Shakespeare is legendary for his uses of symbolism. No other example is as evident as the bloody hands of Macbeth and his obsession with them. Macbeth has killed King Duncan and doesn’t stop there, he kills the guards making Duncan’s sons flee. This gives Macbeth the throne. However he becomes overwhelmed with the guilt. Shakespeare uses blood to show how it reminds Macbeth of the violent acts he has committed and how he has become obsessed with the blood on his hands. Initially the blood represents courage and bravery.
For brave Macbeth-well he deserves that name- “disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel, which smoked with bloody execution, like valor’s minion carved out his passage”(Shakespeare 408). Banquo praises his defeat of the Macdonald’s army, however this representation of blood changes as the play. Once Macbeth kills King Duncan he walks out to his wife and enters a state of shock. He looks at his hands. “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? ” (Shakespeare 430-431) This passage illustrates the act of murder has changed Macbeth’s character.
No longer does the blood connote an image of ambition, it now symbolizes guilt, remorse, and an entry into the gates of hell from which no one can return. (Jordan) Macbeth then becomes a self-destructing machine. The witches’ predictions and his ambitions destroy a man who was once a moral human being. The tragedy continues Macbeth’s fall to evil. He commits more murder and finally takes the life of his once best friend, Banquo. These violent acts return the reader to remember the bloody hands that Macbeth felt could never be washed away.
Macbeth remained that nothing could ever change the sin the he had committed. “No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red” (Shakespeare 431). Macbeth came to the realization that he would never be forgiven thus he did whatever he had to do to remain at the top. The end of Macbeth is the ultimate downfall. Lady Macbeth has now gone mad because she can never wash the blood away from her hands. In an ironic turn of events the person who persuaded Macbeth to murder now has uncontainable guilt and the man who never wanted to murder hasn’t stopped.
The play helps to personify the phrase “Blood is thicker than water,” because Macbeth and Lady Macbeth could never successfully wash away their sins and forget about the past, and this was why they ended up dead (Carramond). Macbeth is ultimately executed and his turning away from good to evil happened once he looked at his hands. His obsession was his ultimate downfall (Jordan). He could never clean the hands so he never tried to. He did what he believed was best for him. His character had become new and was further away from the brave Macbeth (Jordan).
Shakespeare once again brings up the blood in Macbeth’s death scene. “Of all men else I have avoided thee but get thee back; my soul is too much charged with blood of thine”(Shakespeare 490). Macbeth refuses to kill Macduff because he would not kill a man who was born by a woman. This gives him the false sense of security that he so willfully stands behind (Carramond). The bloody death is the end of Macbeth. Blood is the main symbol used in Macbeth. It is seen in the first scene and in the last. Blood has always reminded what Macbeth had done to Duncan.
This sin was something that he could never escape, according to him. He thus became paranoid with the blood, it was an obsession. Also, the irony that Lady Macbeth ridiculed Macbeth for being a coward at the bloody hands was her ultimate demise. Lady Macbeth originally said “A little water clears us of this deed” (Shakespeare 431). As it turns out Lady Macbeth could not find the little amount of water to cleanse her. She ends up going mad because of her guilt of the murdering of King Duncan. The bloody hands were never clean on either of the two.
Even though Macbeth ended up taking the throne he could never shake the image of the bloody hands, and Shakespeare makes sure that the reader keeps this in mind. The violence that keeps emerging throughout the play returns to the reader through Macbeth’s bloody hands. Blood as a result of actual wounds is almost omnipresent, from the bleeding Captain in the beginning to Macbeth’s bleeding head at the end (Corrirea). Obviously, the blood symbolism is the most important in the play because Shakespeare used it in the entire play. Macbeth’s hands were literally covered with blood and when it would never come off, he just kept adding on.
1. ) Jordan, Kevin. “Macbeth- Blood as an image . ” (June 2004):. Web. 20 Dec 2010. . 2. ) Shakespeare, William. “Macbeth. ” Elements of Literature: Sixth Course. Ed. Kylene Beers, Austin, TX: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. 3. ) Corrirea, Denise. “Macbeth- Symbolism, Imagery, and Allegory. ” (2010): Web. 18 Dec 2010. . 4. ) Carramond, Phillip. “The symbol of blood in Macbeth. ” (2006):. Web. 22 Dec 2010. .