ENG 2D: Remember the Porter

First, 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 you to decide (as a group) which of the following best explains Macbeth’s behaviour in these scenes:

  1. Macbeth’s guilt shows that he is responsible for his actions
  2. Macbeth certainly feels guilty, but he is also being manipulated by the  supernatural and his wife

Once you have decided, I would like each student to write a detailed paragraph (let’s aim for half of a page) that features the following:

  • a clear topic sentence that states your opinion (consider rewording whichever of the two statements you have chosen)
  • at least three specific references to the events of the play so far
  • at least one of the references must include a direct quotation of at least three words. After the quotation, place the act, scene, and line number in brackets, like this (V,ii, 23), which means Act 5, scene ii, line 23.

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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