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Macbeth - Extract 1
"Your hand, your tongue; look like the innocent flower..."

Macbeth - Extract 1

This is the first of two GCSE English Literature extract questions for William Shakespeare's Macbeth. It takes place during the first act of the play, after Duncan has honoured Macbeth with the title of Thane of Cawdor. Here we see how Lady Macbeth reacts to her husband’s news as well as to the imminent arrival of the King. Duncan intends his visit to be received as a gracious act, a bestowal of honour upon suitably loyal and grateful subjects. Instead Macbeth and his wife see the visit as a unique opportunity to advance their own ambitions and to seize power. Read the passage through at least twice before tackling the questions. When answering, pay close attention to details while also bearing in mind the themes of the play as a whole.

How to answer an extract question in an exam:

When approaching an extract question in an exam, always read through the passage more than once.

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LADY: The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe, top-full
Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood,
Stop up th’access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
Th’effect and it. Come to my woman’s breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever, in your sightless substances,
You wait on nature’s mischief. Come thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark
To cry, “Hold, hold”.


Great Glamis, worthy Cawdor,
Greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter,
Thy letters have transported me beyond
The ignorant present, and I feel now
The future in the instant.

MACBETH: My dearest love,
Duncan comes here tonight.

LADY: And when goes he hence?

MACBETH: Tomorrow, as he purposes.

LADY: O never
Shall sun that morrow see.
Your face, my thane, is a book, where men
May read strange matters; to beguile the time,
Look like the time, bear welcome in your eye.
Your hand, your tongue; look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under’t. He that’s coming
Must be provided for; and you shall put
This night’s great business into my dispatch,
Which shall to all our nights and days to come,
Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom.

MACBETH: We will speak further.

LADY: Only look up clear;
To alter favour ever is to fear.
Leave all the rest to me.

William Shakespeare Macbeth (Bloomsbury, 2015)

What is the immediate context for this passage?
This is the first scene in the play
The witches have just delivered their prophecy to Macbeth
Macbeth has just usurped the throne
Lady Macbeth has just been informed of the King's imminent arrival
Lady Macbeth first hears of the witches' prophecy through Macbeth's letter, then hears from a messenger that the King will be her guest
What immediately follows this passage?
Macbeth organises the murder of Banquo
The King arrives
The murder of the King is discovered
The witches conjure apparitions
Lady Macbeth plots against the King, referring chillingly to Duncan's "fatal entrance" into her home
"I feel now / The future in the instant." Which of the following is correct?
Lady Macbeth is fearful of what the future will bring
Lady Macbeth is afraid that her husband lives in the past
Lady Macbeth usually lives in the past, but is able to live in the present after hearing her husband's good news
To Lady Macbeth, the future feels real in the present moment
Lady Macbeth feels already as if her husband has become King; this impression of the future existing in the moment makes the murder of Duncan seem inevitable and even less important than it will be in reality
Which of the following are associated with deception in this passage?
Ravens and battlements
Innocent flowers, faces
Days and nights
Lady Macbeth warns her husband not to allow his face to express his true intentions, but to use it instead to disguise them as innocent flowers might hide serpents
What does Lady Macbeth believe to be incompatible with femininity?
Fell purpose
All of the above
In this monologue, Lady Macbeth depicts femininity as leading to peace, remorse and the desire to nurture. She wishes instead to subvert her female nature in order to be cruel and determined
Which of the following lines best depicts the act of treason?
"And fill me from the crown to the toe, top-full / Of direst cruelty"
"Wherever, in your sightless substances, / You wait on nature’s mischief"
"Come thick night, / And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, / That my keen knife see not the wound it makes"
"O never / Shall sun that morrow see"
Treason must be so secretive that the knife does not witness its own act. The following line continues the same idea: "Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark / To cry, 'hold, hold'"
What does Lady Macbeth mean by saying, "O never / Shall sun that morrow see"?
She intends that Duncan will never leave their home
She knows that stormy weather is forecast for the following day
She does not intend to let Duncan stay for even one night
She implies that events are so terrible that it seems the world is coming to an end
There will be no tomorrow for the King
What is the effect of Macbeth's statement, "Tomorrow, as he purposes"?
Macbeth's statement indicates that he does not trust the King
Macbeth's statement demonstrates his loyalty to the King
Macbeth's statement introduces an element of doubt that the King will be able to do as he plans
Macbeth is merely making a factual statement
This is the first indication that Macbeth and his wife share the intention to murder the King and grasp the throne
How do the couple describe the planned murder of Duncan?
As an "innocent flower"
As the "night's great business"
As the "ignorant present"
As the "smoke of hell"
This phrase is a euphemism, language which disguises its force by appearing on the surface to be neutral. This style of speaking is another example of false appearances in the play
Which of the following does NOT describe the atmosphere of this scene?
The scene is tense. Although Lady Macbeth advises her husband to hide his feelings and assures him that she can be entrusted with the plan, the scene is anything but tranquil (calm)
You can find more about this topic by visiting BBC Bitesize - Macbeth

Author:  Sheri Smith

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