What are some repeated images or phrases in Macbeth and how do they affect Macbeth?

Expert Answers
mperez-mugg21 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many, many different motifs throughout the play that represent important thematic elements within the story.  The most prominent references are to sleep, masculinity, blood and hands (birds also play an important but subtle role as well).  In the beginning of the play Lady Macbeth uses references to masculinity to suggest both violence in herself and others but also as a tool for manipulating Macbeth.  Macbeth in turn also uses references to masculinity throughout the remainder of the play in order to suggest that he is in control of the situation such as when Banquo's ghost appears in Act 3.  When Macbeth regains control of himself at the dinner table he states "I am a man again."  These references clearly play a large role in motivating Macbeth to commit the murder of Duncan and also continue to fuel his madness later in the play.  References to blood and sleep play a huge role in signifying guilt throughout the play after Macbeth commits the first murder.  For example, when Macbeth commits the murder he believes that someone in the adjacent chamber yells out "Macbeth shall sleep no more."  This motif is continued into Act 3 when Lady Macbeth yells at Macbeth that he must sleep in order to regain his sanity.  Finally, as Macbeth grapples with the murders that he has committed he continuously references blood over and over again throughout the remainder of the play.  At first he imagines a bloody dagger at the end of Act 1, then he talks about Neptune's great sea not being able to wash the blood from his hands in Act 2, and finally in scene 3 he speaks about being "steeped in blood" so far that he cannot possibly wade out of it.  This image of being covered in blood signifies Macbeth's deep guilt for the murders he has committed and also demonstrates that Macbeth slowly descends into madness.