The Role and Symbolism of Blood in Macbeth
In plays and novels, blood is normally used to symbolize death, mortality, and family. Blood reminds us of the vitality and importance of life. In Macbeth, Shakespeare uses blood to convey the emotional turmoil and the conscience of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. We are constantly reminded, through the use of blood, the emotional impact of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s actions has on them. While Macbeth becomes more paranoid than guilty, Lady Macbeth spirals down a path of insanity and regret. Shakespeare uses the blood of the victims and the imaginary blood to contrast how Macbeth and Lady Macbeth handles their situation emotionally.
Shakespeare uses the blood of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s victims to draw out their emotional response to the crimes committed. This is seen clearly when the couple discusses guilt and blood after murdering their first victim. After Macbeth murders Duncan, he returns to his wife and comments on his guilt and worries.
Macbeth “Whence is that knocking?/ How is’t with me, when every noise appals me?/ What hands are here? Ha? They pluck out mine eyes./ Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather/ The multitudinous seas incarnadine,/ Making the green one red.” (2.2, 68-74)
Macbeth’s obsession with blood in this scene demonstrates his inability to remove his guilt. The blood acts as a reminder that he killed his king. He knows that this guilt will carry with him everywhere. This is demonstrated when he says that the sea would not wash the blood away, and would rather be tainted by the blood. On the other hand, Lady Macbeth is very dismissive about the blood and the guilt of this act. This is seen when she mocks Macbeth about his manliness.
Lady Macbeth “My hands are of your colour, but I shame/ To wear a heart so white…. A little water clears us of this deed:/ How easy is it then! Your constancy/ Hath left you unattended.” (2.2, 75-76 & 78-80)
This was said as a response to Macbeth’s inability to wash the blood and guilt off his hands. Contrary to Macbeth, Lady Macbeth quickly disregards the guilt. She favours the reality of their physical situation. This is shown when she corrects him and says that he doesn’t need an ocean, but only a little water. She remarks that they both share the weight of the guilt. This is followed by a mocking line that says Macbeth should be ashamed of being so weak. Especially if they share equal weight in guilt. In these examples, Macbeth is shown as worrisome and restless while Lady Macbeth is shown as dismissive and dominant. Blood imagery from the victims of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is used to emphasize guilt by showing how Macbeth can’t seem to forget his guilt while Lady Macbeth is quick to suppress her guilt.
Another use of blood imagery comes from Shakespeare’s use of imaginary blood in Macbeth. Imaginary blood is used to portray the conscience and desires of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. A prime example of Macbeth...