How does the motif blood help to develp the tragic flaw of unchecked ambition in Macbeth?i know that he is willing to do anything or shed any blood in order to become king but i was wondering if...

How does the motif blood help to develp the tragic flaw of unchecked ambition in Macbeth?

i know that he is willing to do anything or shed any blood in order to become king but i was wondering if anyone would be able to explain this more.
thanks

Asked on by vball123

1 Answer | Add Yours

Top Answer

mstultz72's profile pic

mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In Macbeth, a thane's ambition is measured in blood.  From Macbeth's first description by the Bleeding Captain in Act I to his beheading in Act V, Macbeth must swim in a river of blood in order to subvert the natural order and become an unnatural King.

Only through blood can Macbeth jump over Duncan, Malcolm, and Donaldbain and achieve his goal.  Not only that, but blood is used to protect the goal.  Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth, "It will have blood; they say, blood will have blood."  In other words, blood begets more blood: one cannot simply kill Duncan; other deaths (Banquo, Macduff) must follow.

In Act II, scene iii, Donaldbain says:

“Our separated fortune shall keep us both the safer. Where we are, there’s in men’s smiles; the near in blood, the nearer bloody.”

Which means: "We’ll both be safer if we go separate ways. Wherever we go, men will smile at us while hiding daggers. Our closest relatives are the ones most likely to murder us." He knows that ambition and blood go hand-in-hand.

Karin Thompson, a critic, agrees:

This energy is sublimated into ambition and culminates with Duncan's murder and the bloody rebirth of Macbeth as an unnatural son and hier to the throne.

Dr. Caroline Cakebread, of the Shakespeare Institute says:

Indeed, Macbeth's first appearance, covered with blood and receiving high praise for the slaughter of others, gives us our first idea about the acceptable patterns of behaviour, which govern the "masculine" side of this world:

"For brave Macbeth--well he deserves that name!-- Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel Which smoked with bloody execution, Like valour's minion Carved out his passage till he faced the slave, Which ne'er shook hands nor bade farewell to him Till he unseamed him from the nave to th' chops, And fixed his head upon our battlements." (1.2.16-23)

So, in sum, ambition is achieved early in Macbeth.  Ambition is short-lived, but the blood keeps flowing after it is achieved.  This shows that ambition achieved by blood leads only to tragedy.

We’ve answered 318,915 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question