The use of blood imagery in MacBeth

Essay by innis04College, UndergraduateA+, January 2005

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William Shakespeare uses numerous methods to rouse the anxiety, and thrill in his plays. In the tragedy of MacBeth, Shakespeare utilizes blood imagery to add a fearful sense of guilt, insanity, shame, and anger to the play. The blood imagery enables the audience to envision the horrible scene where Duncan was ruthlessly murdered and also the scene where Lady MacBeth attempts to rid her mind of the guilt of her actions. The sight and talk of blood has a profound impact on the depth and strength of the use of blood imagery.

The first referral to blood is one of honor, and takes place when Duncan sees the hurt sergeant and says, "What bloody man is that?"(1.2.1) This is representative of the valiant soldier who was injured in a battle for his country. In the following passage, the sergeant says, "Which smoked with bloody execution,"(1.2.18) he is alluding to Macbeth's bravery where his sword is soaked in the blood of his enemy.

After the references about honor, the symbol of blood alters to show a subject of treason and treachery. Lady Macbeth begins this when she gives her famous unsex me speech, demanding the spirits "to make thick my blood."(1.5.43) What she means by this, is that she wants to make herself heartless and merciless for the actions which she is about to be apart of. Lady Macbeth knows that the blood she smears on the servant's faces' will deflect the guilt from her and Macbeth to the servants.

The clearest use blood imagery, is the guilt theme. First Macbeth implies at his guilt when he speaks, "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?"(2.2.59-60) He meant that he doubted he would ever forget the horrible deed that he had committed. Then the...