Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Macbeth book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What are some symbols tracked throughout the play of Macbeth? 

Images:
This image has been Flagged as inappropriate Click to unflag
Image (1 of 1)

Expert Answers info

Chase Burns eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write133 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Arts, and Law and Politics

There are a handful of symbols that reappear throughout Macbeth, but the following symbols are the most commonly found. 

  • Blood.

Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand? (MACBETH. II.ii.58-59)

Out, damned spot; out I say... who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him? (LADY MACBETH. V.i.30-34)

Blood reappears throughout the play and often signifies guilt, shame or paranoia. Macbeth speaks of blood when he kills Duncan, wondering if Neptune's ocean can wash the blood clean from his hand. He is not literally asking for Neptune to rise and wash his hands, but rather for his sin to be forgiven. Lady Macbeth continues this relationship with the blood symbolism by frantically trying to scrub imaginary blood from her hands in the fifth act. 

  • Night and The Weather.

Fair is foul, and foul is fair; / Hover through the fog and filthy air. (WITCHES. I.i.12-13)

Come, thick night, / And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, / That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, / Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark / To cry 'Hold, hold!' (LADY MACBETH. I.v.56-60)

The weather is mentioned from the very beginning of Macbeth and often is used to create a mood over the stage. The Witches all mention the weather in the first scene, describing how the weather must be right for the prophecies and deeds to occur. Night, specifically, is used to achieve things in Macbeth. Lady Macbeth frequently mentions night, wishing it to surround her and her husband so they may commit their acts. 

check Approved by eNotes Editorial