Porter Scene In Macbeth Essays

Essay about Irony in Shakespeare's Macbeth

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Macbeth: Three Forms of Irony

Macbeth, is a story of a man whose ambitions have caused him to commit treason and murder. Visions of power grew within his head until his thirst for power caused him to lose his life. It is the ironic and symbolic elements such as this that contribute to the great depth of the play and transform it from a mere play to a literary art form.

Three forms of irony may be found in the play, Macbeth: Dramatic irony, being the difference between what the audience knows and what a character knows to be true; Verbal Irony, being a difference between what is said and what is meant; and Situational Irony, a difference between what happens and what is expected to happen. I will attempt to show examples of…show more content…

One of my favorite examples of dramatic irony is the porter scene in Act II, iii because of the hidden truths the stuporous drunk revealed. The porter acts the part of the porter at hell-gate in line 2,

Porter: "If a man were porter of hell-gate, he should have old turning the key."

He continues to dramatize through line 17,

Porter: "But this place is too cold for hell. I'll devil-porter it no further..."

After the king's murder is discovered, it is almost comedic the way Lady Macbeth responds to the announcement of King Duncan's murder. First she enters in mock confusion questioning,

Lady Macbeth: "What's the business, That such a hideous trumpet calls to parley
The sleepers of the house? speak, speak!" (II,iii,84-86)

One can imagine the actor portraying Lady Macbeth embellishing her performance almost to the point at which it might be called over-acting. Then, with Macduff's reply refusing to tell her what has happened for "The repetition in a woman's ear Would murder as it fell," one can not help but ignore the serious tone of the scene to laugh at the irony of his choice of words. The lady then plays her innocence more by replying in alarm to Macduff's telling Banquo of the murder,

Lady Macbeth: "Woe, alas! What in our house?" (II,iii,92)

Possibly the most enjoyed form of irony in the play is verbal. For example, the exit of Macbeth at his final visit to the

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The porter scene or the discovery scene (Act II Scene III) in Macbeth has attracted many critical commentary and conjecture. It comprises of two climaxes – the comical porter’s apparently irrelevant and tipsy comments and the discovery of the treacherous murder of Macbeth’s guest, King Duncan. Now, let us examine from close quarter the importance of this scene.

          The Satirical porter scene written in earthly prose is intended a comic relief in the grim tragic atmosphere. The sordid, tense and serious atmosphere of conspiracy and murder is slightly eased by the humourous speeches and incidents of the porter. It is woven into the drama in such a way that they have widened and enriched, rather than weakened, the tragic significance. Alike the gravediggers in Hamlet, the speeches of the Fool in King Lear, the Porter’s nonsense verbatim aims to relieve the tension and heightens the tragic element by contrast.

The porter who has the duty to guard the gate and welcome the visitors is in drunken state and imagines in the Hell Gate. The castle of Macbeth is alike hell and villainy of Macbeth has invested it to its utmost notoriety. Thus the irony in Porter’s speech can well be read. The porter next fancies that three men, a farmer, a Jesuit equivocator and an English tailor knock for admission. Commenting on the farmer, the porter says: “Here’s a farmer, that hang’d himself on th’ expectation of plenty: come in, time-server, have napkins enow about you; here you’ll sweat for’t”. A farmer who hoarded corn expecting to make money, committed suicide as the price of the crops dropped due to bounteous harvest. The porter asks him to bring many hand kerchiefs to wipe away the sweat because the hell is very hot. The porter imagines the second applicant for the entrance into hell to be a believer in equivocation who can say yes and no to the same question to suit his purpose. But the equivocation has not opened the gate of heaven i.e. pleased God, and he has to knock at 6the gate of Hell. The porter next, imagines the third knocker as the English tailor come to heat his iron. Finally, the porter finds the place too cool for hell and says, “I’ll devil porter it no further”.

This apparently disjointed, discordant and drunken statement of the porter is sometimes criticized as unshakespearean. It is considered spurious by Coleridge who declared emphatically that this low porter soliloquy was written for the mob by some other hand, perhaps with Shakespeare’s consent. Even those who admit that it was actually Shakespeare, would contend that Shakespeare was compelled to incorporate such trivial stuff to satisfy, the plebeian audience’s craving for sensationalism and grossness. There are still others who would find this scene to be a regrettable practical necessity, “to give a rational space for the discharge of certain action” as Capell says. It gives Macbeth time to wash his hands and put on his night gown. There is yet other who would justify the porter scene on the ground that this scene provides a dramatic need of comic relief.

          But De Quincey finds the scene all Shakespearean but denies the part of comic relief. In fact, in his views it intensifies the tragic impact in the play. He believes that both Lady Macbeth formed to ‘the image of devils’. The next world is getting prepared for this message. In this intermingling period, the porter appears in the scene. Like a great artistic skill here is the hell-gate compared to Macbeth’s castle. The one a tipsy, tip soliciting menial whose language is vulgar, whose jests are filthy but who after all is not a murdered; the other, Macbeth, a valiant warrior speaking poetry and yet a murderer. Thus the contrast between the porter and his master is also established. The imagination of the porter is also of hell minus tragic pangs, but a continuation of a tragic suspense.

          The porter scene is thus a significance of the subtleties of the hidden self pity and terror of tragic dreams. It further opens up two major dramatic opportunities. It gives the audience a most needed comic relief from the tragic monotony. Added with it, the scene also builds an important time panes to reenter into the tragic domain of murderous Macbeth.


 Ardhendu De  

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Shakesperean Drama

 Shakesperean Tragedy by A. C. Bradley


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