Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

When the Hurly-Burly's Done

Examining Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation Through Character Analysis in Macbeth

Lisa Loughlin, Michell Eike | Published: September 28th, 2023 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course A.P. Language and Composition, British Literature, World Literature
  • Time Frame Time Frame 255 minutes
  • Duration More 6 class periods


In this lesson, students explore what intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are and the characters' motivations in William Shakespeare's Macbeth. Students create visual and written representations of their assigned character's motivations. Students end the lesson by writing a scholarly essay about the significance of motivation in Macbeth followed by a peer-review process. This lesson is intended to be taught after students have read Macbeth.

Essential Question(s)

What drives your actions? What drives Shakespeare's characters in Macbeth?



Students engage in a whole-class discussion about what motivates them.


Students take a personality quiz matching them with a character from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Then they compare and contrast their character with another person or character using a graphic organizer.


Students create a body biography representing their Macbeth character in small groups.


Students write an essay explaining their character’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivations and how it makes them a significant character in the story of Macbeth.


Students provide feedback on their classmates’ essays through a peer-review process.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Macbeth Personality Quiz (attached; one per student)

  • Double Bubble Map (attached; one per student)

  • Body Biography (attached; one per student)

  • Character Analysis Essay (attached; one per student)

  • Internet Access

  • Projector Access

  • Pens / Pencils

  • Notebook Paper

  • White Butcher Paper (1 per small group)

  • Colored Pencils, Markers, Crayons, Construction Paper

  • Highlighters


10 Minute(s)

Introduce the lesson using the attached Lesson Slides. Display the title slide (slide 2) and transition through slides 3-4 to review essential questions and lesson objectives.

Move to slide 5. Using the Bell Ringer strategy, invite students to answer the following question: What drives your everyday actions?

Be prepared to offer your own examples when answering this question. For example, why do you go to school / show up for work every day? Some sample responses you might use include:

  • To earn money;

  • To provide for yourself and your loved ones;

  • To pay bills so that food and shelter is accessible;

  • To improve your future trajectory;

  • To make family proud.

Allow students 3-5 minutes to answer the question and facilitate a brief discussion.

For any student response, invite students to probe deeper into their answers by asking them questions like the following:

  • Why do you care about making your parents happy?

  • Why are those things more important than school to you?

  • Why is it important to hang out with your friends?

  • Even if the work is too hard or too easy, the purpose of doing it still benefits you, so why not do it?

Transition to slide 6 to review the definitions for intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Invite students to make connections between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and the characters from Macbeth.


25 Minute(s)

Transition to slide 7 and distribute the Macbeth Personality Quiz handout to each student. Allow students 7-10 minutes to complete the quiz. As students are completing the quiz, distribute the attached Double Bubble Map handout to each student.

After students complete the quiz, display slide 8 and have students determine their results. Their character is determined by the largest number of responses they selected. If students have a tie between letter choices, consider letting them pick between the two characters.

Once students have their character, introduce students to the Double Bubble Map strategy and display slide 9. Have students write their matched Macbeth character under “Name 1” on their Double Bubble Map handout.

Show slide 10 and direct students to select another fictional or nonfictional character to compare and contrast with their Macbeth character. Tell students that this character could be from another story, novel, play, movie, or real-life. Considering the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations that drive the two characters, have students complete the Double Bubble Map handout. Allow students 12-15 minutes to do this.


110 Minute(s)

As students complete the Double Bubble Map, determine how many students matched with each character and put them in groups of 2-3. For example, if 5 or 6 students matched with Lady Macbeth, divide those students into two groups. Provide a long piece of butcher paper to each group.

Distribute the Body Biography handout to each student and transition to slide 11 to review the directions as a class. Explain to students they must create a life-sized, visual and written character analysis by examining their character’s role and motivations in the story of Macbeth.

Transition through slides 12-15 to explain what needs to be represented on the visual portion of their body biography:

  • Head: Choose three direct quotes from the play that summarize and encompass your character. Put these on your character’s head or in thought bubbles.

  • Heart: Consider what this character loves most. What shape should it be? What colors, symbols, or images could be used? The heart is a good place for illustrating what/who is most important in their life. Place this on your character’s chest.

  • Backbone: This is the character’s main objective within the story that makes up their spine. What is their most important goal? What drives their thoughts and actions? How can you illustrate it using symbols? Example: Romeo’s (Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare) spine might look like an ornate, red blindfold because he is blinded by love to the point that he hurts himself and others for it. 

