The word “blood” and its variations are used approximately 42 times throughout the course of Macbeth. The great playwright obviously deemed blood such an essential part of the construction of Macbeth that he appeared to go slightly overboard in his imagery. This is not the case.
Blood is used so often in the play, that it can be categorises as an extremely important theme. Shakespeare uses blood literally and figuratively at the same time to help make the play more realistic and grabbing, and, for the mentally superior, to illustrate the changing nature of the characters in the play.
Let me explain this in more detail: It begins by symbolising the honour, bravery and valour associated with war. King Duncan’s opening line is: “What bloody man is this? ” (1.
2. 1). The captain he was inquiring about had evidently just come from fighting, and was full of blood and scars, indicating a violent battle. The captain describes the battle to Duncan, and praises “Brave Macbeth”.
He says that Macbeth’s sword ” smoked with bloody execution. “(1. 2. 18).
This indicates that Macbeth fought bravely and fiercely, slaying many enemy soldiers, and covering his sword with their blood.Treachery and treason form the next phases of the blood imagery. When Lady Macbeth hears that King Duncan is dining at her castle, she says in her anticipation of his murder: “Make thick my blood” (1. 5.
42). By this, she is asking the evil spirits to allow her to cold-heartedly, and without emotion, participate in the murder of Duncan. After the murder of Duncan, blood becomes a symbol of guilt. Lady Macbeth smears Duncan’s chamber guards with the King’s blood, in order to make them look guilty of the “bloody business”, as Macbeth calls the murder.
The guilt theme now dominates the play. Lady Macbeth can”t psychologically wash the blood of king Duncan from her hands, which she sees on her hands while sleepwalking and dreaming, nor can she get rid of her guilt, which is directly associated with her bloody hands. While sleepwalking, she looks at her hands, and cries: “Out damned spot-(5. 1.
33). This connection between guilt and blood drove Lady Macbeth to insanity, and she eventually commits suicide.Macbeth, on the other hand, is also having trouble dealing with his guilt, but he is able to suppress it until the end of the play, when he admits his guilt to Macduff by saying: “But get thee back, my soul is too much charg’d with blood of thine already. ” (5.
8. 5). This means that Macbeth doesn”t want to fight Macduff, because he is feeling guilty for ordering the killing Macduff’s family. The theme then changes back to honour, as Macduff is praised for slaying Macbeth.
Blood seems to be constantly part of Macbeth’s life and downfall, yet it assumes different connotations at different stages of his downfall.The theme of blood can therefore be seen as a cycle: The Honourable Macbeth, becomes the Treacherous Macbeth after murdering Duncan, and soon after becomes the Guilty Macbeth, and then is killed himself by the Honourable Macduff, which then completes the cycle. The use of the blood symbolism is intricately woven into the framework of the play, and is undoubtedly one of the dominating imageries in Macbeth. The use of blood and all its references adds to the realism of Macbeth, and is unquestionably an extremely effective theme.
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