Digital Skills: Developing Online Assessment Skills in Everyday Classroom Activities Western Reserve Public Media

Macbeth on Trial
This lesson is designed to take place after reading Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Students are assigned to one of four teams to charge someone with the murder of King Duncan (and others). Students must use their knowledge of the play in addition to real world legal definitions to build a case according to their assignments. The culminating activity is a trial that is judged by outside evaluators.

*The general format of the trial could easily be adapted for any literary text or play that involves a crime.*

I can:
  • Analyze the events in Macbeth
  • Apply standard legal proceedings to either prosecute or defend Macbeth
  • Apply standard legal proceedings to either prosecute or defend Lady Macbeth
  • Provide documentation from the text to support a claim of guilt and/or innocence for the assigned character
  • Write an argument essay that supports your position
  • Present arguments and respond to counterclaims
Tech Skills:
  • Keyboarding

  • Internet search/databases

  • Using digital content in an infographic

  • Layout and design

Materials and Resources:

Text of Macbeth

Trial Handouts

Grade Level:
  • 12th Grades could be adapted for 9-11)

Subject Area:
  • ELA

Activity 1

Students are assigned to one of four groups: Lady Macbeth defense, Macbeth defense, Lady Macbeth prosecution, or Macbeth prosecution. All groups are given the following handouts:

The foundation of the trial is established for ALL groups as such:

The following facts may not be altered, although “non-living” may still participate in the trial:

  • King Duncan was murdered
  • Macbeth admitted to murdering King Duncan’s “murderers” (the guards)
  • Banquo was murdered
  • Macduff’s family was murdered
  • Lady Macbeth died

Each group will be given role specific instructions:




Lady Macbeth


Lady Macbeth

Prosecution General Instructions

Macbeth Prosecution Tips

Prosecution General Instructions

Lady Macbeth Prosecution Tips

Defense General Instructions

Macbeth Defense Tips

Defense General Instructions

Lady Macbeth Defense Tips


Students work with their groups to find information and build a case according to their assignment.


Activity 2

Each group will be responsible for typing and submitting a document with a minimum of four paragraphs as detailed in their general instructions:

  • Paragraph 1 - serves as an opening statement (will be read during the trial); introduces the stance (prosecution or defense) and character of focus (Macbeth or Lady Macbeth)

  • Paragraph 2 - Specific evidence from the text to support the position presented in the opening statement. Includes both direct and indirect evidence.

  • Paragraph 3 - For the defense, this paragraph uses direct and/or indirect evidence to cast suspicion away from the defendant and onto another character. For the prosecution, this paragraph uses direct and/or indirect evidence to dispute the possibility that anyone besides the accused is guilty.

  • Paragraph 4 - serves as a closing statement (will be read during the trial); reinforces the evidence and testimony presented and serves to provide a final statement of guilt/innocence and/or lesser sentences or guilt of other parties.


Activity 3

Groups are given the witness list from their opponent and given an opportunity to allow them to strategize and/or modify their plan for disputing the claims of the other side. It is entirely possible that the same character will be called by both the defense and the prosecution. The initial testimony will be scripted by the group.

For example: The defense version of Macbeth will more than likely claim innocence, or at least cast some suspicion on someone other than Macbeth, and will answer cross examination questions to align with the defense. The prosecution version of Macbeth will answer in support of the prosecution’s position, and will answer the defense cross examination accordingly.


Activity 4

All students participate in the trial. Roles are assigned by each group according to the directions given. Groups are judged using a 1 to 5 scale (5 = highest) for each of the 4 areas of the trial.

  • Opening statement
  • Witness Testimony
  • Cross Examination
  • Closing Statement


The organization of the trial can be organized in multiple ways. One suggestion is:

  1. Macbeth Prosecution - opening statement
  2. Macbeth Defense - opening statement
  3. Macbeth Prosecution - witness testimony
  4. Macbeth Defense - cross examination (if desired)
  5. Macbeth Defense - witness testimony
  6. Macbeth Prosecution - cross examination (if desired)
  7. Macbeth Prosecution - closing statement
  8. Macbeth Defense - closing statement
  9. Macbeth Prosecution - rebuttal (if desired)
  10. Lady Macbeth Prosecution - opening statement
  11. Lady Macbeth Defense - opening statement
  12. Lady Macbeth Prosecution - witness testimony
  13. Lady Macbeth Defense - cross examination (if desired)
  14. Lady Macbeth Defense - witness testimony
  15. Lady Macbeth Prosecution - cross examination (if desired)
  16. Lady Macbeth Prosecution - closing statement
  17. Lady Macbeth Defense - closing statement
  18. Lady Macbeth Prosecution - rebuttal (if desired)

RL.11-12.3 Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama

SL.11-12.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.

SL.11-12.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.

SL.11-12.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating a command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

W.11-12.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.

W.11-12.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

  1. Establish a clear and thorough thesis to present a complex argument.
  2. Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
  3. Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases.
  4. Use words, phrases, and clauses as well as varied syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.
  5. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
  6. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.
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