Witches Vanish

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Feb
  • 13
  • 2007

My seniors started Macbeth last week. We began the unit by reading I.iii.1-110 several times. Then, groups of seven got up to act the scene out for the rest of the class. Each group had different motivations for Macbeth and Banquo, along with motivations for the three witches (see Shakespeare Set Free for the idea; it’s all in there).

The big things I wanted them to handle on this inaugural performance were how to make the witches vanish and where characters exit and enter. Not the language, not the pronunciation, not the themes. Since we already talked about the scene, comprehension wasn’t the largest hurdle to jump. I got a kick out of the different ways groups handled the witches disappearing:

  1. Some groups did nothing, with the actors playing witches simply walking off stage.
  2. One group pulled down the overhead screen and used that to shield them from view.
  3. Spinning around and repeating “vanish,” one group twisted off stage at the right time.
  4. One group of witches wittily added the lines “What’s that? Look over there!” and ducked out while Macbeth and Banquo had their backs turned.
  5. A paper sign with “vanish” written on it cued one set of witches.
  6. In unison, clap two times and then snap once. Now move stage left while Banquo questions “Whither are they vanished?”
  7. Hand gestures to simulate a flash of smoke, along with a well-voiced “Pwah!,” moved another set of witches on their way.

Kind of cool, eh? Nice thinking on their parts. I’m looking forward to more like this. Our next challenge is to have actions match up with words (when Banquo questions “why do you start?,” Macbeth should, you know, act startled, otherwise there’s no reason for Banquo to ask that). It’s only the first lesson in the unit, but this is already fun.


1. Ben says:

[2/13/2007 - 11:32 am]

LOL, I burst out laughing this morning when I imagined a group of high schoolers chanting “PWAH!” and vanishing. Great imagingation though on the part of those students. Glad to hear that some of your students have been putting some thought into their writing and processing as well. Nice exercise to do with Macbeth, Todd.

2. Debbie says:

[2/20/2007 - 7:14 pm]

I taught all but two lessons from SSF for Romeo and Juliet this year. I found it frustrating, since many of the students don’t feel comfortable enough with being in front of each other to then process stage directions, tone fo voice, etc. I’m thinking I’m going to need to plan this a bit better and make expectations more clear. Ah, a topic for my lonely little out-dated blog…