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Research Paper Topics About Macbeth


High school and college students often study William Shakespeare's tragedy "Macbeth" as part of their English curriculum. Research topics should center on important themes, such the insatiable desire for political power, free will and guilt. A discourse on the role that important characters -- such as Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and the three witches -- play in the story provides insight about human nature. Use character quotes and dramatic scenes to support your topic.

History Behind the Play

Choose a topic about historical facts as they relate to "Macbeth." For example, Shakespeare wrote the play in 1606, only three years after James VI of Scotland ascended the throne in England. This spurred an interest in Scottish history and culture. Shakespeare used facts about Scotland as background information for the play, making it more relevant to the audience. According to the Folger Shakespeare Library, James VI believed in a strong link between treason and witchcraft, which are major themes in "Macbeth." Real political leaders with the names Macbeth, Duncan and Malcolm are part of Scottish history. Shakespeare embellished the historical accounts and incorporated witches, supernatural elements and make-believe events into the plot.

Character Analysis of Macbeth

Discuss Macbeth's character flaws and the reasons why his decisions led to the unfortunate outcome. Explain whether you think fate or free will played a bigger role in Macbeth's downfall, using examples from the story to back your assertions. For example, Macbeth premeditated Duncan's murder even though the witches prophesied his ascension to the throne. Cite conversations Macbeth had with his wife and his dealings with the three witches to support your character analysis.

The Three Witches' Role

Select a topic about the three witches' role in the story. Discuss how Shakespeare uses their supernatural prophetic abilities -- in connection with the Greek goddess Hecate -- to manipulate Macbeth and his wife. Research the significance of witchcraft during the early 1600s to support your arguments. Focus on their creepy appearance, ability to persuade and manipulative techniques. At one point, they frustrate Hecate because they don't include her in the meetings with Macbeth. Show how the three witches add mystery, suspense and intrigue to "Macbeth."

Lady Macbeth's Downward Spiral

Examine Lady Macbeth's downward spiral into madness, despair and suicide. Show how the murders -- committed in a desperate attempt to gain political power -- eat away at her. Even from the beginning, she appears somewhat shaken by the events and faints at the sight of blood. Evaluate her influence over her husband and why she so willingly accepts the witches' prophesies. Explain how guilt and sorrow eventually drive her to madness and suicide, using her famous monologue "Out, damned spot" to support your topic.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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