This text comes from an online guide to Macbeth created by Shakespeare’s Globe, called “Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank”. The guide covers aspects of Macbeth as a text and issues related to staging the play. This reading compares the modern usage of the word “tragedy” to describe real-world catastrophic events with “tragedy” as a genre of 16th and 17th century theater. The text describes commonalities of Shakespearean tragedies, such as that the tragedies involve characters with high status in society and show errors that have an impact on society as a whole. The text also compares the relatively successful reign of Macbeth, a historical king, with the tragic fictional Macbeth that Shakespeare created. There are also orange highlighted “questions to consider” about tragedy included at the bottom of the text.
This text should be within the abilities of students reading at an eight-grade level. This text consists of three long paragraphs and a set of “Questions to Consider.” Each paragraph covers a single main idea while sticking coherently to the overall theme of what a “tragedy” would have meant to Shakespeare and his contemporary audience. One issue for reading comprehension might be that the text refers to other Shakespeare tragedies (Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and King Lear), of which students might not have previous knowledge. The opening paragraph also includes many colons and semi-colons, which some students might find confusing.
Use in Class
This text would be among a set of differentiated texts that students could select for guided reading. This text would aid comprehension of “Macbeth” the play because it would help students understand the generic conventions of the piece of literature. The questions posed at the end of the text could give students clues as to what kinds of questions they could bring up later in discussion or their own writing. While it is important for students to gain a basic understanding of the conventions of tragedy as a genre of theater, I want students to take a step beyond this text. I would like them to start off by thinking about tragedy as a play in which death and disaster happens to someone with high status and from there begin to ask why tragedy matters to a modern audience.
Submitted by Julia Katz