Macbeth - Extract 2

This GCSE English Literature quiz offers a second opportunity to practise answering extract questions on William Shakepeare’s Macbeth. It takes place in Act Five, Scene Three, when Macbeth is aware that he will soon be under attack from the forces led by Malcolm, Siward and Macduff. In this passage, Macbeth exhibits some inclination to fear, while still believing himself to be invincible. He and the doctor express opposing views about the causes of Lady Macbeth’s anguish.

Read the passage through more than once before answering the questions. Think about the ways in which this passage relates to the play’s themes. Which details strike you as significant? Does Macbeth sense his impending downfall, in your opinion? Remember: it’s a good idea to practise several extract questions, so be sure to try the Extract 1 quiz as well!

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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. Reading the passage the first time, you should try to develop a general understanding of the passage, considering especially how it relates to the question or questions you will be answering. While reading through the second time, you can begin to pay closer attention to details, making annotations as you read. Think about reasons why this specific passage has been chosen: what is its significance? Can you describe how it relates to the rest of the text? Where does it fit in the plot or the structure of the text? Which significant characters or themes are introduced or developed? What happens next? Are future events foreshadowed? Is there any reason why the extract ends where it does? What significance can you see in its final line?

Consider also the question you have been asked to answer. Are you expected to discuss the mood and atmosphere of the extract, a theme, or a particular character? Or will you be writing about dialogue, behaviour or feelings? Compare your notes and annotations to the expectations of the question, considering how the evidence from the text can be used in your answer. Remember to explain the passage’s immediate context: what has already happened by this point in the text? How do these prior events relate to the events which take place in the extract? Think about setting and characterisation. As you write, try to group related ideas together, but be sure that your answer discusses the entire passage. Careful use of time will enable you to produce a thorough answer rather than one which only discusses part of the passage in detail while neglecting the remainder.

Read the passage below carefully before answering the questions.

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MACBETH: Bring me no more reports, let them fly all;
Till Birnam Wood remove to Dunsinane,
I cannot taint with fear. What’s the boy Malcolm?
Was he not born of woman? The spirits that know
All mortal consequences have pronounced me thus:
“Fear not, Macbeth, no man that’s born of woman
Shall e’er have power upon thee.” Then fly, false thanes,
And mix with the English epicures;
The mind I sway by, and the heart I bear,
Shall never sag with doubt, nor shake with fear.

Enter Servant.

The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon.
Where got’st thou that goose-look?

SERVANT: There is ten thousand.

MACBETH: Geese, villain?

SERVANT: Soldiers, sir.

MACBETH: Go prick thy face, and over-red thy fear,
Thou lily-livered boy. What soldiers, patch?
Death of thy soul, those linen cheeks of thine
Are counsellors to fear. What soldiers, whey-face?

SERVANT: The English force, so please you.

MACBETH: Take thy face hence.

Exit Servant.

Seyton, I am sick at heart,
When I behold — Seyton, I say, — this push
Will cheer me ever, or disseat me now.
I have lived long enough: my way of life
Is fallen into the sere, the yellow leaf,
And that which should accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have; but in their stead,
Curses not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath
Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dare not.


SEYTON: What’s your gracious pleasure?

MACBETH: What news more?

SEYTON: All is confirmed, my lord, which was reported.

MACBETH: I’ll fight, till from my bones my flesh be hacked.
Give me my armour.

SEYTON: ‘Tis not needed yet.

MACBETH: I’ll put it on.
Send out more horses, skirr the country round,
Hang those that talk of fear. Give me mine armour.
How does your patient, doctor?

DOCTOR: Not so sick, my lord,
As she is troubled with thick-coming fancies
That keep her from her rest.

MACBETH: Cure her of that.
Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain,
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?

DOCTOR: Therein the patient
Must minister to himself.

William Shakespeare Macbeth (Bloomsbury, 2015)

  1. What is the immediate context for this passage?
    In the previous scene the thanes march to join the attackers
  2. What immediately follows this passage?
    Macbeth asks for his armour yet again even while claiming to be unafraid
  3. Which of the following is correct?
    The doctor tells Macbeth that his wife is not sick, but troubled with "thick-coming fancies", the unreal imaginings of her thoughts
  4. Macbeth asks Seyton, "what news more?" What is notable about his request?
    Macbeth is changeable in this scene, swinging from arrogant confidence to fear and back again
  5. "This push / Will cheer me ever or disseat me now." What does Macbeth mean by "disseat"?
    Macbeth refers to being un-seated, or dethroned. The prospect of a battle raises many conflicting feelings, including his desire to fight, but also a sense of waste
  6. Macbeth implies that the doctor ought to be able to remove the causes of anguish from Lady Macbeth's mind. Which of the following creates an image of these causes being surgically removed?
    The imagery used here is of removal. Why, asks Macbeth, can Lady Macbeth's guilt not be removed as one would uproot a weed, cut words out of a page of writing, or purge a body with an antidote
  7. How does the servant appear?
    Macbeth verbally abuses the servant repeatedly for appearing very obviously afraid, calling him "whey-face" and "lily-livered" and having a "goose-look"
  8. Which of the following expresses Macbeth's sense of loss and waste?
    Macbeth thinks of his life as having reached its autumn, when the leaves begin to yellow. This imagery leads to thoughts of the inevitability of winter and death
  9. What does Macbeth realise that he will not have?
    Macbeth recognises that he will not receive the loyalty of his friends: "And that which should accompany old age, / As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends, / I must not look to have." It is not clear, however, whether he believes that he has earned such loyalty
  10. Macbeth talks much of fear in this passage. Which of the following is NOT correct?
    By repeatedly asserting his lack of fear and punishing others for it, Macbeth displays the control which fear has over him in this scene

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