How is blood used in the play Macbeth?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are two places in Macbeth in which blood is used conspicuously. This may have been real blood from a recently slaughtered animal or some substance resembling blood. After the murder of King Duncan, Macbeth returns to his wife in Act 2, Scene 2 with his hands covered with blood. Shakespeare chose not to show the actual murder but to get the emotional effect of the terrible crime through showing what purports to be the King's blood. Macbeth is also carrying two blood-stained daggers. When his wife orders him to return the daggers to Duncan's chamber, Macbeth tells her:

I'll go no more.
I am afraid to think what I have done;
Look on't again I dare not.

So Lady Macbeth takes the daggers back to Duncan's chamber in order to incriminate the two drugged grooms. She returns with her own hands smeared with blood and shows them to her husband, saying:

My hand are of your color, but I shame 
To wear a heart so white.

It seems likely that she would rub one hand after the other across the front of her nightgown as she says these words. In addition to showing a lot of blood, there is also a lot of talk of blood in this harrowing scene.

Another place where blood is used conspicuously is in Act 3, Scene 4 when the ghost of the murdered Banquo shows up at the Coronation Banquet. We know he must be a ghost because we have seen him murdered. The First Murderer also appears to assure Macbeth that Banquo is truly dead. In this scene the actor playing Banquo's ghost would be familiar to the audience, but his clothing and his hair would be drenched in blood. When Macbeth reacts with horror to the sight, he speaks these words:

Blood hath been shed ere now, i’ the olden time,
Ere humane statute purged the gentle weal;
Ay, and since too, murders have been perform'd
Too terrible for the ear. The time has been,
That, when the brains were out, the man would die,
And there an end; but now they rise again,
With twenty mortal murders on their crowns,
And push us from our stools. This is more strange
Than such a murder is.

There are many spoken references to blood throughout the play, such as in Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking scene; but the two scenes described above seem to be where a lot of blood is actually shown.

Sources:
kristysalasq7733's profile picture

kristysalasq7733 | eNotes Newbie

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In Macbeth,the magnum opus by Shkespeare blood is used in several ways.The sanguinary and gory images comes into account as symbols.Blood is used to mean lineage again blood becomes the symbol of guilt when both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth tried to cleanse their hands after butchering Duncun.By washing their hands they apparently tried to get rid of the crimson spots by Duncan's blood.But doing so they tried to get free from the sense of guilt.

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