Essay, Research Paper: Macbeth

Shakespeare: Macbeth

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Images of blood and water occur frequently throughout William Shakespeares
Macbeth, the significance of which should not be overlooked. Shakespeare uses
these images to portray the horror of the central action, Duncan’s murder. The
vibrant images of blood and water also symbolize the unending guilt of the two
protagonists, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The blood and water represents their
inability to erase the memory of Duncan’s murder and the impossibility of
ridding their conscience of the unscrupulous deed they committed. The blood of
King Duncan becomes too powerful for any amount of water to rinse it clean from
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s hands. It overpowers their ability to forget their
actions and clear their consciences. Duncan's blood on Macbeth and Lady
Macbeth’s hands is symbolic of the evil crime that they had committed. The
blood on their hands is also representative of the guilt, which could not be
escaped. "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, iii, 61) Illustrates how no amount of water could
clean Macbeth’s guilty conscience. He imagines that all of the water from the
ocean could not clean his hands of the burden of guilt that weighed so heavily
on his tormented mind. He pictures Duncan’s blood staining the entire ocean
red. Immediately after murdering Duncan, Macbeth’s guilt is brought on much
like a large gaping gash while Lady Macbeth’s guilt is more like a small cut
that in time festers into a massive lesion. Lady Macbeth's remark "wash
this filthy witness from your hand, ” (I,ii, 47). This illustrates quite
clearly that that she has far less immediate guilt for the crime and rather more
physical repugnance towards her husband’s blood stained hands. “ It will
have blood they say; blood will have blood”, (III,iv,122) Macbeth says this
knowing that the murder he committed must be avenged. The only logical
conclusion that can be drawn from this is that foresees his execution as the
inevitable conclusion to his evil deeds. This foreshadows his death and
highlights how none of his efforts to wash his hands clean of Duncan’s murder
succeed. The same symbol of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s malicious actions not
being washed away is brought out very clearly again in (V, ii, 17). Angus says,
"Now does he feel His secret murders sticking on his hands". Angus
knows very well that the murders could not just simply be forgotten. He also
knows that Macbeth will, in time get what he deserves. He realizes that Macbeth
can no more escape his fate than assuage his guilt by washing the blood away.
“A little water clears us of this deed”(II, ii, 78). Lady Macbeth believes
that as soon as Duncan’s blood is physically removed from their hands that
their consciences would be cleansed as well. She urges Macbeth, at all costs,
not to think of the murder or they will be driven mad, “These deeds must not
be thought After these ways:so, it will make us mad”, (II, ii,34). Ironically,
Lady Macbeth is the one overcome with obsessive thoughts of Duncan’s murder
and these thoughts result in a mental collapse that ends in her suicide. The
bloody hand reappears when Lady Macbeth hallucinates about trying to clean her
hands of Duncan’s blood. She says "Out, damned spot! out I say! ...Yet
who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?" (V, i,
38-43). Lady Macbeth becomes overcome with grief and is driven mad. She tries to
clear the imaginary blood off her hands but all her efforts are in vain,
“What! will these hands ne'er be clean?" (V, i, 46). When she believes
that she has succeeded in ridding herself of the stains of blood, she smells the
odor of blood and comes to the inevitable conclusion that the crime can never be
forgotten, "Here's the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia
will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! oh! oh!" (V, i,52). The guilt of
Duncan's gruesome murder, although more present in Macbeth originally, grows in
Lady Macbeth until she begins having the same deranged visions of her hands
getting bloodier and bloodier and not ever coming clean regardless of how much
she washes them. The blood and water in Macbeth may well play the most
significant roll. It very accurately illustrates through symbolism the
unsuccessful efforts of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to rid themselves of their
guilty consciences. The blood clings to their hands and makes them unable to
forget the repulsive crimes they committed. The end of the play carries the
blood and water simile to its inevitable finale. Lady Macbeth’s suicide is
directly a result of her inability to rid herself of the guilt and Macbeth’s
execution is directly related to “ blood will have blood”, (III, iv,122).
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