The Light of Macbeth
Throughout the play The Tragedy of Macbeth, it is a non-stop action thriller with more blood than ever seen before in most plays. The play was made that way for a specific reason, so William Shakespeare made it the most bloody, gruesome and shortest of all his plays. Watching or even just reading, there is hardly ever any moment to be able to breathe. Except one scene.
In Act II, Scene 3, Macbeth’s porter appears in the play. There is absolutely no reason for the porter to be in the play. He has nothing to do with the written script what so ever. He is not related to anyone of any importance, or anyone at all. He has no great speeches with much meaning attached to it. He is just a perverted, gross talking, drunk. He goes against everything in their world that is moral and right. The porter defies it all and comes out of the play as a comedian. Why did William Shakespeare put the porter in his play, The Tragedy of Macbeth!
A lot of people look on the porter as just an interruption of the play, and that he should not even be there. But I disagree; I wouldn’t call him an interruption. I’d call him an Intermission; he came in the play when needed most. The audience needed a break from the play. The entire thing was filled with hatred, betrayal, and blood. The porter is Shakespeare’s transition period. Every play needs some comedy, but no more than this play, The Tragedy. The porter wasn’t just there to make the audience laugh; he was there for a reason. Shakespeare always had a reason for everything, it would be uncharacteristic for him not to with the porter.
The porter enters the story immediately after the murder of King Duncan, perhaps for some relief, and that relief being; drunken comedy. Is the porter just comical relief? I don’t believe so, he may have made some laughs, but he also creates more tension rather than relieving it. In Act II, Scene 2, Lady Macbeth comes back from the crime scene with blood all over her. The knocking she hears against the gate obviously frightens both her and Macbeth for they have just committed a horrendous crime. Macbeth is already paranoid for he is beginning to go crazy. Lady Macbeth is new to the whole killing crime thing, so to hear knocking on your front door after an event like that would freak anyone out. I know I would be scared. I would wonder who’s at the door, what’s going on?
Right after Lady Macbeth leaves to go “clean up the mess,” there is an immediate loud knocking on the gate.
Whence is that knocking?
How is’t with me, when every noise appalls me?
What hands are here? Ha! They pluck out mine eyes!
With all Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red
(Act II Scene 2)
As you could see Macbeth is already going crazy, and with the knocking it’s worse. Now the audience wonders who is at the door. Will they be caught? When Lady Macbeth comes back from the scene she too hears the knocking. “I hear a knocking at the south entry. Retire we to our chamber.” Act II, Scene 2. So now they run from the knocking not knowing what is, still assuming the worst. And the audience is still left with a question mark above their heads just wondering who’s at the door. They can’t let that go, especially at a critical moment in the story such as King Duncan’s death.
Here’s a knocking indeed! If a man were porter
of hell gate, he should have old turning the key.
(Knock) Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there, i’ th’ name
(Act II, Scene 3)
The porter obviously hears the knocking, but instead of opening the door, he mocks the knocking with his drunken comedy. When he says, ” i’ th’ name of Beelzelbub?” He is saying that the devil is here at this castle and that is whom they worship, which is ironic for it has just recently become hell. But the audience at this moment can’t figure that out or even laugh because they still have the same question prowling around in their head, for the audience is still in suspense mode. They still wonder and question, who is at the door?
The porter may be a drunken idiot and a fool, but Shakespeare utilizes his character to slip in little comments that very few catch on while attending the play. Not because it is difficult but considering the circumstances of what had happened before it might be a little hard. The porter already called Macbeth the chief devil.
(Knock) Knock, knock, knock!
Who’s there, in th’ other devil’s name?
Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could swear in
both the scales against either scale; who committed
treason enough for God’s sake, yet could not equiv-
ocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator.
The porter now calls Lady Macbeth the other devil. He says that he hopes that it’s a person the opposite of them and come in to get “the devils” and send them to heaven. Shakespeare uses the porter’s drunken comedy to slip in some things for the audience to catch. He does not release the porter’s full comedy ability yet, until he opens the door and we can rest easy knowing who was at the door. Macduff and Lennox now enter through the door, so now we are able to rest easy and just laugh at the porter rambling. Now the transition phase can begin for the long awaited door has been open. It’s time to laugh.
and drink, sir, is a great provoker of three things.
nosepainting, sleep, and urine it provokes
the desire, but it takes away the performance:
therefore much drink may be said to be an equivocator
(Act II, Scene 3)
Now Shakespeare allows the audience to just sit and relax for the remainder of the porter. For in this play it is our only time to relax. So in conclusion the [orter was first used to slip in some information while we still on the edge or our seats for he couldn’t go into the comedy immediately. Then as soon as we are able to relax (somewhat) the stand-up comedian “The porter” begins and we laugh to forget about the worries but not for long