Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 3 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 3 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

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Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 3 Full Summary | Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 3 Summary

The Porter (a person whose job is to open and close a door or a gate) goes to the south entrance of Macbeth’s home to respond to loud knocking.

The Porter is drunk. He does not go quickly to the door. He thinks about the porter who opens the gate for people entering hell. He says that the porter at the gate to hell must be very busy turning the key to let so many people in.

The Porter yells to the person knocking, “Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there, i’ the name of Beelzebub?” (Who is there in the name of the leader of the devils of hell?)

The drunk Porter does not open the door. Instead, he imagines being the porter for hell’s gate and letting a farmer in. He imagines that the farmer hanged himself because there was so much food that people paid him very little money for the food he grew.

He imagines joking with the farmer, telling him he better have a lot of handkerchiefs because he will sweat a lot in hell.

The Porter hears more knocking and imagines opening the gate to hell for an equivocator. (An equivocator is someone who lies but puts some truth into the lies. An example would be someone asking for money, saying he knows an organization that helps poor people.

Then he would take the money for himself, thinking he had not lied because he did know about an organization; he just never planned to give any collected money to it.)

Porter says the equivocator could not talk his way into heaven. He imagines telling the equivocator “Come in.”

Macbeth’s Porter hears more knocking and this time he imagines letting a tailor into hell who had cut and kept the fabric from people’s clothing. The Porter imagines the tailor getting caught because French styles made clothing tight instead of loose.

The Porter imagines saying, “Come on in tailor. Here you may roast your goose [heat up your iron].”

The Porter hears more knocking, says it is too cold to imagine his path is in hell and decides to stop imagining being the porter letting people into hell.

The Porter says he had thought “to have let in some of all professions that go the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire.”

He means that he had planned to play he was hell’s porter until he had let in people from every profession which cheated people to make easy money. The Porter means that those who take the easy, pleasurable path in life end up in hell

The Porter hears more knocking and yells that he is coming. He asks whoever is knocking to remember him after he lets them in. (He wants them to give him money- a tip.)

The Porter opens the door. Macduff and Lennox enter. Macduff asks Porter if he had gone to bed very late and then had stayed in bed late.

The Porter says, “Faith sir, we were carousing till the second cock: and drink, sir, is a great provoker of three things.” (Yes, sir. We were drinking until 3:00 in the morning and drinking causes three things.

Note: An old way of telling time counted midnight as the first cock, 3:00 a.m. as the second, and 6:00 a.m. as the third.)

Macduff asks what three things drinking causes a man to do. The Porter says drink paints a man’s nose (makes it red), makes him fall asleep and makes him urinate.

Macduff does not laugh at Porter’s joke. Porter says that drink is an equivocator about sex. It makes men want sex, but it makes them too tired to have sex. (Drink is like an equivocator because an equivocator is a person wh0 gives something but at the same time also takes something away.)

Macduff says he thinks drink had hurt the Porter last night. The Porter agrees that Drink had hurt him, but says he won the fight against Drink. The Porter says that even though Drink had him by the throat and made his legs shake, he was able to vomit Drink out.

Note: Shakespeare, the author, uses the Porter not just as comic relief after a tense murder scene, but also to show the audience that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth truly have turned their home into hell.

The Porter, though he had thought he was only imagining being hell’s Porter, is truly letting Macduff and Lennox into a place where lies, murder, and other bad things happen because the Macbeths have turned away from God and heaven in order to gain the power witches had said could be theirs.

Porter’s slowness in letting Macduff and Lennox into the castle and his long conversation with Macduff also give Macbeth and Lady Macbeth time to prepare themselves to look innocent.

Macduff asks Porter where his master is. Macbeth enters and Macduff says that the knocking sounds he and Lennox had made must have woken Macbeth.

Lennox says, “Good morrow [good morning], noble sir.” Macbeth says, “Good morrow, both.” Macduff asks if King Duncan is awake. Macbeth says, “Not yet.”

Macduff tells Macbeth that King Duncan had asked him to wake him up in the morning Macbeth says he will take Macduff to the king.

