Supernatural Shakespeare and Macbeth ~ Lesson Plan

Lesson Overview

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LESSON TITLE: Supernatural Shakespeare and Macbeth

GRADE LEVEL: Grades 9-12

TIME ALLOTMENT: One to two 45-minute class periods


In this lesson, students will explore how Shakespeare uses supernatural elements in Macbeth. The lesson will begin with an exploration of beliefs about the supernatural and witchcraft in Shakespeare’s time as presented in a segment from the PBS series Shakespeare Uncovered. Students will then compare these beliefs to modern-day notions about the supernatural and consider how these beliefs shape people’s behavior. Next, students will turn to the text of Macbeth and analyze the action, imagery, characterization, and language of Act I, Scene iii (the scene in which Macbeth and Banquo first encounter the witches and hear their predictions). Then, students will view another segment from Shakespeare Uncovered and explore key questions about the role of the witches in the action of Macbeth. Finally, they will examine other supernatural episodes in the play and produce a paper exploring the impact and meaning of one of these episodes. This lesson is best used during a reading of Macbeth.


English/Language Arts


After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Compare historical perspectives on the supernatural with today’s understanding of these phenomena.
  • Describe how Shakespeare uses the theme of the supernatural in Macbeth.
  • Interpret a literary text by identifying the techniques used by the author and how they contribute to its meaning.
  • Analyze themes, plot, and character in Macbeth.


National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)

Standard 1
Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

Standard 2
Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

Standard 3
Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

Common Core Literature Standards for Grades 11-12

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.



Shakespeare Uncovered: Ethan Hawke on Macbeth, selected segments

Access the video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.

Segment 1: “Witchcraft in Shakespeare’s Time”
A discussion of what people in Shakespeare’s day believed about witches.

Segment 2: “A Force of Evil: The Witches and Macbeth”
An exploration of the impact and meaning of the witches in the play.


For the class:

  • Computer, projection screen, and speakers (for class viewing of online video segments).

For each student:


Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:

Preview all of the video segments used in the lesson. Prepare to watch them using your classroom’s Internet connection.

Print out and make copies of Macbeth, Act I, Scene iii and “The Supernatural in Macbeth” Handout for each student.

Proceed to Lesson Activities.