Homework Help

Why is the image of blood significant to Macbeth?Macbeth by William Shakespeare

user profile pic

booashley | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 20, 2010 at 12:35 AM via web

dislike 2 like

Why is the image of blood significant to Macbeth?

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

2 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 20, 2010 at 1:30 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

The blood imagery in Macbeth is significant for several reasons. For one thing, it signifies that the essence of the victims' life have left; and, as such it symbolizes the loss of true humanness in Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, who are responsible for the murders.  For, in shedding the blood of the God-like Duncan and the good Banquo, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth become stained with the sin of their bloody deeds which disrupt the natural order.

As a consequence of their bloody deeds, in their guilt Macbeth sees ghosts and Lady Macbeth envisions spots on the stairs that will not wash away: "Out damned spot!  Out, I say! (4.3.39)  Macbeth also ponders upon his murderous deeds:

Will all great Neptune's oceans this blood

Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather

The multitudinous seas incarnadine,

Making the green red. (2.2.60-63)

He anticipates having to pay for his crimes as he reflects,

It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood:

Stones have been known to move, and trees to speak;

Augurs and understood relations have

By maggot pies and choughs and nooks brought forth

The secret'st man of blood. (3.4.122-125)

Prevalent throughout the play, blood imagery unites the murderous acts of Macbeth with his and his wife's sins and guilt as well as unifying the play with the repetition of this imagery. For instance, in the first secene of Act IV, Macbeth sees the image of a bloody child uniting the blood imagery with the child imagery as he is told

none of woman born

Shall harm Macbeth. (4.1.80)

Finally, with so much imagery of blood, the horror of Macbeth's heinous deeds leaves a lasting effect upon the audience as they realize the terrible evil of "vaulting ambition."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

user profile pic

lvsuey | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Honors

Posted May 24, 2010 at 8:07 PM (Answer #2)

dislike 1 like

We have known blood to all of us to represent life, death and often injury. Blood is an essential part of life and without blood, we could not live. This is known to everyone, and because of this, when Shakespeare uses the imagery of blood to represent treason, guilt, murder and death. We have easily understood it and fits in perfectly with the ideas we have of blood. Therefore, this weighs blood to the most important imagery of Shakespeare's play 'Macbeth'.  Shakespeare mentions the word blood, or different forms of it often in the play. Forty-two times to be exact (ironically, the word fear also is used the same amount), with several other passages dealing with imagery. Perhaps the best way to describe how the image of blood changes throughout the play, by following the character changes in Macbeth. First, he is a brave honored soldier, but as the play progresses, he becomes identified withe death and bloodshed, along with showing his guilt in different forms.  The first sinister reference to blood is one of honor, showed in Act I scene ii. This 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 he covers his sword in the hot blood of the enemy.   Act II, Scene ii. The symbol of blood now changes to show a form of treachery and treason. 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 that 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 withe blood.", and "If he do bleed, I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal, for it must seem their guilt."  Act V, Scene i - Lady Macbeth shows the most vivid example of guilt with the use of the imagery of blood, in the scene that she walks in her sleep. She says "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 out power to account? Yet who have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?" All these references in the quotation are to murder and both include direct references to blood, again linking blood to treachery and murder. Yet, this speech represents the fact that she cannot wipe the blood stains of Duncan off her hand. It is ironic that she says this, because right after the murder, when Macbeth was feeling guilty, she said, "A little water clears us of this deed." When the doctor of the castle finds out about this sleepwalking, he tells Macbeth, "As she is troubled with thick-coming fantasies," meaning that Lady Macbeth is having dreams that deal with blood. Macbeth knows deep in his mind she is having troubles with her guilt, but does not say anything about it. Act V, Scene viii - just before the ending of the play, Macbeth has Macduff at his mercy, and lets him go, because of his guilt. . 

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes