What are the symbols in this passage from "Macbeth"? (Act V, scene 1) LADY MACBETH    Out, damned spot! out, I say!--One: two: why,    then, 'tis time to do't.--Hell is murky!--Fie, my   ...

What are the symbols in this passage from "Macbeth"? (Act V, scene 1)

    Out, damned spot! out, I say!--One: two: why,
    then, 'tis time to do't.--Hell is murky!--Fie, my
    lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we
    fear who knows it, when none can call our power to
    account?--Yet who would have thought the old man
    to have had so much blood in him.

    Do you mark that?

    The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?--
    What, will these hands ne'er be clean?--No more o'
    that, my lord, no more o' that: you mar all with
    this starting.

    Go to, go to; you have known what you should not.

    She has spoke what she should not, I am sure of
    that: heaven knows what she has known.

    Here's the smell of the blood still: all the
    perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
    hand. Oh, oh, oh!

Asked on by pito156

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suman1983's profile pic

suman1983 | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

It should also be noted in this regard that the symbol constructed through the imagery of blood in this section is directly connected to the imagery of blood created in Act II, Sc. ii: "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand?" (II.ii). Similarly, the blood stains in Lady Macbeth’s hands are indelible like her guilt. But this also symbolises that like Macbeth, Lady Macbeth’s mind is also wounded. The blood stain on her hand is nothing but “a false creation,” which is what Macbeth called his bloodied hand in the preceding scene, Act II, Sc. i.

Macbeth: Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain? (II.i)

As Lady Macbeth has intentionally invoked the evil spirits, she has caused a fatal wound in her psyche. The imaginary blood stains in her hand symbolise this fatal wound. The doctor says “This disease is beyond my practice” and the readers understand “what's done cannot be / undone.”

Doctor: This disease is beyond my practise: yet I have known those which have walked in their sleep who have died holily in their beds. (V.i)

pmiranda2857's profile pic

pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The dominant symbol in this scene is blood, or the imagined blood that Lady Macbeth sees on her hands which represents the guilt that she feels over the murders, the blood that she refers to is Duncan's, "the old man".  But she is also stricken by the deaths of Banquo and especially that of Lady Macduff and her children, the most senseless and illogical of the murders that Macbeth commits.

She is constantly washing her hands, trying to rid herself of the blood, but she cannot.  She also experiences the smell of blood, which she says all the perfume in Arabia cannot mask.  The blood, like the guilt, is permanent.

She has descended into madness, dragged down by her conscience and her sense of overwhelming guilt.  She actually confesses to the murders when she sleepwalks and talks in front of her servant and the doctor.

Her guilty conscience frees itself when the sub-conscious takes over during sleep.  Then, as the servant has said, she says all kinds of things that she should not say. 

jay7star's profile pic

jay7star | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

The "one, two--" refers to when she ran the bell twice to signal the coming of Duncan's death

The "spot" is a blood spot and is a symbol of her subconscious guilt for the death of Duncan; of course the "spot" is all in her imagination; illusion vs. reality.  Lady Macbeth believes she is in "hell", again because of her guilt

The Thane of Fife is Macduff

The "soldier and afeard" is Macbeth

When Lady Macbeth says "No more o' that my lord..." she is refering to the time when they were at the banquet right after the murder of Banquo


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