Exploring the Meaning of Blood, Nature, and Rationality in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

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Through the course of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the play’s protagonists plague themselves over the fight between blood and nature among many other things. Blood, be it the kind shed upon ones death or the kind that carries entitlement and stature, parallels and collides with the most basic ideas of nature, and what is natural for a human being. Throughout the play, blood, nature, and rationality are equivocated to highlight Macbeth’s underlying irrationality, justifications, 1 and deeply seeded desires. The issue presented by nature is one that is vital to this play. Macbeth goes against the nature of a human when he slays Duncan, and doesn’t allow him to die in the way that nature intended. Macbeth further defies nature, when he hired the murderers to kill Banquo, because fears of “[Banquo’s] royalty of nature” (3.1.51) have Macbeth convinced that if he doesn’t murder Banquo, it is “for Banquo’s issue have [he] filed [his] mind” (3.1.66). Shakespeare uses very specific language here when he uses “filed” instead of a word with less, almost intrusive intensity. A word like “filed,” which is a shorter version of defiled, creates the idea that Macbeth has truly done something horrible to the nature of his being (his brain)2. By corrupting nature and its course, Macbeth changes his own nature, and we see this change often coupled with blood, and the spilling of blood. Blood, another common theme throughout the play, has a double meaning, or is equivocated. One of Macbeth’s primary issues in his soliloquy is that Banquo is going to pass on royal blood to his sons that will become kings. Furthermore, if Macbeth allows Banquo to live, it is for Banquo that Macbeth has “put rancours in the vessel of [his] peace.” Again, Shakespeare combines blood and nature to highlight the severity of Macbeth’s condition3. In order to justify Duncan’s murder, Macbeth has to resort to more bloodshed, (the literal interpretation of blood)4, go against nature by killing another...
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