Macbeth what the role that blood plays in macbeth, particulary following Duncan's murder and late in the play what does blood symbolize for macbeth and his wife?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, blood is representative of their guilt. Immediately after he commits the murder of Duncan, Macbeth asks,

Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine
Making the green one red. (2.2.78-81)

Obviously, not even all the blood from a single man could turn the ocean from green to red, but Macbeth's guilt for killing Duncan, his king and kinsman, is so extreme that he uses hyperbole, or overstatement, to express how truly awful he feels.

Lady Macbeth, when she returns from smearing Duncan's chamberlains with his blood, says,

My hands are of your color, but I shame
To wear a heart so white. (2.2.82-83)

Her hands are covered in blood now, but she says that she would be embarrassed to be as guilt-ridden (and perhaps even cowardly) as he.

Later in the play, however, she sings a different tune. In Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking scene, she washes her hands over and over, and she cries,

Out, damned spot, out, I say! . . . Here's the smell of the blood still.  All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.

She can still, in her sleep, see spots of Duncan's blood on her hands, and she now uses hyperbole, just as Macbeth did, saying that not even all the perfumes in Arabia could cover up the smell of the blood. Obviously, gallons of perfume would actually cover up the smell, but her guilt has begun to weigh so heavily on her conscience that she feels the perfume would not work.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Blood, blood, blood!  The entire play is "a bloody" situation, with the pun upon the British meaning of this word. Macbeth is a notoriously violent drama;there is absolute carnage, a wading in blood by the warriors.  In the beginning, Macbeth eviscerates his victim Macdonaldwald; at the end he is beheaded.

Blood has a myriad of meanings as a symbol and every one fits in Shakespeare's play:  life, death, kinship, extreme passion, cruelty, barbarism, sin, guilt [as in the expression "the blood is on them"], villainry, the occult--they are all there.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Blood is always a symbol for life -- it is what literally keeps the human body alive. Blood can also symbolize passion or emotionality (as opposed to mind which represents intellect and rationality). In this play, blood represents life and ambition for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, but it ends up representing guilt, especially for Lady Macbeth for her part in motivating the assassination -- a terrible, bloody act.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As mentioned in the previous posts, blood represents both life and guilt in the play. While initially, Macbeth feels the guilt, it is not until later that Lady Macbeth understands the seriousness of her part in the plan to murder Duncan. Her inability to get out the "damned spot" shows her guilt is more than superficial.

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Blood in this play often symbolizes Macbeth's sense of guilt, as well as his feeling that his guilt cannot be easily erased or "washed off." He is, at first, a murderer and criminal who is highly aware of his crimes. Blood also symbolizes his growing tyranny and disrespect for others and his cruelty toward them.

reeema23 | Student

Thank you all for your help

bhawanipur | Student

In 'Macbeth', blood is used as a symbol but at the same time it also helps the playwright to give an analysis of the minds of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Initially, Macbeth was not ambitious that he would kill Duncan for the throne. It was the witches first which symbolises evil only, to instigate Macbeth by their tricky predictions. Macbeth could not understand them and when he told about the presictions to his wife, she was the second to instigate and inspire Macbeth to conspire and act against Duncan.

Thus blood symbolises "blood for blood". His mind did not allow to act thus and yet he did it. Therefore, he suffered from mental agony. But his wife was more ambitious and cruel to have anything she wanted. That is why she tells Macbeth to wash his hand and not to worry. A little water will clean that. Its true a little water can help them but not the agony in mind. Blood stands for mental agony thinking about consequences of misdeeds.