Macbeth: Structure KS3 | Playing Shakespeare

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Here you can find resources designed around the 2020 Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank production of Macbeth. Created for young people, students are able to follow along with the production online on the Globe's dedicated Macbeth microsite.

If students are new to the play, we suggest you start with these introductory Key Stage 4 Lesson Plans. If you would like to teach the play in greater detail, we recommend you use the advanced activities which can be found in the Key Stage 4 or Key Stage 5 areas.

We will be updating this section week by week, so be sure to check back for more activities soon. 

Understand the structure of Act I Scene 2

Learning Objectives 

  • Identify the main events within a scene 
  • Describe the main events in your own words 
  • Illustrate how the structure of this scene affects the audience 
  • Evaluate how the structure of the scene builds tension 

Find the ‘RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT’ blog entry by Sam Oatley, the actor playing Banquo. In the blog, Sam references a technique that the cast used at the start of their work on Macbeth to give them ‘a simple map for the journey of the play’.  

Students should read the blog to find out what the technique is; they can also see how Sam annotated his script using this technique.  

Explain that students are going to imagine they are actors during ‘R&D week’ and apply this technique to Act I Scene 1. Students should work in groups of 4-5, with each group representing a separate cast. Provide each group with the script below, and have groups assign the following roles (listed in order of who speaks the most lines):

  • Sergeant
  • Ross
  • Duncan
  • Malcolm
  • Lennox (can be combined with Malcolm)


Metacognition focus!
Activate prior knowledge: What happened before this scene? (Scaffold according to students’ needs to pull out detail)
Cognitive strategies: What might actors do when they come across a word in the script that they don’t know?

Groups read the scene aloud. If there is space, they should do this on their feet to aid their understanding of who comes and goes within the scene.

Students’ scripts (please see the worksheet) have been divided into sections. Once the groups have read through the scene a couple of times, have them discuss why it might have been divided in this way – what is the key idea or focus of each section? Would they change any of these divisions?

Using this discussion as a starting point, students should name each of the sections, selecting a phrase to describe what happens within each one. As Sam explains, this should aim to provide a clear understanding of what each section/episode is about.

  • To increase the challenge: stipulate that this name should just be one word, and cannot include character names.
  • To increase support: provide a word bank to help students with their phrases OR encourage them to select the most important word from this section of the script, for example: ‘unseam'd’. This will also support memorisation of references in preparation for their exam.

Have groups write their section names onto post-it notes and stick them on the board/along a wall divided up to represent the scene. Read these out, and use this to draw out common ideas across the groups/class.

Now that students have their ‘map’ of the scene, they should consider how this structure affects the audience. In their groups, have students discuss:

  • How might an audience member feel at this point? What do you feel in response to each section?
  • Is there a specific word or phrase from that section that creates this?
  • For example: ‘Section 1: an audience member might feel anxious as the soldier is described as a ‘bloody man’, which suggests that the battle is violent, heightening our anticipation for his ‘report’.


Using this information, have students plot a tension graph to illustrate these effects on the audience: the x-axis should show each of the sections; the y-axis should show the level of tension from 1-10.

Ask students:

  • What do you notice about the way that this scene is arranged (structured)?
  • How does the structure of this scene give us clues about what will happen later in the play?
  • How might this affect the audience?


You may wish to draw out the following:

  • The two loops or cycles that happen: messenger arrives, enemy described, Macbeth praised, enemy regroups or surrenders, Macbeth victorious. This could suggest:
  1. Cyclical nature of attacks on the crown: a world trapped in violence and usurpation;
  2. Macbeth’s loyalty
  3. Macbeth’s continual reliance on, or enjoyment of, violence.
  • Two enemies from within: the ‘rebel’ Macdonwald and the ‘disloyal traitor’ the Thane of Cawdor. This foreshadows Macbeth’s betrayal of Duncan.
  • Repeated use of the messenger to report what can’t be directly seen or shown on the stage. The repeated use also emphasises the distance between Duncan and the battle.
  • The ‘rollercoaster’ of emotions and/or tension: how the ‘Norweyan lord’ introduces an element of risk or fear for Macbeth’s safety, and helps the audience ‘root’ for Macbeth.

Have students independently apply the skills they applied in this activity to Act I Scene 3.

One common mistake the students make is applying the description of Macdonwald to Macbeth. Hopefully, this lesson has helped to delineate the descriptions of each character. This exit ticket can be used to check this.

Shakespeare uses the phrase ‘Worthy to be a rebel’. In the context of this scene, what does this phrase tell us?

  1. Macbeth deserves to be known as someone who defies authority (misconception: applied to Macbeth instead of Macdonwald)
  2. Macdonwald is a natural supporter of King Duncan (misconception: does not understand the term ‘rebel’)
  3. Macbeth is a natural supporter of King Duncan (misconception: this is correct but this phrase doesn’t refer to this in the scene)
  4. Macdonwald deserves to be known as someone who defies authority (correct)


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