soliloquy:

 

MACBETH:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(...) Thou sure and firm-set earth,

Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear

Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,

And take the present horror from the time,

Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:

Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.

A bell rings

 

I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.

Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell

 

What noise signals it is time to murder Duncan?

an owl's hoot

Lady Macbeth's cry

a bell

The final two lines of the soliloquy are very final:

 

MACBETH:

 

(...) Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell

That summons thee to heaven or to hell.

 

What technique does Shakespeare use to add to this finality?

rhyme

repetition

punctuation

  • Question 1

Who is Macbeth addressing his soliloquy to and what line tells us this?

CORRECT ANSWER
the dagger
"Come let me clutch thee"
EDDIE SAYS
He is addressing the dagger with the line "Come let me clutch thee". This indicates to the audience that he is looking for the resolve he needs to be able to go through with the murder.
  • Question 2

What happens when he tries to grab the dagger?

CORRECT ANSWER
He can't hold it but can still see it.
EDDIE SAYS
Macbeth’s hallucination is an indicator of his state of mind before the murder. He is driven mad at the thought of committing this act, showing that Lady Macbeth is the one in control.
  • Question 3

Why do you think Macbeth describes the dagger as a "fatal vision"?

CORRECT ANSWER
It is a deadly vision which leads him towards a murder.
EDDIE SAYS
The word ‘fatal’ means deadly and it foreshadows Macbeth’s fate at the end of the play.
  • Question 4

Where does Macbeth think the dagger may have come from?

 

Shakespeare's Macbeth with old books and a dagger - stock photo

CORRECT ANSWER
an hallucination from his feverish mind
EDDIE SAYS
Macbeth recognises that he is hallucinating and states his mind is ‘heat-oppressed’ reinforcing his doubt and anguish over committing the murder.
  • Question 5

What direction is the dagger leading Macbeth?

CORRECT ANSWER
towards Duncan's chamber
EDDIE SAYS
The dagger leads Macbeth towards Duncan's chamber, suggesting it is encouraging and inviting him to murder the king.
  • Question 6

Reread this part of the soliloquy:

 

MACBETH:

 

 

 

 

 

(...) Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses,

Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,

And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,

Which was not so before. There's no such thing:

It is the bloody business which informs

Thus to mine eyes.

 

What is now on the dagger and what imagery is repeated and why?

CORRECT ANSWER
blood
because Macbeth is about to commit murder
EDDIE SAYS
The image of blood is effective because it tells the audience how gory and horrible the murder is going to be.
  • Question 7

Macbeth's mind is now in turmoil. Reread the part of the soliloquy once the dagger has vanished:

 

MACBETH:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(...) Now o'er the one halfworld

Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse

The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates

Pale Hecate's offerings, and wither'd murder,

Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,

Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.

With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design

Moves like a ghost.

 

What images does Shakespeare use to suggest that Macbeth is living in a nightmare?

Art skull day of the dead. Hand drawing on paper. - stock photo

CORRECT ANSWER
Nature has died.
Nightmares are attacking sleep.
Wolves are howling.
Witches are celebrating.
EDDIE SAYS
All are correct! Shakespeare uses lots of unnatural imagery to show how awful Macbeth’s crime is.
  • Question 8

Shakespeare refers to something moving forward. What is he personifying here?

 

MACBETH:

 

 

 

 

(...) and wither'd murder,

Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,

Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.

With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design

Moves like a ghost.

CORRECT ANSWER
murder
EDDIE SAYS
Shakespeare is personifying murder here. By doing this, Macbeth is able to deny any responsibility; if the murder is personified then it is almost as if it committed itself.
  • Question 9

Read the final part of Macbeth's soliloquy:

 

MACBETH:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(...) Thou sure and firm-set earth,

Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear

Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,

And take the present horror from the time,

Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:

Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.

A bell rings

 

I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.

Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell

 

What noise signals it is time to murder Duncan?

CORRECT ANSWER
a bell
EDDIE SAYS
A bell signals that it is time to murder Duncan. This is appropriate as bells were often used to signify death.
  • Question 10

The final two lines of the soliloquy are very final:

 

MACBETH:

 

(...) Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell

That summons thee to heaven or to hell.

 

What technique does Shakespeare use to add to this finality?

CORRECT ANSWER
rhyme
EDDIE SAYS
Shakespeare is using a rhyming couplet. By ending on the word ‘hell’ Shakespeare reinforces the idea that this murder is a crime against God too.
---- OR ----

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