  • Feet: What fundamental beliefs and philosophies does this character live by? This should be a symbolic representation of what they stand for. Example: Guy Montag (Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury) could be standing on a pile of books because he believes knowledge paves the path to liberty and freedom, or he could stand on burning books because he believes ignorance is what paves the path toward harm and self-imprisonment.

  • Hands: What does the character hold in their hands and why is it significant? Choose items that are associated with the character either literally or figuratively. Example: Harry Potter (Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling) may hold a wand, lightning bolt, or Tom Riddle’s journal.

  • Colors: Color symbolism is often used through literary texts. What color(s) do you associate with your character and why? These colors should be incorporated throughout your body biography and in the visuals of each body part.

Show slide 16 and introduce students to the Claims, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) strategy. Then explain the expectations for the written portion of their body biography:

  • Written Response and Textual Evidence: Excluding the head, create a written response for each body part that follows the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning (CER) format and includes one quote from the text to serve as your evidence.

    • Put the written responses on a separate sheet of paper. Each response should be no more than one paragraph long.

    • Each person in your group is responsible for writing at least 2 of the 5 responses: heart, backbone, feet, hands, and colors.

Before allowing students to begin, provide an opportunity for students to ask clarifying questions. Encourage students to make clarifying notes on their handout as you review your expectations of the project. Then let the class know the due date for their body biography. Direct them to write this date at the top of their handout for easy reference.

Use the hidden slide 18 as an example of what a written response might look like. The example on the slide, however, is an example from Fahrenheit 451. Consider unhiding this slide to use it as an example for students. If students have not read Fahrenheit 451, edit the slide to reference a work that your class is familiar with.

Show slide 19. Using their Double Bubble Map as well as the colored construction paper, glue sticks, scissors, markers, crayons, and colored pencils provided, have students create the visual character analysis on the sheet of butcher paper. Remind them to write their short responses on a separate sheet of notebook paper. Explain that everyone in the group is expected to contribute to the visual character analysis and write at least 2 written responses. For example, one student in the group might write the short responses for the hands and feet while another student in the group writes the short responses for the heart, backbone, and colors.

If there are only three students in a group, still expect each student to write responses for two of the five options. This could mean that two students both write about the backbone or consider including the head so that there are six different parts to write about.

Allow students no more than 2-3 class periods to complete the body biography. As students work, circulate the room and check in with each group to provide feedback. Use this time to ask prompting questions, like the following:

  • What symbol are you planning to use to represent what your character loves?

  • Why did your group choose to use that symbol to represent your character’s spine?

  • What evidence from Macbeth supports your reasoning?

Alternatively, collect students’ written responses at the end of the activity, provide feedback, and return the responses before students start their essay during the Extend portion of this lesson.

After students finish their body biography, have them hang their visual character analysis in the classroom.

Show slide 20 and give each student enough sticky notes that they can put one on each body biography. Invite students to participate in a Gallery Walk to review each group’s body biography. Ask them to make observations about each group’s character. This can be done verbally through class discussion, or it can be written via sticky notes and left on each group’s poster.


65 Minute(s)

Show slide 21 and explain to students that they are to write a 5-paragraph character analysis essay answering the following prompt: How do this character’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivations make them a significant character in Macbeth?

Transition to slide 22 to provide the following outline to students who could benefit from it. Consider evolving this outline to fit the rigor levels of your students and what is expected for their grade level.

Essay Outline:

  • Introduction: Write a paragraph with a clearly stated thesis statement.

  • Body Paragraph 1: What is their intrinsic motivation?

  • Body Paragraph 2: What is their extrinsic motivation?

  • Body Paragraph 3: How do their motivations make them a significant character in the story of Macbeth?

  • Conclusion: Write a paragraph with a clear summary or conclusion.

Show slide 23 and review with students how to write in-text citations.

Display slide 24 and review the expectations for the CER format of the body paragraphs of their essays. Remind students that the short responses from their body biographies are great resources to use for writing their essays. Explain to students of the expectation that textual evidence must be incorporated at least 6-10 times throughout the essay.


45 Minute(s)

Collect and randomize the completed essays. Distribute one to each student along with a highlighter and two sticky notes. If possible, avoid showing names to avoid bias. Transition to slide 26 and review the directions for peer review. Have students highlight where textual evidence is used. This forces students to read the essay more closely and asks them to consider whether the textual evidence used is useful or not in proving their peer’s initial claims. If time allows it, invite students to debrief with their peer about their essay.

Using the Two Stars and a Wish strategy, have students note two things their peer did well (i.e.: grammar, sequencing, vocabulary, paraphrasing, etc.) and one thing they need to improve (i.e.: avoid summarizing the story and answer the prompt, use more relevant textual evidence, etc.)