Acing a multiple choice question test on Macbeth requires an understanding of the structure of Shakespearean tragedy and the play itself. Review the contents of the play with this practice quiz.
Freytag's Pyramid and Dramatic Structure
Freytag's pyramid divides Shakespearean tragedies into five parts (convenient, considering there are five acts).
Act I - Exposition - The exposition sets up the stage for the entire play: it introduces major characters, the setting, an inciting moment, and the central conflict.
Act II - Rising Action - Secondary conflicts, complications, and less important antagonists appear.
Act III - Climax - It's at the climax of a tragedy that a critical decision or event causes the protagonist's fortune to turn for the worse. At this point, it is clear there will not be a good ending.
Act IV - Falling Action - During the falling action of a tragedy, events proceed in such a manner that doom is inevitable by the end of the act.
Act V - The Denoument or Resolution - This can be considered the conclusion. Conflicts are fully resolved and characters are left to digest the tragedy which has just unfolded.
Now that we have an understanding of how the Tragedy of Macbeth is structured, we can examine what type of multiple choice test questions on Macbeth you can expect.
What to Focus on: Macbeth Act I
The overall situation of the tragedy is established immediately in scene 1 as the three witches plan to meet Macbeth on a Scottish moor. You'll definitely want to understand the significance of the setting and mood as the play opens. Macbeth is established as a hero and the play's protagonist. The witches mysteriously know things that Macbeth does not and goad his ambition to become king.
Elements of the supernatural, the chaotic weather, and the presence of evil symbolized in the witches let the reader/audience know that trouble is afoot. Here's a potential multiple choice question on Act I:
Q: Which of the following in the first few scenes of Act I contribute to the mood?
A. thunder and lightning
B. the witches' mysterious statements
C. the witches' knowledge of the unknown
D. all of the above
Lady Macbeth is also introduced in Act I. Her ambition spurs her husband's ambition. Duncan appears and Lady Macbeth convinces her husband to kill Duncan, despite Macbeth's misgivings.
You may see questions regarding character motivation in Act I. Here's an example.
Q: What motivates Lady Macbeth?
A. Her love for Macbeth
B. Her love of country
C. Her love of power
What to Focus on: Act II
Act II contains the rising action of the play. It shows Macbeth's internal struggle and the play's main conflict between Macbeth and Macduff.
In scene 1 of Act II, Macbeth sees a vision of a floating dagger covered in blood (by the way, if you're seeing visions of floating daggers covered in blood, your life probably hasn't turned out like you wanted). In scene 2, after murdering the king, Macbeth fails to follow through and place the daggers to frame the servants. These two incidents demonstrate Macbeth's uncertainty. You may find a question like the following:
Q: Macbeth's vision of bloody daggers and uncertainty are examples of what?
A. internal conflict
B. external conflict
C. person v. nature conflict
D. individual v. society conflict
One of the play's main conflicts between Macbeth and Macduff is also revealed in Act II.
Q: Macduff suspects foul play on behalf of Macbeth. This is an example of what type of conflict?
A. person v. person
B. person v. nature
C. person v. self
D. person v. supernatural
What to Focus on: Act III
If there's any act in a Shakespearean play that you need to be familiar with, it's Act III. Events occur in Act III that make the tragic ending inevitable. Although Macbeth has become king, it does not still his ambition or his paranoia. He still fears challengers to the throne and his killing spree continues. Macbeth's ambition will eventually lead to his tragic fall.
Q: Which of the following is an example that being king and queen isn't all it's cracked up to be?
A. Macbeth orders the murder of Banquo and Fleance.
B. Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo at the dinner table.
C. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth suspect everyone as the enemy.
D. All of the above.
Another important aspect of Act III is the foreshadowing of Macbeth's inevitable downfall.
Q: Which of the following foreshadows the play's tragic ending?
A. Macbeth's murder of Banquo
B. Macbeth seeing Banquo's ghost
C. The witches plan to give Macbeth a false sense of security
D. The increasing death toll
If it's not glaringly obvious at this point that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth will meet a tragic end, then you haven't been paying attention.
What to Focus on: Act IV and Act V
In Act III, the turning point occurs. Act IV includes action that lead directly to Macbeth's downfall. The witches give Macbeth what appears to be a favorable prophecy, which gives him the aforementioned false sense of security. Macbeth has Macduff's family murdered. Macduff and Malcolm align their forces.
Q: Why does Macbeth feel his future is secure?
A. Macduff's family is killed.
B. The witches give seemingly impossible ways for Macbeth to lose the throne.
C. Banquo's ghost appeared but ghosts aren't really real.
D. All of the above.
Act V is the play's conclusion. The tragedy of a conclusion involves a lot of people dying. Lady Macbeth, initially the more ambitious of the two, is observed sleepwalking in an attempt to wash the blood from her murderous hands. She dies. Macbeth is overconfident because of the witches' prophecies...until they all come true.
Q: Which of the following is an example of the witches' prophecies being fulfilled?
A. Lady Macbeth dies.
B. Macbeth hangs banners from the castle.
C. The enemy troops disguise themselves with trees.
D. Macduff talks trash.
Order is once again restored to the kingdom and to your grade.