Discuss the significance of recurring motifs or symbols in Macbeth.

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Blood and the description of bloody objects shows up throughout Macbeth

  • Bloody Captain-- Act One, scene two, in the first line, Duncan remarks:
What bloody man is that? He can report,
As seemeth by his plight, of the revolt
The newest state.
  • The bloody captain foreshadows the role of violence and the physical cost of rebellion in the play.
  • Bloody dagger-- In Act two, scene one as he weighs his decision to murder the king, Macbeth sees a vision of a dagger pointing in the direction of King Duncan's room.  The dagger drips in blood, and in Macbeth's mind, portends the fate of the king.
  • Bloody hands-- The blood staining Macbeth's hands symbolizes his guilt in murdering Duncan.  Macbeth worries in Act two, scene two, that there will never be enough water, even an ocean's amount, to wash it away. Later Lady Macbeth frets over the "damn spot" that she cannot seem to wash away in Act Five, scene one.

The presence of blood in Macbeth reinforces the theme of violence throughout the play as a physical reminder of guilt and betrayal.  Later when MacDuff appears on stage with Macbeth's bloody head, the play has come full circle, and Macbeth's murderous deeds have been paid for with his own blood and death.