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Brush up your Shakespeare.

PORTER: Knock, knock, knock! Who's there? Faith, here's

an English tailor come hither, for stealing out of

a French hose: come in, tailor; here you may

roast your goose.

Knocking within

Knock, knock; never at quiet! What are you? But

this place is too cold for hell. I'll devil-porter

it no further: I had thought to have let in

some of all professions that go the primrose

way to the everlasting bonfire.

(Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 3, lines 13-21)

After the equivocator is let into hell, there's an English tailor who steals cloth by making his customer's pants smaller than he should. Finally, the Porter just gets tired of himself and opens the gate. We may be a bit tired of him, too. We might say that by showing minor sinners coming to hell-gate, the scene highlights the hellish sinfulness of Macbeth's murder of King Duncan. However, this is hardly something that we're likely to think of as we're wondering who's knocking, and whether the Porter is ever going to get around to opening the gate. Another way to explain the passage is to call it comic relief. The problem with this is that the jokes are all of the 'you-had-to-be-there' variety. Stage directors generally understand that the audience is unlikely to get the jokes, so they often give the Porter supposedly funny stuff to do, such as talking in an accent so thick that you can't understand a word. The result is generally just boring.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 6, 2000
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