What do you suppose the dramatic purpose of a comic relief scene is? Why is the porter's soliloquy in prose rather than poetry? The porter's scene, or the "knocking at the gate", is a much debated...

What do you suppose the dramatic purpose of a comic relief scene is? Why is the porter's soliloquy in prose rather than poetry?

The porter's scene, or the "knocking at the gate", is a much debated scene by scholars, but many agree it is the typical comic relief scene seen in Shakespeare's plays.

What lines contain the bawdy humor so often found in these scenes?

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Holly McGlynn eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Well, the clue to some extent is in the question. It is comic relief - a relief from the seriousness of the main drama for a second, and an opportunity to release the tension which has built up through the play.

More than that though, Shakespeare, more than most other writers, is aware of the advantages of juxtaposing comedy and tragedy. An audience, just after they've laughed, are actually much more vulnerable to being shocked or moved (the theatrical construct of "The Woman in Black" by Stephen Mallatratt is one excellent example of this!).

One more thing: a comic relief scene often replays themes of the serious play in a comical way. So the porter, for example, thinks about hell and damnation, as well as about equivocation (and that last is key to the play).

The porter speaks in...

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