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Motif Of Blood In Macbeth Essays

What is the role and function of bloody imagery in ‘Macbeth’? 

  • Representation of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s conscience
  • Imagery of blood constantly haunts their minds
  • Reflects changes in Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s characters

 

Thesis statement

Throughout Shakespeare’s play ‘Macbeth’, the recurring imagery of blood is used as a symbol to demonstrate the constant feelings of guilt felt by the characters, ultimately leading to their endless feelings of fear and horror.

 

Quote 1

‘What hands are here! Ha! They pluck out mine eyes.
Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.’
Act 2 Scene 2 lines 60-64

 

Context and meaning

The strong imagery of blood in this scene demonstrates his inability to remove the blood from his hands.
‘All of Neptune’s ocean’ represents the degree of guilt within Macbeth.
Guilt will always remain to haunt Macbeth as the image of the crime will always remain in his consciousness, causing him to experience greater remorse and fear.
The permanent change in colour from green to red in the seas, indicates that the guilt within Macbeth is everlasting.

 

Back to the thesis:

Blood symbolises the guilt within Macbeth after murdering King Duncan, causing him to experience eternal fear for the crime he has committed.

 

 

Quote 2

‘And with thy bloody and invisible hand
Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond
Which keeps me pale!’
Act 3 Scene 2 lines 48-50

 

Context and meaning

Macbeth is obligated to conceal his thoughts and feelings of guilt to prevent further suspicion among other characters.
Oxymoron of ‘bloody and invisible hand’ also demonstrates a contrast between appearance versus reality by comparing guilt and innocence.
Strong imagery of blood on Macbeth’s hand symbolises guilt by showing level of cruelty.
‘Invisible hand’ is a representation of hiding the thoughts and feelings of guilt.

 

Back to the thesis:

Blood imagery is used to emphasise guilt due to the cruelty of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s crimes as they attempt to hide their constant fear and remorse from their sinful crimes.

 

 

Quote 3

‘Mine eyes are made the fools o’ the other senses,
Or else worth all the rest: I see thee still;
And on thy blade and dudgeon the gouts of blood,
Which was not so before. There’s no such thing’
Act 2 Scene 1 lines 44-47

 

Context and meaning

His obsession with thoughts of murder causes his hallucination.
The ‘gouts of blood’ represent his guilt.
It foreshadows ‘bloodier’ visions.

 

Back to the thesis:

More blood, more guilt.
He is haunted by an unforgiveable sin which will lead to endless fear and horror.

 

 

Quote 4

‘Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! Oh! Oh!’
Act 5 Scene 1 lines 46-47

 

Context and meaning

Lady Macbeth is incapable of washing away her ‘bloody guilt’.
She is full of remorse and resentment.
The ‘smell’ of the guilty and shameful blood will never be ‘sweetened’.

 

Back to the thesis:

She is forever cursed by the ‘smell of the blood’.
She is drowned in immense guilt due to being haunted by fear and horror.

 

 

Quote 5

‘Out damned spot! Out, I say! One; two: why, then, ‘tis time to do’t. Hell is murky! Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who know it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?’
Act 5 Scene 1 lines 32-37

 

Context and meaning

Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking in Macbeth’s castle.
She sees blood that isn’t there.
She senses her own guilt and realises the mistakes she has made but is incapable of rubbing the blood off her hands.

 

Back to the thesis:

She made herself out to be a soldier, sexless, but now she is afraid.
She is in a dark place, alone.

 

 

Quote 6

‘This is a sorry sight.’ [Looking at his hands.]
Act 2 Scene 2 line 22

 

Context and meaning

Guilt overwhelms Macbeth immediately after the murder of Duncan.
The blood on his hands represents the severity of the murder and indicates his guilt.

 

Back to the thesis:

Macbeth’s guilt and realisation cause him to fear the consequences that he may face and other negative things that may come due to his actions.

 

 

Quote 7

‘Why did you bring these daggers from the place?
They must lie there: go carry them, and smear
The sleepy grooms with blood.’
Act 2 Scene 2 lines 49-51

 

Context and meaning

Macbeth brings back evidence of the murder – he can’t think straight.
Fear of suspicion.
Lady Macbeth plans to frame the guards.

 

Back to the thesis:

Lady Macbeth and Macbeth no longer share the same thoughts or actions. This denotes the beginning of the end of their relationship.

 

 

Quote 8

‘Blood hath been shed ere now, i’ the olden time,
Ere human statute purg’d the gentle weal;
Ay, and since too, murders have been perform’d
Too terrible for the ear: the times have been,
That, when the brains were out, the man would die,
And there an end; but now they rise again,
With twenty mortal murders on their crowns,
And push us from our stools: this is more strange
Than such a murder.’
Act 3 Scene 4 lines 75-83

 

Context and meaning

Macbeth loses composure during his first formal banquet as King.
He tries to rationalise his actions.

