Symbolism in Macbeth

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In William Shakespeare's Macbeth, symbolism plays a prominent role to emphasize the theme of corruption of power. Throughout the play there are several main symbols repeatedly used to emphasize this theme. The contrast of light and dark representing good and evil, blood representing guilt, murder, and pain, and the archetypal pattern of purification by using water represents removal of guilt, cleansing and peace. Symbolism is used repeatedly to emphasize the theme of corruption of power.

The image of blood plays an important role throughout Macbeth. Blood represents the murders that Macbeth had committed, the guilt that went along with the murders and the pain that it brought on him during his downfall. The soldier describes the violence and bloodshed, in the war between Scotland and Norway, "Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds." (I. ii. 43) foreshadows the violent nature of the play filled with murder, guilt and pain. Blood in the murder of King Duncan also plays a major role because it represents Macbeth's guilt as well as his shame for slaying King Duncan. Macbeth observes his blood stained hands and remarks "As they had seen me with these hangman's hands." (II. ii. 28) This reveals his guilt and shame because he is comparing his hands to those of an executioner's. After the murder, Macbeth refuses to return back to the bed chamber of Kind Duncan to smear the blood on the sleeping guards, because he is afraid that the blood will incriminate him further. Lady Macbeth smearing the blood onto the guards represents them trying to rub their guilt off onto the guard. "I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal, for it must seem their guilt" (II. ii. 73) but this proves to be ineffective because Macbeth ends up murdering the guards, and regaining the guilt. Macbeth is uncomfortable with the blood on his hands and he tries to remove it immediately after the murder with water. When Macbeth says, "I am in blood, stepp'd in so far, that I should wade no...
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