Blood Imagery in Macbeth
Imagine a war without guns, missiles, or bombs. A war with swords, daggers, and arrows. A war with blood, gallons and gallons of blood flooding the battlefields. Set in eleventh century Anglo-Saxon Scotland, this would be the typical battle scene in Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy, Macbeth. In Macbeth Shakespeare presents a bloody tale of an age-old struggle for power when Macbeth, the play’s protagonist, and his wife plan to kill Duncan, Scotland’s current beloved king, after hearing a prophecy told by three evil witches proclaiming Macbeth to be the new king. The higher Macbeth rises to the throne the deeper he slips into a bottomless pool of the blood of those who dared stand in his way. Throughout Macbeth, Shakespeare uses images of blood as a means of symbolism, using multiple recurrences of blood imagery to promote the primary feelings of “fear, honor, and pain” (Spurgeon 115). As a symbol blood ultimately “covers everything Macbeth has touched” in many ways “both qualitative and quantitative” that “real blood” is unable to do (Mack 53). As the play progresses the symbolism changes and transforms from honor to betrayal and ultimately to guilt and revenge.
Macbeth begins as a courageous hero in the midst of battle. A “bloody man” in King Duncan’s court tells a story of a bloody battle in which Macbeth fulfills the role of the hero (1.2.1). On the verge of bleeding out the Captain manages to “paint Macbeth’s valor” despite his blood flooding the King’s court (“Character Profile” 193). Images of the Captain, a man mortally wounded protecting Duncan’s son Malcolm in battle, smothered in his own blood gives a symbol of an honorable death. While the Captain lay dying, he still goes on about Macbeth unseaming an opponent from “the nave to th’ chops,” building King Duncan’s trust in Macbeth (1.2.18-23).
After the three witches visit Macbeth and Banquo, Macbeth tells his wife, Lady Macbeth, of the promises the witches mentioned. Hearing...
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McElroy, Bernard. “Macbeth: The Torture of the Mind.” “Macbeth.” Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publisher, 2005. 27-52. Print.
Shakespeare, William, and Sylvan Barnet. The Tragedy of Macbeth. New York: Signet Classic, 1998. Print.
Spurgeon, Caroline F.E.. “Shakespeare’s Imagery Heightens Emotions.” “Macbeth.” Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1999. 107-117. Print.
Word Count: 1,223
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