As they go to King Duncan’s room, Macduff tells Macbeth that he knows it is a “joyful trouble” for Macbeth to have the king visit. Macbeth says, “The labor we delight in physics pain.” (The work we love cures pain.)

Macbeth takes Macduff to Duncan’s room and says, “This is the door.” After Macduff enters the room, saying he will wake the king, Lennox speaks to Macbeth. Lennox asks if Duncan is leaving today.

Macbeth tells Lennox that King Duncan is leaving today and had asked Macbeth to arrange things so he could leave. Lennox says that last night had been unusual.

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Chimneys had blown down and sounds of sadness had been in the air. There were “strange screams of death” and voices saying that terrible times were coming. The owl cried out all night, and some people said the Earth shook as if it were sick with a fever.

Macbeth says, “Twas a rough night.” Lennox says he can remember nothing like it. Macduff comes out of Duncan’s room saying, “O, horror, horror, horror!” He says neither his tongue nor his heart can say what horrible thing has happened.

Macduff says, “Confusion now hath made his masterpiece. Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope The Lord’s anointed temple, and stole thence The life o’ th’ building!”

Note: With his words, Macduff is showing his strong feelings. He says there will now be only confusion in Scotland because King Duncan had been blessed by God to lead the people, so he had been like a holy church that has been destroyed. Duncan’s life has been taken and so has the good fortune of Scotland.

Macbeth asks Macduff what he is talking about. He asks, “The life”? Lennox also does not understand. He asks if Macduff is talking about King Duncan.

Macduff tells Macbeth and Lennox to go to Duncan’s room. He says, “Destroy your sight With a new Gorgon.” (He means that what they will see is so horrible, it is like a Gorgon monster that was so terrible that everyone who saw it turned to stone.)

He tells them not to ask him to speak, but instead to go and see for themselves and then speak for themselves.

Macbeth and Lennox go into Duncan’s room. Then Macduff calls out to everyone, “Awake awake!” He asks for the alarm bell to be rung and says “murder and treason” have happened.

He says everyone needs to shake off sleep which is “death’s counterfeit” (death’s imitation) to see real death.

Macduff says people must wake up to see the image of the end of the world. He calls out to Malcolm and Donalbain, Duncan’s sons. He says they must wake up from sleep and move like spirits from their own graves to see horror.

(They must be like ghosts because ghosts rise to heaven on Judgment Day and if they are ghosts, they will not turn to stone when seeing evil.) Macduff again calls for someone to ring an alarm bell.

Lady Macbeth enters. Lady Macbeth calls the alarm bell a “hideous trumpet” (comparing the bell to a trumpet calling soldiers to battle). She asks what “business” has caused the bell to be rung.

Macduff calls her a “gentle lady” and says he cannot repeat the terrible news to a “woman’s ear” because it would kill her as soon as she heard it.

Banquo enters. Macduff tells him that King Duncan has been murdered. Lady Macbeth pretends to be surprised and horrified. She says, “Woe, alas! What, in our house?”

Banquo Looks at Lady Macbeth and tells her the murder of a king is “too cruel” no matter where it happens. He asks Macduff, whom he calls “Duff,” to say it is not true.

Macduff cannot tell Banquo that Duncan is alive because King Duncan truly has been murdered. Before Macduff can say more to Banquo, Macbeth and Lennox come out of Duncan’s room. Ross, who has apparently been sleeping in the castle, joins the group.

Macbeth tells the group that if he had “died an hour before this chance (an hour before Duncan’s murder) he would have lived a “blessed (happy) time.”

Now, he says that there is no meaning in life. Everything is a game with meaningless “toys.” Without King Duncan, Macbeth says, there is no fame or honor and the vault (which can represent Duncan’s body, Macbeth’s soul, and the world) is empty of wine (empty of life and goodness). Only the “lees” (dried up, very small solid pieces) are left.

Duncan’s body, Macbeth’s soul, and the world are all empty. Duncan’s blood (which Macbeth calls “the wine of life”) has been poured out, Macbeth’s soul has become evil, the world has lost its leader, and all is lost.

