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What are some examples of bibical imagery found in Macbeth?

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needygirl | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted April 30, 2010 at 11:37 PM via web

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What are some examples of bibical imagery found in Macbeth?

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kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted May 1, 2010 at 2:07 AM (Answer #1)

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There has always been speculation in the critical field whether Macbeth can be termed a Christian tragedy. In this context, what we can think of is the notion of sin in Macbeth. Is Macbeth a Christian prototype in a modern world? The scene where he is tempted by the witches in the first act may well be seen as a parallel to Christ's temptation in the forest. Another way of looking at Macbeth's murder of Duncan is to see it as a mimetic reproduction of original sin. In the Banquet scene, Macbeth does relate his murder of Banquo to the original act of murder performed by Cain well before the statutes were written.

The internalized character of sinfulness, charged by circumstantial temptation in both the figures of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is evocative of an Augustinian notion of sin. In the blood images of the play, especially Macbeth's image of the multitudinous seas or the image of the milk poured into hell have Biblical imagination in essence.

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jforster | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted May 7, 2010 at 12:55 PM (Answer #2)

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Macbeth is full of Biblical imagery. Here are just a few examples.

In Act 1, Scene 2 The Captain is telling King Duncan of Macbeth's bravery in battle and describes the scene saying,

Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds,
Or memorize another Golgotha,
The Golgotha mentioned here is a Biblical allusion to the place were Christ was crucified. Matthew 27:33 mentions Golgotha, otherwise known as, "The Place of the Skull."
In Act 1, Scene 3 Banquo talks with Macbeth about the witches saying,

But ’tis strange.

And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
In II Corinthians 11:13-14 Paul talks about how Satan uses false apostles or prophesiers as his "instruments of darkness" and their truths are not to be trusted.
In Act 2, Scene 2 Lady Macbeth tries in vain to wash her hands of the blood of King Duncan. The imagery of unclean hands equalling a guilty heart can be traced back to Bible times and the crucifixion of Christ.
Matthew 27:24 says that Pilot publicly washed his hands, showing he wanted nothing to do with the furtherance of the trial of Jesus Christ. Pilot knew that the trial was unjust. There are many more of these references throughout the play. Remember, society during the time of Shakespeare would have been heavily influence by the King James Bible.

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