Macbeth: Past and Sample Exam Questions (H)

Past Exam Questions (Reverse Chronological Order)

2014

(i)  “Macbeth’s relationships with other characters can be seen primarily as power struggles which prove crucial to the outcome of the play.”

Discuss the above statement in relation to at least two of Macbeth’s relationships with other characters. Support your answer with suitable reference to the play, Macbeth.

OR

(ii)  “Throughout the play, Macbeth, Shakespeare makes effective use of a variety of dramatic techniques that evoke a wide range of responses from the audience.”

Discuss this view with reference to at least two dramatic techniques used by Shakespeare in the play. Support your answer with suitable reference to the text.

 

2013

(i)  “The variety of significant insights that we gain into Macbeth’s mind proves critical in shaping our understanding of his complex character.”

Discuss this view, supporting your answer with suitable reference to the play, Macbeth.

OR

(ii)  “Shakespeare makes effective use of disturbing imagery in the play, Macbeth.”

Discuss this statement, supporting your answer with suitable reference to the text.

 

2009

(i)  “Macbeth’s murder of Duncan has horrible consequences both for Macbeth himself and for Scotland.”

Write a response to this statement. You should refer to the play in your answer.

OR

(ii)  “Macbeth has all the ingredients of compelling drama.”

Write a response to this statement, commenting on one or more of the ingredients which, in your opinion, make Macbeth a compelling drama.

 

2007

(i)  “The relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth undergoes significant change during the course of the play.”

Discuss this statement supporting your answer with the aid of suitable reference to the text.

OR

(ii)  “Essentially the play Macbeth is about power, its use and abuse.”

Discuss this view of the play, supporting your answer with the aid of suitable reference to the text.

 

2004

(i) “Shakespeare’s Macbeth invites us to look into the world of a man driven on by ruthless ambition and tortured by regret.”

Write a response to this view of the play, Macbeth, supporting the points you make by reference to the text.

OR

(ii) “The play, Macbeth, has many scenes of compelling drama.”

Choose one scene that you found compelling and say why you found it to be so.  Support your answer by reference to the play.

 

2003

(i) “We feel very little pity for the central characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play.”

To what extent would you agree with the above view? Support your answer by reference to the play

OR

(ii) “In Macbeth, Shakespeare presents us with a powerful vision of evil.”

Write your response to the above statement. Textual support may include reference to a particular performance of the play you have seen.

 

1995

(i) Discuss the course and nature of the resistance to Macbeth’s rule in the play.

Support your answer by quotation from or reference to the play.

OR

(ii) “Kingship, with all its potential for good or evil, is a major theme in the play, Macbeth.”

Discuss this view, supporting your answer by quotation from or reference to the play.

 

1991

(i) “The eternal struggle between good and evil – a struggle in which evil comes very close to victory – is the central theme of the play Macbeth.”

Discuss this view and show how the struggle is illustrated in the imagery of the play. Support your answer by reference or quotation.

OR

(ii) “While there are redeeming features in the character of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as a ruthless opportunist whose ambition for her husband supersedes all moral considerations.”

Discuss this view, supporting your answer by reference or quotation.

 

1987

(i) “The Banquo Macbeth has killed is not the innocent soldier who met the witches and scorned their prophecies, nor the man who prayed to be delivered from temptation. He is a man whose principles have been deeply compromised.”

Discuss this view, supporting the points you make by reference to or quotation from the play.

OR

(ii) Discuss the way in which the language of the play Macbeth contributes to the creation of the atmosphere of evil and violence that pervades the play.

Support your answer by relevant quotation or reference.

 

1983

(i) “The Witches in Macbeth are malevolent creatures who originate deeds of blood and have power over the soul.”

Discuss the role of the witches in the play in the light of this statement. Support your answer with appropriate reference or quotation.

OR

(ii) Discuss the way in which light/darkness, violent imagery and unnatural happenings are used in Macbeth to create atmosphere. Support your answer with appropriate quotation or reference.

 

1979

(i) “Their partnership in guilt, which, at the beginning of the play, is a strong bond between them, gradually drives Macbeth and his wife apart until they go down to their separate dooms, isolated and alone.”

Discuss this view, with the aid of suitable quotation or reference.

OR

(ii) “Lady Macbeth is no monster. She is a loyal (though misguided) wife, not without tenderness and not without conscience.”

What do you think of this estimation of Lady Macbeth? Support your answer with relevant quotation or reference.

