William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is filled with many vivid and recurring images. Such imagery permeates the text and provides strong striking images which, when performed on stage, stay firmly in the audiences’ minds.
Many critics have proposed arguments expressing their opinion on what constitutes the central image in Macbeth. On reading the text, or perhaps watching the play, some of the images are more prominent than others. Images such as blood and darkness seem to hold most significance to the plot and to the themes. However, it is only with detailed reading that the image of the child is recognised as being profoundly significant. On first reading, the image of the child may not even be considered, but through meticulous study, this image may become more prominent and prove to be the pivot on which Macbeth’s character swings, it also provides the dynamic which drives the plot forward.
Blood is perhaps one of the most striking and gruesome recurring image in the play. Blood has both symbolic and literal meaning in Macbeth, therefore it is widely recognised as one of the major motifs throughout the play. The blood that is shed in Macbeth is a reminder of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s guilt, and it acts as a metaphorical stain on the Macbeth’s consciences. These recurring bloody images play a particularly important role in scenes such as Act 2 Scene 2, when Macbeth returns from the scene of the crime carrying bloody daggers, and with his hands drenched in the King Duncan’s blood. Lady Macbeth too has blood stained hands after she goes back to replace the daggers which her husband has brought back to their chamber. Blood also plays a key role in Act 5 scene 1 when guilt consumes Lady Macbeth’s mind and during her sleepwalking, her psychological turmoil becomes present as she tries to remove the emblematic stain of blood from her hands.
“Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” (5:1: 31)
Her explanation is juxtaposed with her earlier statement that:
“A little water clears us of this deed.” (2:2: 70-71)
Blood is the outward representation of the evil which the Macbeth’s have committed. Macbeth, too, shows sign of remorse when he says:
“Will all of Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No: this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine
Making the green one red.” (2:2: 63-66)
These recurring bloody images prove to constantly prey on both Macbeth and his wife’s minds, showing their awful culpability which will inevitably lead to their downfall.
John Berryman, the American poet and scholar discusses the play’s blood imagery in one of his essays on Macbeth. He states that ‘every reader of Macbeth notices the word “blood.”’[1} He also pointed out that even when blood is not mentioned, the idea or image is still present. Take, for example, the witches’ dialogue in Act 1 Scene when the witches say:
“Where hast thou been sister?”
“Killing swine.” (1:3: 1-2)
Even though the word does not actually...