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The Symbolism Of Blood In Macbeth

1024 words - 4 pages

The seventeenth-century play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, employs blood as a powerful symbol to amplify the tragic nature of the work. Prior to, and immediately following Duncan’s death, blood magnifies the treachery of Macbeth’s murderous act. Throughout the play, blood constantly reminds the audience of the ruthless means the Macbeths implement to gain the crown. In the culmination of the play, blood symbolizes the irreconcilable guilt that will haunt the Macbeths for the duration of their lives. Blood’s ubiquitous symbolism emphasizes the constant guilt felt by the Macbeths in their tragic pursuit of the monarchy.
The symbolism of blood prior to, and immediately following Duncan’s murder amplifies the magnitude of Macbeth’s treachery. Following the prophecy of the witches, Macbeth contemplates the possible effects of murdering Duncan in order to gain the crown. Macbeth believes the killing of Duncan will provide "bloody instruction" to Scotland and will in turn "plague th' inventor" (1.7.9-10). This quotation characterizes the murder of Duncan as a bloody deed, therefore amplifying the severity of the crime. Prior to the murder of Duncan, Macbeth hallucinates bloody splotches on his dagger. Macbeth voices this hallucination when he states, "I see thee still, and on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, which was not so before" (Macbeth 2.1.46-48). The false appearance of blood on Macbeth's dagger asserts his hesitancy to murder Duncan. In this case, blood symbolizes the possible guilt of Macbeth upon the murder of Duncan. Immediately following the murder of Duncan, Macbeth uses the symbol of blood to assert the magnitude of his crime. Macbeth conveys immediate concern when he states, "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas in incarnadine, making the green one red" (2.2.61-64). Macbeth's immediate assertion of his guilt testifies to the brutality of his crime. In this scene, Macbeth's vision of a bloody dagger receives fulfillment as he obtains the guilt of Duncan's death. Shakespeare's use of blood as a powerful symbol of guilt magnifies the treachery of Macbeth's decision to murder Duncan.
The symbol of blood not only amplifies critical moments within the play, but also constantly looms over the Macbeths as a reminder of their guilt. Following the appearance of Banquo's ghost at dinner, Macbeth asserts the apparition as a form of revenge. Macbeth voices this assertion when he states, "It will have blood, they say. Blood will have blood. Stones have been known to move, and trees to speak" (3.4.28-30). This quotation uses blood as a symbol for murder in that Macbeth believes Banquo is returning to seek bloody revenge. When Macbeth states "blood will have blood," he asserts the dead will ultimately have their revenge. Macbeth realizes his killing spree is taking a toll on his life, however he asserts a return to his previous life would be equally as...

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