n Shakespeare s Macbeth , the theme of blood is vigorously circulated throughout the play. For Macbeth, the main character, it causes him to lose his loyalty, his mind, and eventually his life. The theme of blood in Macbeth represents physical bloodshed and the force that fuels the passions and impulses of man. Shakespeare sets the play in early 16th century Scotland. This time period is a little earlier than his own, but he does this to vividly indicate to the reader the brutal lifestyle of the feudal system. Each member of the nobility is related by blood. Not only are they expected to keep the knights code, but also the loyalty of family. Macbeth is asked by King Duncan to execute the revolting Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth does so, and King Duncan declares Macbeth as the new Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth is loyal to King Duncan by killing family for rising against him. However, Macbeth feels the tremor of what he has done and what he can do, My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, Shakes so my single state of man That function is smothered in surmise, And nothing is but what is not (1,3,153-155). It is the impulses of blood that cause man to murder and uprise in this society. Now, Macbeth has obtained a social and political status so high, if he were to go any higher, he could create a dynasty. He has everything, an intelligent and gifted wife, wealth, and the hearts of his countrymen. Yet, he is dissatisfied and continues to contemplate the murdering of his king. Shakespeare powerfully displays the impulses of the blood taking over the reasoning of the mind. Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires. The eye wink at the hand, yet let that be which the eye fears, when it is done to see (1,4,57-60). Though Macbeth contemplates, it is somewhat difficult to perform this action. King Duncan is of good virtue and most importantly, blood. Macbeth is persuaded by his wife to kill King Duncan. Art though afeard to be the same in thine own act and valor as though art in desire? Wouldst thou have that which thou esteem st the ornament of life and live a coward in thine own esteem (1,2, 43-47). In this particular act, Macbeth is surrounded by blood. He is encased by the human passions of sin and the blood that comes from it. Macbeth murders King Duncan. After doing so, Macbeth is terrified of what he has done. He remains clinching to the bloody daggers so, Lady Macbeth has to take them away from him. Macbeth realizes that he has drawn the blood of his own blood. He states, I ll go no more. I am afraid to think what I have done. Look on t again I dare not (2,1,65-67). After Lady Macbeth returns the daggers to the King s quarters, she sees the blood of murder. Then, she too, feels what Macbeth has felt all along. My hands are of your color, but I shame To wear a heart so white (2,2, 82-83). Later, Macbeth is crowned King of Scotland. He has obtained his wish, but at the cost of murder and treason. Macbeth is a tyrant because the passions and impulses of blood control him. Banquo and the family of Macduff fall victim to the brutal passions of sin that govern Macbeth. He orders Banquo to be killed because he does not want his children to become King after he. Macbeth speaks to the murderers, So is he mine(enemy), and in such bloody distance that every minute of his being thrusts against my near st of life (3,1,132-134). Macbeth has the family of Macduff killed when he hears of Macduff fleeing to England. It is obvious that Macbeth is possesed by blood. However, he is just as physically strong and mentally sharp than ever before. The decisions made by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth begin to take its toll. His wife has reached a point of insanity with the constant array of blood and treason. Lady Macbeth speaks of a blood stained spot on her hand that will not come off. She is in complete hysteria shouting, Here s the smell of blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand (5,1,52-55). She later dies just as Macduff and Malcolm approach the castle of Macbeth. She was consumed by the impulses of blood within and without. In Shakespeare s Macbeth the theme of blood is essential. It is everywhere. It is a force that steers the impulses and passions of man. Also, it represents the blood and loyalty of family. The blood in the human body is a necessity of life. It is controlled by the heart and circulated throughout the body. The true tragedy in Macbeth is that Macbeth is the heart of Scotland. Thus he affects more than the nobility through his actions. When Macbeth became a tyrant, he was the fatal wound of Scotland. Just as Mcduff exclaimed Bleed, bleed, poor country. That is exactly what happened. Blood contains life and vigor, but at the same time it holds the sinful impulses of man which lead to more than the death of the individual it runs through.
As the last of William Shakespeare s four great tragedies, Macbeth is a play based more on character than deed. Set in feudal Scotland, the play deftly develops each of the main characters, molding their traits and qualities into an intricate masterpiece surrounding Macbeth, the central character. The tragedy of Macbeth is plagued with images that coincide with its many themes. There are many forms of imagery in the world today. They usually take on two main forms, those being visual and mental. There are many themes in Macbeth and they all seem to intermingle, creating its many forms of imagery. The reoccurring image of blood seems to be presented the most throughout the play, representing ambition as well as representing guilt. Therefore, the presence of blood, affected both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, and the eventual outcome of the play. The blood images in the play have different effects on the two main characters. But perhaps the most noticeably affected person is Lady Macbeth. It is after the death of Duncan that most of the repercussions took place, however, she begins making references to blood even before the murder. In her pleading to the spirits, she prays, Make thick my blood… (I, v, 50.) in order that she may not feel any remorse from her future action. She sees her thin blood as a weakness in her character and wishes it to be richer (thicker) with the qualities of courage, bravery and even emotional strength. For a time these demands seem as if they have -1- 2. actually been answered. Not even after the murder of Duncan or Banquo does she lose her composure; in fact, she actually keeps her husband from losing his mind. Eventually, though, her desire appeared to wear off and her naturally thin blood begins to flow through her veins again. The pressure of her guilty conscience drives her to insanity. As she expresses in her sleepwalking state, she feels the guilt, because of the presence of Duncan’s blood. She hallucinates about his blood; it is the tangible symbol of her guilt. Out, damned spot! Out I say! One. Two. Why then ’tis time to do’t. Hell is murky. Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him? (V, i, 37-42.) She has lost total control of her mind; she jumps from topic to topic and in her jumbled thoughts incriminates herself without even knowing it. It is actually a sort of irony that her weakness in character (thinness of her blood) cannot bear the guilt brought upon her by the presence of Duncan’s blood. This fact proves to be her downfall, for it ultimately drives her to take her own life. Macbeth is the next character upon which the image of blood takes its toll. However, its effect is the exact opposite on Macbeth than on his wife, for he immediately feels a guilty conscience and is often emotionally pulled together by his wife. As time goes on, though, it gets easier for him to kill and he grows emotionally stronger while his wife gets progressively 3. weaker. Once Macbeth commits his first crime against Scotland, he instantly feels the effects of his deed. The overwhelming state of fear, anxiety and skittishness that set in can easily be seen in these lines: Whence is that knocking? How is ‘t with me when every noise appalls me? What hands are here! Ha, they pluck out mine eyes. Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood