Shakespeare’s Macbeth: Context

I’m currently tutoring a Year 10 student, who is studying Shakespeare’s Macbeth as part of Text and Context. Honestly, in all these times I’ve studied Shakespeare, I’ve never paid heed to his contextual influences (all I know is “Elizabethean?”). Now, I guess it’s time to do some research. After a few hours or so this afternoon, here’s what I’ve distilled it down to:

All the answers can be pretty much be found through Wikipedia and the links at the bottom of this page.

Written in about 1605-1606


James I ruled during this time.

1.      What was Shakespeare’s relationship with James I?

2.      What was the Gowrie Conspiracy assassination?

3.      What was the Gunpowder Plot?

4.      What was James I’s interest in witchcraft?


Macbeth adapted the historical writing by Raphael Holinshed: Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1587).

1.      Briefly describe the story in Holinshed’s Chronicles.

2.      Identify 3 key differences between Chronicles and Macbeth.

3.      Why is Shakespeare’s Banquo different to Holinshed’s Banquo?

4.      What is Duncan’s death in Macbeth based on?


1.      How was witchcraft viewed in Shakespeare’s time?

2.      How is this reflected in Macbeth?

3.      What was the state-approved religion of the time? What was the religious conflict at the time?

4.      What is the religious view of murder and regicide? What is the theory of divine right/order?

5.      What are equivocations?

Research Links:

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