Imagery in Macbeth
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the image of blood is used effectively
to develop characters. Characters like Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are developed
throughout the play by the use of real and imaginary blood. Both characters are
seen to have gone crazy by the end of the play with the image of blood playing
a big role in that.
Throughout the play the image of blood is used as a symbol
of murder and guilt in order to continue developing the character of Macbeth.
For example, “And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, which was not so
before. There’s no such thing: it is the bloody business which informs thus to
mine eyes” (II, i, 53-56). This exposes the fearfulness of Macbeth before he kills
Duncan; He sees a floating “dagger of the mind” that points him in the way of
Duncan’s room. The dagger then becomes covered in imaginary blood, which is
foreshadowing to Macbeth murdering Duncan. Another example would be, “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” (II, ii, 76-80). Macbeth
thinks that his hands would stain the seas scarlet, turning the green waters
red. He has so much guilt that it is absolutely impossible to rid himself of it.
From this quote the audience starts to see the guilt consume Macbeth which will
eventually lead to his downfall.
The guilt that burdens Macbeth, which is symbolized by
blood, is used to indicate many changes in his character that can be seen in
the future events of the play after Duncan’s murder. For example, “I am in
blood, step’t in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious
as go o’er” (III, iv, 167-169). He says that now he is so far in that it would
be easier to keep going than to go back. This starts to show how Macbeth is no
longer fearful of the guilt that the things he has done has brought him, he is
now more accepting of it. The change in the characterization of Macbeth is effectively
represented by blood imagery, much like the character transformations seen in
Blood imagery reveals a lot about Lady Macbeth’s severe shift
in mental state throughout the play. For example, “My hands are of your color,
but I shame to wear a heart so white” (II, ii, 81-82). At first Lady Macbeth is
the one who plans the murder and who wants to go through with it. She even
tells Macbeth that he is too pure and weak and that he is a coward. Even though
they were both responsible for Duncan’s murder she ultimately feels fine. As the
play progresses Lady Macbeth slowly starts to feel the guilt until eventually
it consumes her. This is shown in act 5 scene 1 line 32 “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”. She has
started to see a spot of blood on her hand, even though it actually isn’t there.
This shows how the guilt has affected her state of mind and how she has changed
throughout the play. It is evident that the image of blood is used to show the
guilt that leads Lady Macbeth down the path of becoming insane, changing her
from a murderer into a shell of what she once was.
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the most continual idea that blood
embodies in the play is guilt. This guilt leads to the dramatic shifts in the
minds of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Their hands are forever turned red from the
blood they first got from Duncan; Macbeth suffers death by wading too deep and
too far in the blood that continues to stain him, and Lady Macbeth is driven
completely mad by a haunting red spot on her hand. By analyzing several examples
of blood used as imagery, it is clear to see that, in Macbeth, it is an
essential part of revealing characterization.