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Let’s Play: Macbeth A2S3 The porter’s scene

After Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have murdered Duncan in A2S2, the scene ends with a knocking on the castle door. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth disappear to change, and the next scene starts.

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A porter comes on in A2S3 to answer the door. He has a long speech in which he imagines himself to be a porter of hell-gate, letting in those who have fallowed the broad path to Hell. Some of the people he lets in are very specific to the time of the play (e.g. the Equivocator was a priest involved in the Gunpowder plot), but you don’t have to worry about that too much – they’re all bad men who deserve to go to hell.  In the production of Macbeth that I directed, we had one of our better actors playing this role, and he found it very difficult to build the required, dark humour, all the while interacting with the promenade audience. By the time of the run he had it working well and it was one of the highlights of the show. See if you can get it to work.

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Perhaps we are not so interested in the Porter’s character, as bis dark sense of humour, and how it adds humour to, and builds on, the dreadful scene which has gone before, and the dreadful discovery of the murder which is just about to come. It’s effectiveness is increased by the sound effect of the knocking at the door, so it’s important to add that sound effect to the playing of the scene. Ideally you should have a heavy castle door and a mailed fist pounding it, or a sword hilt. More realistically, a heavy knocking on wood should work.

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To play this scene, you need two players: one to play the porter, and one to play Macduff.  Don’t forget you can play these scene gender and age blind, so women, of any age, can play the porter and MacDuff. Only play the scene until the entry of Macbeth. I suggest that you play the scene at least twice, so both players get a chance to play the porter, and maybe keep running it until you’re happy that you’ve got the dark humour of the porter.

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Links to the two scripts for the two actors follow:

Once you’ve got this scene going well, you could try running ‘A2S2 Macbeth has murdered sleep’ from the index (to the right of the script on a laptop / tablet, or after the script on a mobile phone), and then continue on to this scene (A2S3) , again from the index,  with the player who played Lady Macbeth in A2S2 becoming the Porter in this scene and Macbeth becoming MacDuff. Don’t forget the knocking sound effects in both scenes!!!

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And when you’ve done all that, why don’t you have a look at a scene between Lenox and a Scottish Lord where you’ll have to learn how to play irony:

Lenox talks ironically about Macbeth

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Let’s Play

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Richard Forsyth
‘The Director’
Players-Shakespeare.com

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