Macbeth and the symbol of blood

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Macbeth Essay

I am going to prove that in the play Macbeth, a symbol of

blood is portrayed often(and with different meanings), and that

it is a symbol that is developed until it is the dominating theme

of the play towards the end of it.

To begin with, I found the word 'blood', or different forms

of it forty-two times (ironically, the word fear is used

forty-two times), with several other passages dealing with the

symbol. Perhaps the best way to show how the symbol of blood

changes throughout the play, is to follow the character changes

in Macbeth. First he is a brave honoured soldier, but as the

play progresses, he becomes a treacherous person who has become

identified with death and bloodshed and shows his guilt in

different forms.

The first reference of blood is one of honour, and occurs

when Duncan sees the injured sergeant and says 'What bloody man

is that?'. 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 smok'd with bloody

execution', 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,'. 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.', and 'If he do bleed, I'll gild

the faces of the grooms withal, for it must seem their guilt.'

When Banquo states 'and question this most bloody piece of work,'

and Ross says 'is't known who did this more than bloody deed?',

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'

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?', 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,' 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?'. 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.' When the doctor of the castle finds out about

this sleepwalking, he tells Macbeth 'As she is troubled with

thick-coming fantasies,'. 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...
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