King Duncan’s sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, join the group, and Donalbain asks what is “amiss” (what is wrong or off course).

Macbeth says Donalbain is off course but does not know it. (Macbeth is saying Donalbain will no longer have the life he expected to have.) Macbeth tells Donalbain, “The spring, the head, the fountain of your blood is stopped; the very source of it is stopped.”

Macbeth is saying that King Duncan gave life to his son Donalbain just like a lake gives life to a river or spring, but Duncan is “stopped” (dead).

Macduff makes Macbeth’s meaning clear by saying, “Your royal father’s murdered. Malcolm asks who did it. Lennox says it seems like Duncan’s guards killed him.

The guards had blood on their hands and faces, and their daggers were also bloody. Lennox says the guards were confused and could not speak to him and Macbeth. Lennox says the guards should not have been trusted to keep King Duncan alive.

Macbeth reveals that he has killed the guards when he tells Macduff that he wishes he had not killed the guards.

Note: Macbeth is only pretending he wishes he had not killed the guards. In fact, he was afraid they might have convinced Macduff and the others of their innocence. Macbeth needs everyone to believe the guards killed Duncan. Macbeth’s goal is to become the King of Scotland.

A surprised Macduff asks Macbeth why he killed the guards.

Macbeth says he killed the guards because he was “furious” and could not be “wise” in such a moment. He says his “violent love” for Duncan was the source of his murderous actions and it did not allow time for the “pauser” of actions which is “reason.”

Note: Macbeth wants everyone to see him as Duncan’s loyal cousin, not as Duncan’s murderer.

Macbeth says that when he saw Duncan’s “silver skin laced with his golden blood” and the murderers (the guards) covered in blood and their daggers also covered in blood, the love and courage in his heart caused him to kill the guards.

Note: Macbeth describes “silver skin” and “golden blood” to refer to Duncan’s nobility.

Before anyone can respond to Macbeth’s words, Lady Macbeth seems to become faint and asks for help to leave Macbeth Macduff the group.

Macduff calls out for someone to help the lady. Malcolm whispers to his brother Donalbain. Malcolm wants to know why they aren’t talking when they are the ones with the most right to speak.

Donalbain says this is no place to speak. Their enemies might attack them just like their father had been attacked. They need to get away, not cry about their father’s murder.

Malcolm agrees, saying the time is not right to turn their sadness into action.

Banquo takes control. He calls for attendants to help Lady Macbeth go to her room. With their help, she leaves.

Banquo says they need to get dressed (“hide [their] naked frailties”). Then they should meet to discuss “this most bloody piece of work” (King Duncan’s murder). Everyone agrees and exits, except for Malcolm and Donalbain.

Malcolm asks Donalbain what he plans to do. Malcolm says they should not stay at Macbeth’s where it is clear that someone (the murderer) is pretending to be sad about their father’s death. He says a “false man” can show “unfelt sorrow” easily. Malcolm says he plans to go to England.

Donalbain says he will go to Ireland. He says his and Malcolm’s lives will be safer if they separate. He adds that wherever they go, men “will smile” while “hiding their daggers.”

Donalbain states a sad truth about some royal families: “The near in blood, the nearer bloody.” (The closer the relative, the more likely it is that that person will kill to get more power.)

Note: It is possible that Donalbain is remembering that Macbeth told him that the source of his blood had been stopped, that Duncan was dead.

Donalbain knows that when a lake has no outlet, the spring that used to come out of it dies. Donalbain and Malcolm both know that whoever killed Duncan may want to kill them too, to keep each of them from becoming the next king.

They know that Macbeth is related to them because he and Duncan shared the same grandfather, so they know Macbeth could be their father’s murderer.

Malcolm agrees. He says a murderous weapon has been pointed toward them, but it has not yet reached them. He tells Donalbain that the safest thing for them to do is to avoid people who want to hurt them.

Malcolm says they need to get to their horses and leave quickly. He says they have a good reason to steal away (leave without telling anyone) because there is no mercy (no kindness) where they are. They leave.

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