What kinds of symbolism may be found in the following quote from Macbeth? "Here lay Duncan, / His silver skin laced with his golden blood."  

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The quote suggests through its diction that King Duncan was an extraordinary man, as well as an extraordinary monarch. The words "silver" and "golden" have connotations not just of royalty, but of that which is precious and rare. Before killing Duncan, Macbeth acknowledged Duncan's goodness:

. . . this Duncan

Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been

So clear in his great office, that his virtues

Will plead like angels trumpet-tongued against

The deep damnation of his taking-off;

Macbeth continues, predicting that Duncan's murder will evoke such great pity in his subjects "[t]hat tears shall drown the wind."

The fact that it is Macbeth himself who describes Duncan's body in this way is enormously ironic and psychologically complex. The dramatic irony is clear; only Macbeth and Lady Macbeth know the truth of Duncan's murder, while the others are still in the dark as to what Macbeth has done. By speaking of Duncan in such worshipful words, Macbeth diverts suspicion away from himself. On a deeper level, however, Macbeth speaks the truth of his own feelings. He genuinely had admired Duncan, even though his selfish ambition was stronger than his love and loyalty.