2D 2014: Remember the Porter…

Lecture Halls at Kom el Dikka via Flickr, by isawynu
Lecture Halls at Kom el Dikka via Flickr, by isawynu

Our goal today is to understand the complexities of Act II scene iii: before you leave today, you need to convince me that you know the following terms and how they relate to this scene:

  • Great Chain of Being
  • Equivocator
  • dramatic irony

First, however, I’d like you to form small groups (say, 3-4) and read the version of scenes i-ii that I have provided. When you are finished, I’d like to decide (as a group) which of the following best explains Macbeth’s behaviour in these scenes; be prepared to provide evidence from the play to support your claims:

  1. Macbeth is a man driven to the edge of sanity by guilt
  2. Macbeth certainly feels guilty, but he is also being manipulated by supernatural forces

I will ask a random member of your group to explain your findings, so everyone needs to be ready!

Remember the Porter…

Scene iii begins with, surprisingly, a porter (a doorman). Tragedies tend to focus on nobles, kings, and other forms of royalty; thus, starting such a key scene with a commoner is unusual. On one hand, he provides comic relief. He is an old drunk who consumed much more than he should have at the feast honouring the king.  When he finally opens the door for two visitors (Macduff and Lennox), he claims that alcohol does three things (read the side notes in your text to figure these three things out).

Interestingly, however, the Porter may mean more. At one point, he will say “Remember the Porter,” as if he is telling Shakespeare’s audience that his words really matter. Perhaps it is because of his use of the word “equivocator” , which means someone who uses indirect language to avoid the truth (a teller of half-truths). At one point, the Porter will call the Devil an equivocator, a creatures whose equivocations (half-truths) led to treachery, but he couldn’t “talk” (or equivocate) his way into Heaven.

Hmmm…is anyone else guilty of lies and deception in this play?

Once we have finished the Porter’s bit, we will switch to acting. We will also briefly discuss two important terms: the Great Chain of Being and Dramatic Irony.




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