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
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...