What is the dramatic significance of the quote, "It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood" (Act III, scene iv) from Macbeth?



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malibrarian's profile pic

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This quote from Act III, scene iv, is said by Macbeth when he sees the ghost of Banquo at his feast.  Its significance lies in the fact that Macbeth is beginning to have a guilty conscience (or at least is fearful of what will happen to him because of his actions) concerning the murders he has committed - first the murder of King Duncan, then the murder of his former friend, Banquo.  Banquo's ghost coming to Macbeth causes Macbeth to act insane and irrational in front of his wife and guests, and Macbeth states that the blood he has shed will come back for revenge on him - blood will have blood.


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Macbeth has murdered King Duncan, Banquo and now plots to kill Macduff.  He has spilled alot of blood in his hands, and if he must die while fighting for the right to his throne, then "blood will have blood".  He will not give up the throne without a fight!

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In an interpretive manner, "blood will have blood" is a double entendre. For, its first meaning is in reference to the predictions of the three witches who have told Banquo that his "blood" will have "blood" (sons)--"Thou shall get kings"--while the second meaning is that the shedding of Banquo's blood will have to lead (get) to the shedding of his sons blood as well because the prediction was that Banquo should be the father of kings. 

When Macbeth utters these words, he uses the phrase more in this second meaning that his bloody path of murder must lead to other murders. Having killed Duncan and become king, he must now eliminate Banquo and his progeny to ensure that he remain king. This idea, too, is in line with the Elizabeth Chain of Being: whatever affects one thing affect others. Thus, there is an interconnection of one bloody deed and another. In fact, Macbeth even alludes to the sons of Duncan earlier with the word "bloody":

We hear out bloody cousins are bestow'd
In England andin Ireland, filling their hearers
with Strange invention. But of that tomorrow. (3.1)


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