Blood Imagery in Macbeth
Shakespeare’s plays are well known for the richness of their imagery. This is particularly true in Macbeth and the many allusions to blood. The use of blood imagery gives the reader some foresight into what is going on in the play and how the characters are thinking and feeling. Blood is used to represent heroics on the battlefield, evil and murderous inclinations, and ultimately guilt and shame. Shakespeare uses the symbol of blood to give the readers insight into his characters as they change and are impacted by their choices and actions. This paper will demonstrate how Shakespeare uses the image of blood as a symbol of bravery, guilt and evil citing directly from the text of Macbeth.
Act one Scene Two begins with King Duncan, Malcom, Donalbain and Lenox meeting with a wounded and bleeding captain. There is a war between Scotland and Norway. Upon seeing the captain Duncan says, “What bloody man is that? He can report, as seemeth by his plight, of the revolt the newest state” (--Act 1 Scene 2 -123-) This blood is representing the acts of war on the battlefield. The captain’s bloody appearance is proof to Duncan that he can describe the latest news of the battle. The conversation in this scene moves on to the captain describing Macbeth heroics on the battlefield as he kills Macdonwald. He describes Macbeth as a very brave man stating: “For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name—Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel, Which smoked with bloody execution”(I,2,16-18) In Act One Scene two blood is representative of honor, bravery, and symbolizes victory for the Scotts.
The imagery of blood changes from symbolizing honor, bravery and victory to representing guilt in Act II Scene II for Macbeth. At this point in the play Macbeth suffers from a guilty conscience. Macbeth has a strong desire to be King but he feels guilt because he killed King Duncan in order to be crowned. The blood on his hands now symbolizes the guilt of...
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