Porter in Act 2, Scene 3, Lines 1 -40. Critics see it as a very ironic reference to the theme of evil, treachery and deceit.  Discuss.It is sometimes considered to be a humorous way of breaking...

Porter in Act 2, Scene 3, Lines 1 -40. Critics see it as a very ironic reference to the theme of evil, treachery and deceit.  Discuss.

It is sometimes considered to be a humorous way of breaking the tension built up by Duncan's murder.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Porter's speech does indeed break up the tension built up by Duncan's murder. It is hard to see how it could be an ironic reference to the theme of evil, treachery ahd deceit, since the Porter knows nothiing about Duncan's murder or any other wrongdoings. What is essential in understanding the Porter's speech is to consider its function. The Porter is there to open the gate. The knocking has been going on for a long time and has probably been getting louder and louder. Why hasn't he opened the gate? Who is doing all the knocking? Why? The knocking at the gate was discussed by Thomas De Quincey in a famous essay in which he describes it as a stroke of genius because it reintroduces reality after the nightmare scenes surrounding Duncan's murder. But De Quincey does not explain why someone is knocking or why it is taking such a long time for a servant to answer. De Quincey seems to regard the knocking primarily as a stage effect.

When the gate is finally opened we see that it is Macduff who has been doing all the pounding. The Porter explains that all the servants are drunk because they have been carousing all night. The bawdy comedian succeeds in making the audience laugh uproariously and forget to ask themselves such questions as: (1) Why did Macduff have to spend the night outdoors? (2) Why did Macbeth and Lady Macbeth permit their entire staff to get drunk when they are hosting the King, his two sons, and many nobles? (3) Why did King Duncan appoint Macduff to wake him in the morning when he could have asked his host or hostess to have someone wake him?

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plotted to kill Duncan and then pretend to be asleep when his body was discovered and an alarm was raised. That was exactly what Lady Macbeth did. But Shakespeare wanted Macbeth to be present when the body was discovered, and he wanted Macduff to be the one to discover it. (This is the only time the two men appear together before their death duel.) The knocking was intended to force Macbeth to come out of hiding in his nightgown and escort Macduff and Lennox to the King's chamber. All the comedy was gratuitous. Shakespeare's restless, sometimes rowdy audiences liked comedy and laughter, and he often provided it.

 

 

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