Students read Macbeth, analyzing and discussing universal themes of power, greed, and morality, while tackling Shakespearian language.

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New Units For 9th and 10th Grade English

Unit Summary

In this high school English unit for tenth graders, students will engage in an analysis of the play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare. In ninth grade, students read Romeo and Juliet and now will explore one of Shakespeare’s darker works. This Macbeth unit allows students to tackle Shakespearian language and engage in analysis and discussion of universal themes of power, greed, and morality.

At Match, students have a Composition class 4 days per week in addition to English class. Below, we have included Supplementary Composition Projects to reflect the material covered in our Composition course. For teachers who are interested in including these Composition projects but do not have a separate Composition course, we have included a “Suggested Placement” to note where these projects would most logically fit into the English unit. While the Composition projects may occasionally include content unrelated to English 10, most have both a skill and content connection to the work students are doing in their English 10 class.

In the English lessons of Unit 5, students will focus on analyzing the Shakespearean drama Macbeth, focusing particularly on Shakespeare’s development of characters and theme. In these parallel composition projects, teachers will have a choice of two projects: one narrative and one literary analysis. The teacher may choose to do both or include other writing projects and/or writing focus areas that respond to students’ interests and/or writing development needs. Because at Match this unit typically falls near state testing window, we are allowing some flexibility so each individual teacher can choose projects that best align with the types of writing his/her students might benefit from the most. 

Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

  • Play: Macbeth by William Shakespeare (Folger Shakespeare Library, 2013)  

Supporting Materials


This assessment accompanies Unit 5 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Key Knowledge

Intellectual Prep


  • Read and annotate the Folger Shakespeare Library version of Macbeth.
  • Consult a No Fear Shakespeare or other translated version of Macbeth as helpful or necessary for analysis.
  • Read and annotate this unit plan on Macbeth. As you read Macbeth, it is helpful to refer to a translation source. 
  • Take the unit test and outline a response to the essay.
  • Check out local listings for performances of Macbeth. It is a frequently performed play, and any opportunity to see it live is one that students would benefit from.

Essential Questions


  • Human Nature and Morality: Why do people behave the way they do? Which aspects of our nature do we suppress? Which do we embrace? Is morality necessary for human existence?
  • Power/Greed: To what extent does power/greed affect individuals and/or relationships? 
  • Fate: To what degree is our fate in our own hands? How can a person’s decisions and actions change his/her life?

Writing Focus Areas


English Lessons Writing Focus Areas

Students will focus on analyzing Shakespeare’s language and using it to support and defend various positions throughout the unit.

Literary Analysis Writing Focus Areas:

  • Thesis: clear and relevant
  • Evidence: supports an argument

Composition Projects Writing Focus Areas

Below are the writing focus areas that are recommended for the projects described in this unit. Each focus area comes from a particular row and column of the rubric, and more detail about each area of focus is provided in the description of the specific writing project. The teacher should feel free to substitute or revise these writing focus areas in order to meet his/her students where they are and help them improve their writing in ways that authentically address the students’ areas for growth.

  • Focus on Task: appropriate for task, purpose, and audience 
  • Diction: Includes precise language and vocabulary
  • Thesis: Includes a clear, relevant, and unique thesis statement
  • Analysis: Demonstrates clear and logical reasoning
  • Evidence: Draws relevant evidence to support position
  • Professional Revised: Adequate revisions



Literary Terms

iambic pentameter, simile, mood, exposition, diction, aside, characterization, symbol, soliloquy, foil, personification, alliteration, denouement


Act 1.1–1.4: aside, foul, plight, noble, harbinger

Act 1.5–Act 2.1: ambitious, metaphysical, beguile, clamor

Act 2.2–Act 2.4: appall, multitudinous, equivocator, dire, amiss, scruples, foe

Act 3.1–Act 4.1: posterity, indissoluble, parricide, dauntless, rancor, predominant, malice, nonpareil\

Act 4.2–end Act 4: profound, haste, gracious, potent, sovereignty, vanquished

Act 5: diminutive, judicious, desolate, avaricious, boundless, avarice, perturb, guise, dignity, antidote, perilous, clamorous, abhor

Idioms and Cultural References

Act 1.1–1.4: thane, kinsmen, prophecy

Act 1.5–Act 2.1: pall, raven, serpent, knell, Neptune’s Ocean

Act 2.2–Act 2.4: Beelzebub (also in Lord of the Flies), parley

Act 3.1–Act 4.1: Hecate, locks

Act 4.2–end Act 4: cauldron, something wicked this way comes, innocent lamb

Act 5: gentlewoman, flower and weeds

Content Knowledge and Connections


Students will become familiar with iambic pentameter and how Shakespeare uses language to create mood. Students will also become familiar with the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and his challenges of morality.

Previous Fishtank ELA Connections

Future Fishtank ELA Connections

  • Students will make many connection between this unit and Grade 10 English Language Arts Unit 6: Sula. Students will connect Shakespeare’s portrayal of Macbeth’s hands and the hands of Shadrack in Sula. Both times the authors are using hands to represent guilt. Students will connect Lady Macbeth to Sula in that both are strong, nonconforming women who break gender stereotypes and are therefore hated and labeled as witches. Lastly, students will connect the superstition in the supernatural and its ability to impact decision-making to Sula.

Lesson Map


  • Macbeth — Act 1, Scene 3

Characterize Macbeth and Banquo based on their reaction to the witches.


  • Macbeth — Act 1, Scene 4

Characterize King Duncan.


  • Macbeth — Act 2, Scene 3

Explain how this scene contributes to the rising action of the play.


  • Macbeth — Act 3, Scenes 2 and 3

Independently read and analyze Act 3, Scene 3.


  • Macbeth — Act 3, Scenes 5 and 6

Explain how Act 3, Scene 5 contributes to the plot as a whole.


  • Macbeth — Act 4, Scene 3

Defend a position regarding Macduff’s loyalty. 


  • Macbeth — Act 4, Scene 3

Explain the ways in which Macduff serves as a foil to Macbeth.


  • Macbeth — Act 5, Scene 3

Explain how this scene reveals Macbeth’s humanity.


  • Macbeth — Act 5, Scenes 7 and 8

Explain how the denouement of the play restores order to the chaos. 


  • “Morality as Anti-Nature”

Create and defend an argument about morality and Macbeth.



Composition Projects

Common Core Standards

Core Standards