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What Does Blood Symbolize in Macbeth

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Who would thought something as simple as blood could change a story drastically . Throughout the story blood symbolized, corruption, greed, and ultimately guilt. The two central characters, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, in the play Macbeth is heavily affected by Lady Macbeth’s wickedness. Lady Macbeth designs a successful manipulative plan to have her husband kill king Duncan of Scotland, she does so by testing his manhood and calling him a coward. But, when you think of murder, the first thing that comes to mind is blood. Blood isn’t just a flowing substance going through your veins, the meaning/ feeling of blood can come with a lot of potential circumstances that led the story to end, how it ended. William Shakespeare, Macbeth, shows how the taste of blood, feeling of guilt/ remorse can affect not only the characters in the play, but as well as the story as a whole. Blood symbolism is often used as an abundance of allusion, in Shakespeare’s plays. This is especially true in Macbeth as the many quotations pertaining to blood show as such.

As the story progresses, it is evident that the symbol of blood is used as a symbol of assassination and guiltiness. As Macbeth states In act 2 scene 1, “And thy blade and dudgeon hours of blood, which was not so before. There’s no such things: it is the bloody business which informs this to mine eyes.” This quote reveals the hesitation in Macbeth’s body before he attempts to kill Duncan. He visualizes a floating dagger floating to him, which ultimately steers him to proceed into Duncan’s room. Macbeth’s is at an extremely heightened emotional state at this point. He immediately starts to rethink his desire to become king, as he finishes the execution, the dagger projects the symbol of remorse and guilt. As Macbeth thinks about the murder, the thought is symbolized by the bloody dagger, and is making his emotions extremely worrisome. Macbeth states in act 2, scene 2, lines 55-61, “What hands are here! Ha, they pluck out mine eyes. Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather The multitudinous seas incarnadine, Making the green one red.”

The sight of blood is figuratively tearing his eyes out his head. His allusions pertaining to the blood being on his hands, shows as a sign of guilt and it tells the reader that he is in a constant state of thinking about it. He starts to believe that he’d never be able to wash the blood away and that he’d never be able to forgive himself of the filthy things he’s committed. The haunting guilt that is brought upon Macbeth changes his behavior as the story continues.

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The regret that is running through Macbeth’s spirit is tainting with his behavior, which is caused by the symbolism of blood, it shows how Macbeth’s whole behavior changes. In act 3 scene 4 it states, “Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake / Thy gory locks at me” This quote reveals Macbeth’s regret/ remorse about killing Banquo. As Macbeth denies the act of killing Banquo, but he feels guilty for sending people to do so. Gory locks is a metaphor being used to visualize Banquo’s bloody body. He thinks about his old self which starts to put him in even more guilt. Banquo and Macbeth were known as really good friends, to have one of your best friends killed it’s obliged to bring guilt upon you. Hallucinations of the presence of Banquo’s bloody ghost is an important key point to Macbeth’s feelings of regret. An additional quote in act 3 scene 4, states, “I am in blood, sep’t in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er.” This quote reveals his emotional state, he does not know what to do, but he does realize that he has to attempt to find peace for the crimes he committed but with all the guilt on his conscious notices that it’ll be very hard to do so. The change in Macbeth’s character is a dramatic function ultimately changing the story and what could’ve been.

Furthermore, the symbolism of blood reveals the shift in Lady Macbeth’s mental state. A quote in act 2 scene 2, states, “My hands are of your colour dc, but I am ashamed to wear a heart so white.” As Lady Macbeth first designs a plan to have Macbeth, kill Duncan, she displays that she lacks care and has a very nonchalant attitude towards the situation. She tries to test Macbeth’s manhood by telling Macbeth he is too pure and weak; has a white heart- she feels like she did nothing wrong, but is ultimately just as guilty as Macbeth. A sign of guilt shows as she “easily” washes her hands. She tried to show no sign of care, unlike her husband; she tries to prove she is a strong individual and would do anything to make it to the top. Also a quote in act 5, scene 1, Lady Macbeth states “Out, damned spot! Out i say!” As Macbeth washes his hands, she starts to feel the wrath of guilt. Which she desperately tried to not feel. She continuously tries to rinse this spot of blood she envisions off her hands- the blood seemed like it refused to come off, causing her to start hallucinating. She couldn’t take the guilt, trying to free her consciousness, she sadly kills herself. Her actions conclude that it’s evident that the symbolism of blood was very important to analyze, in order to have a deeper meaning of the story and how it played out. It led up to Lady Macbeth killing herself, with all the guilt and regret it brought upon her.

To conclude, the symbol of blood is used as a symbol of corruption, guilt, and remorse . In most of Shakespeare plays blood symbolizes murder and other acts like it, but in the end it ultimately brings guilt upon the characters. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are two prime examples of what blood can cause upon the characters and how it can eventually change the story. They’re minds were continuously tormented by the evil acts they committed which were ultimately made upon greed. The plodding of Macbeth is what he suffered from and Lady Macbeth was driven out of her mind, causing her to hallucinate, which led to her suicide. Blood symbolism changed how each of the characters acted from the beginning to the end of the story. The usage of blood is used by William to enhance the reader’s comprehension of the character shifts through the story.

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What Does Blood Symbolize in Macbeth. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 22, 2023, from
“What Does Blood Symbolize in Macbeth.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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