Senior Cycle English - Alive



Macbeth Videos


Andrea Ainsworth, Voice Director with the Abbey Theatre, devised a series of workshops for teachers on Shakespeare's Macbeth. These videos capture some of the approaches used in the workshops.

The videos cover workshop approaches to three important soliloquies:

"This Supernatural Soliciting..." Act I Scene III
"if it were done..." Act I, Scene VII,
"To be thus..." Act I, Scence VII,

There are also short videos on different aspects of the workshops, including one on reading Shakespeare.  

These are available below...


Soliloquy 1 “This Supernatural Soliciting…”


In this exercise, we are replacing an objective with an object.

For Macbeth his objective could be “I want to be king”

The object the students choose becomes the metaphor for this objective.


Step One


Start the exercise without words.

Place the object nearby – the students can approach it and even touch it but they cannot take it.

Add the words of the speech


Step Two        


Working in pairs, one partner tempts the other using the object, keeping it just out of reach.

Repeat the exercise and add in the words of the speech.

Each partner gets a turn to play Macbeth.

As the exercise proceeds, the students will begin to experience the tension between Macbeth and his desire to be King.  Take breaks to allow the students to notice and discuss the experience.

Go back to speaking the text individually or reading it around in a group, trusting that the memory of the exercise has stayed in the body. 




Soliloquy 2 “If it were done…”


Step One


Set the scene by asking the students to imagine the moment before “If it were done...” begins.

Add details - Whom are they sitting next to at the table?  Who is sitting across from them?  Where is Duncan sitting?  Where is Lady Macbeth sitting?           

Ask the students to imagine any physical sensations Macbeth might be experiencing, or example, a racing pulse or sweaty palms.  You could ask them to beat out that pulse with their hand.


Step Two


Working in partners, speak the soliloquy, “If it were done…” to each other, changing speakers at each punctuation mark.


Step Three


Raise the stakes by turning the soliloquy into a conspiracy – tell the students they must have this conversation but it is a secret.  They must speak loud enough so that their partner can hear, but they must be very careful no one over hears them.


Step Four


Raise the stakes again by having the teacher or another student act as the secret police and patrol the classroom.  Students might have to stop speaking while the patrol is near.  This sense of surveillance will raise the tension even further.

Discuss what affect this has had on the speech and on their understanding of this moment in the play and, if there is time, read the speech again.




Soliloquy 3 “To be thus...”


After a group reading, read the speech again changing speaker at each punctuation mark.

Ask the students which words struck them – without looking at the page.

Get them to pay attention to any repetitions (thus, nothing etc.).

Ask them to think of the opposites of some of the key words (nothing, safely, fears etc.).


Step One


Set the scene – discuss who else is in this scene with Macbeth – get the students to find an object to represent everyone Macbeth talks about in the speech.

Place the objects nearby and each time a character is mentioned point to the object, which represents the character.

Notice how many times Macbeth mentions Banquo and his children.


Step Two


In a group of three have one student play Macbeth, one Banquo and the other Fleance.

Banquo and Fleance are unaware of Macbeth but Macbeth has a very real and tangible focus.

The student playing Macbeth can speak the speech while watching and or circling Fleance and Banquo. 

Discuss the exercise.













A Note on Reading


Start by reading slowly together in a group.

This accommodates people with different reading abilities and encourages ease and fluency with language.

After a two or three group readings read around the circle changing at each punctuation mark.

Notice how the speech develops and builds from one small section of thought to the next.