The Many Meanings of Blood

Essay by starcraftgoddessHigh School, 11th gradeA+, March 2004

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The Many Meanings of Blood

Blood is a very essential fluid in the human body. It has been called the river of life, which clearly emphasizes its importance in nature. In The Tragedy of Macbeth, blood emerges in the text from scene to scene. William Shakespeare uses the image of blood to evoke the horror of the play. In addition, it represents other factors such as guilt and death. Yet, the imagery of blood does not remain constant throughout the entire story. Its symbolic meaning varies from beginning to end. Unlike its connotations in the latter part of the story, it once symbolized positively during Macbeth's battle against Macdonwald.

In Act I, Scene 2, a bleeding captain reported to King Duncan on the progress of the fight. The description of the battle included gory details of Macbeth's actions. His murder of Macdonwald involved blood by splitting him open from the navel to the jaws, which was a horrific event.

By specifying that his sword was "smoked with bloody execution (I. ii. 18)," Shakespeare added a dramatic effect to the play. Although Macbeth's actions were excessive in that bloody battle, he fought for a noble cause. Because of that, he earned recognition for his courage and noble heroism. Only in this instance did any occurrence of blood benefit Macbeth.

In contrast with valor and intrepidity, the symbolic meaning of blood changes in Act II, Scene 1. Prior to murdering King Duncan, Macbeth envisions a dagger drenched in blood floating in midair, utters "Is this a dagger which I see before me... And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood (II. i. 33-46)." Blood here acts as a symbol of treason and murder; whereas it once held a positive value, is now associated with evilness and wrongdoing. Macbeth's character flaws...