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Macbeth Symbolism

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 04:16 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 76.1 
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In Shakespeare\'s Macbeth the symbol of blood is used to represent honor, bravery, treason, murder and guilt   The symbol of blood is continuously developed until it becomes the dominating theme of the play.

The word   blood, or different forms of it appear forty-two times, throughout the play. Perhaps the best way to show how the symbol of blood changes during the development of the play, is to follow the character changes in Macbeth. At first, Macbeth is presumed as a brave and honorable person, but as the play progresses, he becomes a treacherous person who is identified with death and bloodshed, and shows his guilt in many different forms.

The first reference of blood is one of honor, and occurs when Duncan sees the injured sergeant and says:

What bloody man is that?  

                                        (Act I, Scene II, -1)

            This quote is symbolic of the brave fighter who had been injured during the battle for his country. In the next passage the Captain says:

  . . . Which smok\'d with bloody execution.  

                                        (Act I, Scene II, -20)

He is referring to Macbeth\'s braveness in which his sword is covered in the hot blood of the enemy.

After these few references to honor, the symbol of blood now changes to show a theme of treachery and treason. Lady Macbeth starts this off when she asks the spirits to make her blood thick. What she is asking by this is, that she wants to make herself insensitive and remorseless for the deeds which she is about to commit. Lady Macbeth knows that the evidence of blood is a treacherous symbol, and knows it will make the servants and not Macbeth and herself look guilty when she says:   . . . smear the sleepy grooms with blood.

          (Act II, Scene II, -64-65)

  . . . If he do bleed, I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal, for it must seem their guilt.


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