 

Back to thesis:

Banquo’s bloody wounds make Macbeth feel guilty.
His loss of composure shows his fear and guilt in a public forum.

 

 

 

Other bloody quotes

 

‘If he do bleed,
I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal;
For it must seem their guilt.’
Act 2 Scene 2 lines 56-58

 

‘Be bloody, bold and resolute’
Act 4 Scene 1 line 79

 

‘For brace Macbeth – well he deserves that name –
Disdaining fortune, with his brandish’d steel,
Which smok’d with bloody execution’
Act 1 Scene 2 lines 16-18

 

‘It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood;
Stones have been known to move and trees to speak;
Augurs and understood relations have
By maggot-pies and choughs and rooks brought forth
The secret’st man of blood.’
Act 3 Scene 4 lines 123-127

 

‘I am in blood
Stepp’d in so far, that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er.’
Act 3 Scene 4 line 136-138

 

‘I think our country sinks beneath the yoke;
It weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash
Is added to her wounds.’
Act 4 Scene 3 lines 39-41

 

Macbeth

Steve Strohack

The bible states that blood is "The River of Life". In William Shakespeare's Macbeth, the symbol of blood is used in various contexts as an effective method in describing the theme of the play. This essay will outline how "Treachery and Treason," "Honour" and "Guilt" thoughts are clearly represented.

The first reference of blood is one of honour, and occurs when Duncan sees the injured sergeant and says "What bloody man is that?" (Act 1, Scene 2, Line 1). This is symbolic of the brave fighter who been injured in a valiant battle for his country. In the next passage, in which the sergeant says "Which smoked with bloody execution" (Act 1, Scene 2, Line 20) he is referring to Macbeth's braveness in which his sword is covered in the hot blood of the enemy.

After these few references to honour, the symbol of blood now changes to show a theme of treachery and treason. Lady Macbeth starts this off when she asks the spirits to "make thick my blood," (Act 1, Scene 5, Line 46). What she is saying by this, is that she wants to make herself insensitive and remorseless for the deeds which she is about to commit. Lady Macbeth knows that the evidence of blood is a treacherous symbol, and knows it will deflect the guilt from her and Macbeth to the servants when she says "smear the sleepy grooms with blood." (Act 2, Scene 2, Line 64), and "If he do bleed, / I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal, for it must seem their guilt." (Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 71-72) When Banquo states "and question this most bloody piece of work," (Act 2, Scene 3, Line154) and Ross says "Is't known who did this more than bloody deed?"(Act 2, Scene 4, Line 28) , they are both inquiring as to who performed the treacherous acts upon Duncan. When Macbeth is speaking about Malcolm and Donalbain, he refers to them as "bloody cousins" (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 33).

A final way, and perhaps the most vivid use of the symbol blood, is of the theme of guilt. First Macbeth hints at his guilt when he says "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?"( Act , Scene , Line ), meaning that he wondered if he would ever be able to forget the dastardly deed that he had committed. Then the ghost of Banquo, all gory, and bloody comes to haunt

Macbeth at the banquet. The sight of apparitions represents his guilt for the murder of Banquo which he planned. Macbeth shows a bit of his guilt when he says "It is the bloody business which informs thus,"( Act , Scene , Line ) he could not get the courage to say murder after he had killed Duncan, so he says this instead.

Lady Macbeth shows the most vivid example of guilt using the symbol of blood in the scene in which she walks in her sleep. She says:

"Out damned spot! Out I say! One: two: why,

then 'tis time to do't: hell is murky. Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call out power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him!"

(Act 5, Scene 1, Lines 32-37)

This speech represents the fact that she cannot wipe the blood stains of Duncan off of her hands. It is ironic, that she says this, because right after the murder, when Macbeth was feeling guilty, she said "A little water clears us of this deed."( Act 2, Scene 2, Line 85 ) When the doctor of the castle finds out about this sleepwalking, he tells Macbeth "As she is troubled with thick-coming fantasies,"( Act 5, Scene 3, Line 44). What this means, is that Lady Macbeth is having fantasies or dreams that deal with blood. Macbeth knows in his mind that she is having troubles with her guilt, but does not say anything about it.

Just before the ending of the play, Macbeth has Macduff at his mercy, and lets him go, because of his guilt. He shows that he is guilty, when he says "But get thee back, my soul is too much charg'd / with blood of thine already."( Act 5, Scene 8, Lines 6-7 ). Of which, Macduff replies, "I have no words; / my voice is in my sword, thou bloodier villain / than terms can give thee out!"

(Act 5, Scene 8, Lines 8-10 )

After the death of Macbeth at the hands of Macduff, the symbolic theme of blood swings back to what it was at the beginning of the play. It is the symbol of honour to Malcolm this time. The death of Macbeth is honoured feat that Macduff is congratulated for.

It has been demonstrated throughout this paper, that William Shakespeare effectively used the symbol of blood to highlight the ideals of the characters throughout the play. Without this tragic medium implied, the popularity of the play would have been considerably lessened.

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