 

1975

(ii) “In Macbeth, Shakespeare does not present Macbeth as a mere villain, but succeeds in arousing a measure of sympathy for him.”

Discuss the character of Macbeth in the light of this statement, supporting your answer by relevant quotation and reference.

OR

(ii) “In Macbeth, the inner self is conveyed, not through the ideas expressed, nor through the actions performed, but by means of an elaborate pattern of imagery and symbolism.”

Test the truth of this statement by considering any two of the play’s characters and the images and symbols associated with them.

 

1971

(i) “In Macbeth, Shakespeare heightens our experience of wickedness and order by setting them against a background of goodness and order.”

Discuss this view with the aid of appropriate reference or quotation.

OR

(ii) Discuss the view that Lady Macbeth has more in common with the Witches than with Lady Macduff.

Support your answer with suitable reference or quotation.

 

1962

(i) “We find in Macbeth rapidity of movement, great diversity of character, and many spectacular scenes.”

Discuss this estimate of the play and quote in support of the points you make.

OR

(ii) “Lady Macbeth dominates the play up to the murder of Duncan; after that her influence gradually diminishes, while her husband’s power for evil grows ever greater.”

Discuss with relevant quotation from the play.

 

1953

(i) “Macbeth has physical courage, but moral weakness, and is subject to excited imaginative fears.”

Discuss this estimate of Macbeth, quoting freely from the play.

OR

(ii) “There is at once a grossness, a horrible reality about the Witches, and a mystery and grandeur of evil influence.”

Discuss, with suitable quotation from the play.

 

Sample and Past Exam Questions (By Category)

Character

Macbeth

  • 2014: “Macbeth’s relationships with other characters can be seen primarily as power struggles which prove crucial to the outcome of the play.”
  • 2013: “The variety of significant insights that we gain into Macbeth’s mind proves critical in shaping our understanding of his complex character.”
  • 2009: “Macbeth’s murder of Duncan has horrible consequences both for Macbeth himself and for Scotland.”
  • 2004: “Shakespeare’s Macbeth invites us to look into the world of a man driven on by ruthless ambition and tortured by regret.”
  • 1975: “In Macbeth, Shakespeare does not present Macbeth as a mere villain, but succeeds in arousing a measure of sympathy for him.”
  • 1962: “We find in Macbeth rapidity of movement, great diversity of character, and many spectacular scenes.”
  • Macbeth can be seen both as a tragic hero and a villain. Discuss.
  • Macbeth is a deeply disturbing character and his actions disgust us, yet he also arouses our sympathy. Discuss.
  • Macbeth is a portrait of the destruction of a fine, impressive spirit.
  • Macbeth is “not equal to the struggle with face and conscience.” (William Hazlitt)
  • Macbeth fails not so much because of outward events and forces, but through that part of his nature which originally forbade murder. (Adapted from G. Wilson Knight.)

Lady Macbeth

  • 2007: “The relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth undergoes significant change during the course of the play.”
  • 2003: “We feel very little pity for the central characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play.”
  • 1991: “While there are redeeming features in the character of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as a ruthless opportunist whose ambition for her husband supersedes all moral considerations.”
  • 1979: “Their partnership in guilt, which, at the beginning of the play, is a strong bond between them, gradually drives Macbeth and his wife apart until they go down to their separate dooms, isolated and alone.”
  • 1979: “Lady Macbeth is no monster. She is a loyal (though misguided) wife, not without tenderness and not without conscience.”
  • 1971: Discuss the view that Lady Macbeth has more in common with the Witches than with Lady Macduff.
  • 1962: “Lady Macbeth dominates the play up to the murder of Duncan; after that, her influence gradually diminishes while her husband’s power for evil grows even greater.”
  • 1953: “Macbeth has physical courage, but moral weakness, and is subject to excited imaginative fears.”
  • Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are fired “by the same passion of ambition; and to a considerable extent they are alike” (A.C. Bradley). Do you agree with this statement?
  • Macbeth and Lady Macbeth allow their desire for the throne to control them, and the consequent disorder in their personalities in reflected in the chaotic state of Scotland. Discuss.
  • “Lady Macbeth is merely detested; and though the courage of Macbeth preserves some esteem, yet every reader rejoices at his fall.”  (Samuel Johnson)
  • Lady Macbeth’s “strength of will and masculine firmness give her the ascendancy over her husband’s faltering virtue”. (William Hazlitt)
  • Lady Macbeth dominates in her relationship with her husband, and she plays a significant role in influencing Macbeth – so much so, that she might even be called the Fourth Witch of the play. Discuss.
  • Discuss the role of women in Macbeth.

