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Citation and Writing

English Essay

  1. First, introduce your topic with an engaging lead: a visual image, a quotation, a provocative statement.
  • A visual image
    • In a dark and lonely spot, a boy races away from the hired assassins murdering his father.
  • A quotation
    • “Fleance/…must embrace the fate/ Of that dark hour” (3.2.154-7).
  • A provocative statement.
    • A cowardly king orders the assassination of a young boy.
  1. Provide an overview of your topic.

In William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, Fleance, Banquo’s son, barely outraces the murderers hired by Macbeth, and Macduff’s young children are all slaughtered along with their mother at the king’s orders. During the climactic battle at Dunsinane in the play’s final act, Macbeth manages to kill Young Siward, the son of another enemy.

  1. Make a transition into your thesis statement. 

    Upon assuming the throne of Scotland, Macbeth targets women and children, all much less powerful than he.

  2. State your thesis, which should concisely express your central argument and answer the essay question

Despite the boldness Macbeth shows with these attacks, they reveal he is a weak man, obsessed with who will inherit his throne and so insecure that he fears children.

DO mention the full title of the work you’re discussing, the full name of its author, and its genre (novel, short story, essay, poem, or play).  Italicize titles of novels and plays; place titles of stories, essays, and poems in quotation marks.

DON’T ever use the thesis paragraph to make general statements about literature, society, or human nature.  For example, Many great works of literature address love and conflict between men and women.  Instead, focus on the particular work(s) you’re analyzing.

1. Summarize how the evidence in the body of the paper supports the thesis statement.

Whether through Macbeth’s bemoaning his own lack of sons as he plots to kill Fleance, or through Young Siward’s being the only named person Macbeth kills on the battlefield at Dunsinane, the play emphasizes Macbeth’s obsession with his lack of a son and the cowardice that drives him to attack youths.


From his fixation on the witches’ statement that Banquo’s children will become kings, to his determination to wipe out all of Macduff’s descendants, to the extravagance of his reference to Donalbain’s dead father, Macbeth demonstrates that he’s so obsessed with other men’s possession of the heirs that he himself lacks that’s he terrified of children and willing to kill them.

2. Branch out: make a connection or a judgment. 

Ex: [Making a connection:]  Macbeth boldly kills off his first victim before the second act, in contrast to another of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes, Hamlet, who doesn’t manage to slay an enemy until late in the third act. However, while Macbeth may not shrink from action as Hamlet does, in commanding the murders of women and children, he proves himself far more cowardly.


Ex: [Making a judgment:]  Audiences are accustomed to watching kings lead their armies into war or dispatch those who threaten their hold on the throne but less accustomed to seeing monarchs slaughtering innocent mothers and children. Staging the murders of women and children, Macbeth is an unflinching depiction of the struggle to hold onto political power by any means necessary.


DON’T just restate your thesis.
DO leave the reader thinking about your topic and its importance.

Thank you...

* Special thanks to Dr. Dallett for creating and giving permission to use this information.