Tag Archives: Macbeth

Review: ‘The Dressmaker’

17 Jan

I read Rosalie Ham’s The Dressmaker on the recommendation of a friend, who said that it was a gripping tale of revenge and a great example of Australian fiction.  Unfortunately, with the exception of this being a tale of revenge, I did not feel that any of the other promises were upheld!

I found Ham’s writing to often be confusing.  For example, she dwelt on moments of seeming insignificance, slowing the story using detail and description. She also assembled a great cast of characters, each of whom was introduced in great detail even though some of them were not essential to the narrative.

That said, I was marginally intrigued by the notion that The Dressmaker might be an interesting companion text to Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Both texts, for example, feature powerful women and both texts have at their core a preoccupation with revenge.   Both texts are also interested with the tension between appearance and reality.  In The Dressmaker, this plays out through the outfits created by Tilly which transform appearance and are leveraged to warp perceptions of reality.


The Macbeth connections aside, I cannot say that I enjoyed this novel.

Circle of Viewpoints

1 Sep

Recently, my school has offered a series of PD sessions on Visible Thinking.  In essence, the purpose of Visible Thinking is to encourage, and teach routines that promote, deeper thinking.   For more details, check out the website.

The repeated references to ‘Visible Thinking’ have prompted me to do some research and to explore some of the thinking routines.  One routine that interests me is the ‘Circle of Viewpoints’ routine.  As suggested by the name, this routine aims to have students explore a topic from different vantages.  While I imagine this is a particularly effective way of having students explore stakeholder interests in a Commerce, Business Studies or Economics class, it also has interesting application in English.  At a simple level, for example, students could use it to explore possible perspectives prior to planning and presenting a persuasive task.  Students could also use this routine to ascertain the relationships and conflicts within a text.’

The ‘Circle of Viewpoints’ could also be used in a more complex way.  Imagine, for example, that you are studying Macbeth with Year 10, that you have just read Macbeth’s famous soliloquy ‘Is this a dagger which I see before me’, and that you want students to consider the likely mood and atmosphere in this soliloquy.  You could ask students to pretend that they are going to create a film version of this and that each is responsible for an element of the production (sound, lighting, costuming etc).   Then, using the ‘Circle of Viewpoints’ activity, students could step into their roles and comment on the text.  An example is provided below:

I am thinking of Macbeth’s ‘Is this a dagger…’ soliloquy from the point of view of the lighting director.

I think that the soliloquy should open in darkness with a light flickering on and off as Macbeth delivers his opening lines (“Is this a dagger which I see before me, / The handle toward my hand?”).  I think this will help to show that Macbeth is unsure whether or not the dagger is real.

A question I have from this viewpoint is: How can I engage with the repeated references to sight and vision while maintaining a sense of anticipation and confusion?

Once all students have contributed, you could follow with a discussion about why these choices were made/questions posed and what these choices/questions reveal about the mood or atmosphere of the text.

Hip Hop or Shakespeare? (answer keys)

12 May

I was recently asked for an answer key to my ‘Hip Hop or Shakespeare?’ worksheets.  Those answer keys are attached below:

“Is this a camera which I see before me?”

29 Jun

I stumbled across this fantastic reimagining of Macbeth’s famous “Is this a dagger…” soliloquy.

This monologue borrows the form and rhythm of Macbeth’s soliloquy and links it to the modern age.

I have no idea how I would incorporate it into a lesson, but I do love it!

Create your own connected text

28 Jun

Year 10 and I have been spending a lot of time exploring sections of Macbeth and then seeing how those ideas are represented differently in select examples of related material.

Inspired by the success of my Year 9 lesson the other day, I gave my Year 10 students the opportunity to create their own related text.  As the moment for comparison was Macbeth’s “Is this a dagger…?” soliloquy, students will need to translate the ideas contained therein into an alternate form.  My suggestions included: confessional blog post, short psychiatric report, series of tweets or Facebook status updates.

Students then had to post their related text to our class Edmodo page.  To demonstrate engagement with the work of others, students then had to select a related text created by another student and use that as part of an integrated paragraph with Macbeth.

Unpacking Macbeth

21 Jun

My Year 10 students are currently studying Macbeth.  While not nearly as enthusiastic about Shakespeare as my Year 7 kids, they are not entirely resistant to the idea.  However, a number of them are understandably having a little difficulty unpacking the text and identifying techniques.  In order to assist them I have put together some guided analysis activities.  Examples for Act 1, Scene 5 (part 1 and part 2) are linked.  Much like the ‘William Street’ activity used with my Year 11 kids, the aim is to guide the analysis but allow students an opportunity to think for themselves.

Shaking it up

12 Jun

I am running my Shakespeare units with my years 9 (Romeo and Juliet) and 10 (Macbeth) selective classes as comparative studies.  This means that students will need to consider how ideas represented in their set texts are represented differently in a range of related material.  To assist them, I am putting together a basic selection of related material to consider.

I have blogged previously about using film trailers and operas to help illuminate ideas in the play.  I think those texts that are highly similar to the original Shakespearean narrative are great for weaker students; those students only have to comment on difference in medium not disparities in the narratives.  However, I want to extend my stronger students by providing related material that challenges, or causes them to question, their understanding of the play.

Below is a list of texts that I have found thus far:

Any other suggestions?


Reviews raise questions

11 Jun

I have read a number of Macbeth theatre reviews.  What I enjoy most about them is the language they use to sum up the play.  It struck me, that these sentiments would make great essay questions for my students.

Drawing on this review, for example, we could ask: To what extent do you agree with the proposition that Macbeth is a nightmare of a play, a dark and bloody depiction of marriage as a pathway to murder?

Using this review as inspiration, we could ask: Could Macbeth reasonably excuse his actions by saying ‘the witches made me do it?’  Justify your response with examples from the text.

If we were to take this review as our inspiration, the question would be: To what extent do you agree that Macbeth is best described as a play about ambition, murder and soul-corroding guilt?




Understanding Lady M

8 Jun

While looking for theatre reviews, I stumbled upon this interesting article.  In it, actor Kate Mulvany writes about her insights into the character of Lady Macbeth.

I like this article as it reminds students that the play is living, not dead.  In other words, meaning is not settled; it is incumbent on each responder/actor to bring his/her own understanding to the play.

I am not sure where in the unit I would want to give this article to my students.  Part of me thinks I should give it to them as we study key Lady M scenes.  However, I worry that if I do that students will be guided by Mulvany’s view and not come up with their own interpretations.  The other option is to give them the article after we have finished examining Lady M, thus allowing them to try trace Mulvany’s reading and decide for themselves whether or not it has merit.

More musical Macbeth

6 Jun

I began my Macbeth unit with a game of ‘Hip hop or Shakespeare?’ (see here).  In keeping with this musical theme, I am introducing them to Verdi’s ‘Macbeth’.

For this first extension activity, I am showing them the trailer to Verdi’s opera.  They will then be tasked with using that trailer to identify the key ideas and themes in the play.  Using a list of film and sound techniques provided, students will have to explain and justify their views.