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The Porter's Speech

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THE PORTER'S SPEECH At the beginning of act two, scene three, we are introduced to a drunken Porter, who gives a speech to the audience. Shakespeare used the convention of the Fool or Court Jester to great effect, especially in his Tragedies where the Fools are less identifiable and can have major parts. Like more modern versions, the continuity person on TV, the Fool offers relief from unbearable tension and keeps us busy and amused during scene changes. Unlike the modern circus clown, pantomime or stand-up comedian, as Shakespeare tells us clearly, he is not a buffoon and has a serious job to do. His is an essential and fast moving part in Macbeth. There are many reasons as to how the Porter's speech can contribute to a production of Macbeth. The first one we may think of is that by letting the audience laugh, having just seen Macbeth's blood spattered hands, they should be more able to accept further bloodshed and revulsion in the following scenes. ...read more.


In a theatre production Macbeth and Lady Macbeth need to go and clean themselves and dress in nightgowns before the entry of Macduff, who whilst they are standing in the courtyard covered in blood is knocking on the door awaiting the porter to let him in. A time-filler is desperately needed and the porter scene supplies this. The Porters speech portrays, in comic form, some of the crucial ideas in the play, such as damnation, the supernatural and equivocation as we can see by "Faith, here's an equivocator that could swear in both the scales against either scale; who committed treason enough for G-d's sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven: O! come in equivocator". This also refers to the gunpowder plot, and that equivocation would remind the audience about the horror of attempting to kill a king, which is exactly what Macbeth does. Shakespeare's Fool speaks in prose and uses riddles and rambling speech to name truths that bring us beyond appearances, offering commentary or summarising the play so far. ...read more.


In some ways the Porter's jokes tell us something about Macbeth, who you might feel is also confused; he too has become corrupted (drunk) with evil, will be ruined by having too much ambition, believes too much in the witches' half truths and he has 'stolen' the king's crown. Certainly, the porter gives a satirical picture of a dishonest world. What with treachery, lying and unnatural events such as Lennox recounts "strange screams of death" and "the night has been unruly", it is, for the audience at that moment, no surprise that people like Macbeth rise to be kings. However, as in all good morality tales, Nemesis is usually not far behind. In conclusion, the comical Porter and his speech provide a 'take' on a range of issues in everyday Elizabethan life. Shorter scenes in the play are either a reminder of what has happened so far, or a preparation for what is coming. This scene is light hearted and relieves the tension of the last scene as well as contrasting with the next, when Duncan's murder is discovered. Joshua Sands Page 1 27/04/2007 Shakespeare ...read more.

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