Images of Blood in William Shakespeare's Macbeth
In Shakespeare?s tragic play Macbeth, the symbol of blood is portrayed often and with different meanings. Blood as a symbol is developed throughout the play until it becomes the dominating theme.
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 honored soldier, but as the play progresses acknowledged and trusted by his king, he becomes a treacherous person who has become identified with death and bloodshed, and ends up killing Duncan who put so much trust in him. This is ironic because the previous thane of Cawdor was executed for treason, which is the first thought that comes into his mind when he is appointed thane. He knows that the king?s trust was misplaced; the fact that he murdered his king plays upon his conscience and shows his guilt in different forms. The situation worsens for him after he murders Banquo, who was one of his most loyal and trusted friends. A similar idea can also be applied to lady Macbeth, as her character changes dramatically throughout the course of the play. Hers and Macbeth?s roles can be seen to swap in a way. When the idea of killing Duncan comes into the minds of Macbeth and lady Macbeth, Macbeth is uncertain, he seems withdrawn about the whole idea. Lady Macbeth comes across as evil and bloodthirsty, for it is she who ensures that the murder takes place. Towards the end of the play though, although both characters show the immense guilt of what they have done, it is lady Macbeth who is now withdrawn, and Macbeth who comes across as evil, for the full spell of the witches has now taken effect, he does not believe that the Scots will be defeated, so he ridicules the idea of an English invasion.
The first reference of blood is one of honor, and occurs when Duncan sees the injured sergeant and says, "What bloody man is that?? This is symbolic of the brave fighter who has 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 honor, the symbol of blood now changes to show a theme of treachery and treason, mainly centered on the murder of Duncan. 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...