Witches

  • 1983: “The Witches in Macbeth are malevolent creatures who originate deeds of blood and have power over the soul.”
  • 1953: “There is at once a grossness, a horrible reality about the Witches, and a mystery and grandeur of evil influence.”
  • “While the influence of the Witches’ prophecies on Macbeth is very great, it is quite clearly shown to be an influence and nothing more. There is no sign whatever in the play that Shakespeare meant the actions of Macbeth to be forced on him by an external power.” (A.C. Bradley)
  • “The Witches and their prophecies… represent not only the evil slumbering in the hero’s soul, but all those obscurer influences of the evil around him in the world which aids his own ambition and the incitements of his wife.” (A.C. Bradley)

Minor Characters

  • 1987: “The Banquo Macbeth has killed is not the innocent soldier who met the witches and scorned their prophecies, nor the man who prayed to be delivered from temptation. He is a man whose principles have been deeply compromised.”
  • Describe the role and function of the character of Banquo.
  • The minor characters are “sketched lightly, and are seldom developed further than the strict purposes of the action required” (A.C. Bradley). Discuss the characters of Malcolm and Macduff in the light of this statement.
  • Discuss the importance of Macduff in the play.

 

Style

  • 2014: “Throughout the play, Macbeth, Shakespeare makes effective use of a variety of dramatic techniques that evoke a wide range of responses from the audience.”
  • 2013: “Shakespeare makes effective use of disturbing imagery in the play, Macbeth.”
  • 2009: “Macbeth has all the ingredients of compelling drama.”
  • 2004: “The play, Macbeth, has many scenes of compelling drama.”
  • 1987: Discuss the way in which the language of the play Macbeth contributes to the creation of the atmosphere of evil and violence that pervades the play.
  • 1983: Discuss the way in which light/darkness, violent imagery and unnatural happenings are used in Macbeth to create atmosphere.
  • 1975: “In Macbeth, the inner self is conveyed, not through the ideas expressed, nor through the actions performed, but by means of an elaborate pattern of imagery and symbolism.” Test the truth of this statement by considering any two of the play’s characters and the images and symbols associated with them.
  • The imagery throughout Macbeth awakens a sense of horror and supernatural dread.
  • Sleep in the play excites a supernatural alarm and a dread of the presence of evil.
  • Common sights and sounds adopt an ominous tone throughout the play.
  • “In its language, as in its action, the drama is full of tumult and storm.” (A.C. Bradley)
  • Macbeth is best interpreted through its themes and imagery, not through its characters. Do you agree with this statement?
  • Macbeth leaves a decided impression of colour… And, above all, the colour is the colour of blood.” (A.C. Bradley)
  • “The vividness, magnitude, and violence of the imagery… are characteristic of Macbeth throughout.” (A.C. Bradley)
  • The imagery and symbolism which pervades the play creates a distinctive atmosphere.

 

Theme

  • 2007: “Essentially the play Macbeth is about power, its use and abuse.”
  • 2003: “In Macbeth, Shakespeare presents us with a powerful vision of evil.”
  • 1995: Discuss the course and nature of the resistance to Macbeth’s rule in the play.
  • 1995: “Kingship, with all its potential for good and evil, is a major theme in the play Macbeth.”
  • 1991: “The eternal struggle between good and evil – a struggle in which evil comes very close to victory – is the central theme of the play Macbeth.”
  • 1971: “In Macbeth, Shakespeare heightens our experience of wickedness and order by setting them against a background of goodness and order.” Discuss.
  • Macbeth and Lady Macbeth allow their desire for the throne to control them, and the consequent disorder in their personalities in reflected in the chaotic state of Scotland. Discuss.
  • In the play Macbeth, Shakespeare brilliantly portrays a supernatural world over which no one has any control.
  • In Macbeth, nature grows increasingly towards the world of the unnatural.
  • Discuss the significance of the supernatural in Macbeth.
  • Macbeth is best interpreted through its themes and imagery, not through its characters. Discuss.
  • Appearances in Macbeth conceal the disturbing reality. Discuss.
  • Discuss how evil and deception are explored in the play.
  • The themes which Macbeth explores chimes with modern audiences.
  • Account for the popularity of Macbeth.
  • Discuss gender roles in Macbeth.
  • Justice is often mentioned and yet rarely found in Macbeth. Discuss.
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Posted on 14/04/2014, in Single Text and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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