Discuss the symbolism of blood in Macbeth from the murder of Duncan to Lady Macbeth's discussion of it while sleepwalking later in the play.

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Blood is physical, tangible proof of the evil of one's soul.  It symbolizes guilt.  Blood is connected to Duncan and the criminals' hands.  Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, long after they have washed their hands of the crime, will continue to see blood on their hands and in their hearts.

Macbeth will not go back into the death chamber to smear the groomsmen with blood: "I'll go no more: I am afraid to think what I have done."

He uses blood imagery to comment on the psychological impact of his guilt: "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand?"

Speaking to Donaldbain, Macbeth says his royal father is dead using blood imagery: "The spring, the head, the fountain of your blood Is stopp'd; the very source of it is stopp'd."

He tries to give dignity to Duncan's death by attaching a different color to the blood: "Here lay Duncan, His silver skin laced with his golden blood"

Macbeth tries to blame Duncan's sons with the crime using blood imagery: "We hear, our bloody cousins are bestow'd In England and in Ireland..."

Macbeth uses blood imagery to convince the murders to kill Banquo: "So is he mine; and in such bloody distance, That every minute of his being thrusts Against my near'st of life:"

During the banquet scene, more blood / hand imagery from Macbeth to his Lady: "Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day; And with thy bloody and invisible hand Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond Which keeps me pale! "

Macbeth says this to Banquo's ghost using blood imagery to describe that which is imaginary (like the dagger), already dead: "Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold;"

And his famous aside, which shows that killing will lead to killing: "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 magot-pies and choughs and rooks brought forth The secret'st man of blood."