I Am In Blood Stepp'd In So Far

What does the following quote mean in Macbeth?

I am in blood/Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,/Returning were as tedious as go o'er. (Act 3, Scene 4)

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth is saying that he is stuck, and can neither go back nor forward.  He is forced to stand his ground, since he has made his decision to kill Duncan.

At this point in the play, Macbeth has made his bed.  He has already killed Duncan, so there is no turning back.  Yet he struggles a little.  He is not sure what to do, and needs some time to think things through. 

I will tomorrow,

And betimes I will, to the weird sisters.

More shall they speak; for now I am bent to know,

By the worst means, the worst. For mine own good

All causes shall give way. (Act 3, Scene 4)

Ironically, as Macbeth is trying to figure things out to make sure he’s not in over his head, Hecate is scolding the Weird Sisters for messing with him—and deciding to make things even worse by showing him more visions.  He thinks he is going to solve something by visiting the witches again to seek their advice, when they are really going to twist him up further and get him into more of a mess.

Lady Macbeth is disturbed by this kind of talk.  She tells Macbeth he just needs some sleep. He is acting strangely, and she feels like she is losing control of him.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Towards the end of Act Three, Scene 4, Macbeth tells his wife that he plans on visiting the Three Witches for a second time to learn more about his future. Macbeth then says,

"I am in blood Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o'er" (Shakespeare, 3.4.142-144).

Essentially, Macbeth believes that he has committed too many crimes to turn his life around and possibly find salvation. The image of Macbeth standing in the middle of a river of blood metaphorically represents the innocent lives he has taken. Macbeth has already killed King Duncan and Banquo, and he feels that changing his murderous ways would be "tedious." Macbeth believes that it would be just as easy to continue killing people as it would be to stop and repent for his sins. All hope of finding salvation is lost, and Macbeth accepts his bloody future. Later on in the play, Macbeth orders assassins to kill Macduff's entire family and continues to reign as a bloodthirsty tyrant before he dies in the final battle.

Julie Feng eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth is realizing that after he has committed murder, there is no going back. He immediately regrets killing Duncan, but there is nothing he can do to change what has already happened.