The Power of Blood in Macbeth

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There are a variety of fluids in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth such as milk, water and blood. Milk quenches one’s thirst, whereas blood pours out of a person. Water is used to wash stains away, whereas blood can taint a person. The blood image is very potent throughout Macbeth and reinforces the major themes of bravery, guilt, and violence evoked by the three witches. At the beginning of the play, the bloody captain and Lady Macbeth have very different opinions of what is brave (especially the qualities of bravery that Macbeth either shows or does not show) and both use different images of milk and blood to prove their point. The captain is bleeding because he fought bravely in battle, especially against Malcolm’s (the son of King Duncan of Scotland) “captivity” (I ii 6). His wounds signify his loyalty to Scotland. In his severely wounded state, however, the bloody captain decides to speak about Macbeth’s bravery against the Norwegian invaders and especially the rebel leader Macdonwald to the King. Macbeth has been killing so many people that his sword “smoke[s]” (I ii 21), or steams, with blood. These “execution[s]” (I ii 21) foreshadow his many other murders with his “brandished steel” (I ii 20) later on in the play. These executions are not for the good of Scotland, but for his acquiring (and guarding) the title of King of Scotland. Later in Act I, Lady Macbeth reads a letter from Macbeth telling her about the witches’ prophecy for Macbeth and Banquo, how he was hailed Thane of Cawdor by the witches and would eventually be King. Instantly, Lady Macbeth began plotting as to how Macbeth would go about murdering King Duncan to gain the title. However, she “fear[s]” (I v 15) that Macbeth’s human “nature” (I v 15) is too “milk[y]” ... ... middle of paper ... ...(IV iii 117) is “miserable” (IV iii 118) since there is an “untitled tyrant” (IV iii 118), or Macbeth, in its midst who is undeserving of a title. Macbeth, according to Macduff, is “bloody sceptred” (IV ii 118) for his sceptre and sign of his authority as a monarch, unlike those of other rulers, is covered in blood, since he had to murder to ascend the throne. It is only when Ross brings news that Macduff’s family has been murdered (most likely by Macbeth), however, that Malcolm encourages Macduff to slay Macbeth, and Macduff agrees. Macbeth wades in the blood of his victims while Malcolm and Macduff use blood imagery to describe the violence and destruction of Scotland (first evoked by the three witches) under Macbeth’s rule. Works Cited Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1915. Google Books. Web. 3 Sept. 2015.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes the fluids in william shakespeare's macbeth, such as milk, water, and blood. the blood image is potent throughout the three witches.
  • Analyzes how the bloody captain and lady macbeth have different opinions of what is brave, and use different images of milk and blood to prove their point.
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