The Symbolism of Blood in Macbeth

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The seventeenth-century play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, employs blood as a powerful symbol to amplify the tragic nature of the work. Prior to, and immediately following Duncan’s death, blood magnifies the treachery of Macbeth’s murderous act. Throughout the play, blood constantly reminds the audience of the ruthless means the Macbeths implement to gain the crown. In the culmination of the play, blood symbolizes the irreconcilable guilt that will haunt the Macbeths for the duration of their lives. Blood’s ubiquitous symbolism emphasizes the constant guilt felt by the Macbeths in their tragic pursuit of the monarchy.
The symbolism of blood prior to, and immediately following Duncan’s murder amplifies the magnitude of Macbeth’s treachery. Following the prophecy of the witches, Macbeth contemplates the possible effects of murdering Duncan in order to gain the crown. Macbeth believes the killing of Duncan will provide "bloody instruction" to Scotland and will in turn "plague th' inventor" (1.7.9-10). This quotation characterizes the murder of Duncan as a bloody deed, therefore amplifying the severity of the crime. Prior to the murder of Duncan, Macbeth hallucinates bloody splotches on his dagger. Macbeth voices this hallucination when he states, "I see thee still, and on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, which was not so before" (Macbeth 2.1.46-48). The false appearance of blood on Macbeth's dagger asserts his hesitancy to murder Duncan. In this case, blood symbolizes the possible guilt of Macbeth upon the murder of Duncan. Immediately following the murder of Duncan, Macbeth uses the symbol of blood to assert the magnitude of his crime. Macbeth conveys immediate concern when he states, "Will all great Neptune's ocean...

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...s the irreconcilable guilt that will plague the Macbeths for the remainder of their lives.
Shakespeare employs the powerful symbol of blood to augment the tragic nature of Macbeth, while dually adding dramatic effect to the play. Blood’s recurring symbolism throughout the play constantly reminds the audience of the Macbeth’s irreconcilable guilt. Blood’s symbolism in the murder of Duncan transforms an act of treachery into a ghastly betrayal. The symbolic appearance of blood throughout the intermediate parts of the play maintains the depth of the Macbeth’s unforgiveable guilt. The use of blood as a symbol in the conclusion of the play asserts the perpetuity of the Macbeth’s guilt. Shakespeare’s inclusion of blood as a major symbol in Macbeth creates a compelling tragedy in which the audience is able to comprehend the magnitude of the Macbeth’s irreconcilable guilt.

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