How is Macbeth like or unlike the sinners that the porter describes?you know when the porter makes humorous comments on the types of people who wind up at the gates of hell.

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janihash24 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although the "porter scene" in Macbeth is often criticized as jarring and out of place in what is otherwise a bloody and horrific tragedy, its black humor is actually very appropriate to the play.

It is obvious by now to the audience that Macbeth as a character is heading to hell for his crimes, and the Porter prefigures his arrival by pretending to "devil porter it."

Some of the Porter's references are also apt. The farmer who "hanged himself on the expectation of plenty" can be seen as a comment on Macbeth's grabbing at power and the crown and the consequences of the action. However, the most telling reference is to the "equivocator . . . who committed treason enough for God's sake / Yet could not equivocate to Heaven." Macbeth rationalizes (equivocates) his actions numerous times in the play, but his assassination of Duncan is nothing less than treason. His own conscience will not allow him to sleep and ultimately drives him mad, as he cannot escape the knowledge that he is damned.

The porter expresses this when he says, "I had thought to have let in / Some of all the professions that go the primrose / Way to the everlasting bonfire." Even a great warrior who has become a king by foul means will not be able to "equivocate to Heaven."

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth has something in common with all of the sinners the porter describes in hell. The farmer hanged himself "on the expectation of plenty". Although Macbeth does not commit suicide, he does destroy himself with his expectations of gaining the thrown and the "plenty" that comes with it. He is also like the equivocator "that could/swear in both the scales against either scale;/who committed treason enough for God's sake. . . ." Obviously, by killing Duncan, Macbeth has committed treason. He is also guilty of putting up a false front to everyone but his wife. He can "swear in both the scales" as he implicates Duncans guards in his murder and then kills Banquo and continues to control the throne as if nothing happens. Finally, Macbeth also resemble the French tailor who is in hell "for stealing out of a French hose". Macbeth steals the throne from Duncan and then tries to steal it from Duncan's sons and Banquo's descendants.