Essay on Imagery in Macbeth

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One thing every culture, religion, race, and country has in common is the blood that runs through its people’s veins. No one is a stranger to blood, and its universality allows many authors to utilize it as effective imagery in their literary works. British playwright William Shakespeare uses blood imagery in many of his plays, one prevalent example being Macbeth. In Macbeth, Shakespeare uses blood imagery to symbolize guilt, foreshadow negative events, and develop Macbeth as a tragic hero. In his famous tragedy Macbeth, Shakespeare uses blood imagery to symbolize the guilt of both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. For example, as soon as he murders King Duncan, Macbeth, regretful and guilt-ridden, says, ¨Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash…show more content…
Cassandra Nelson, an assistant to the Provost at Boston University with an English PhD, states in the Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature that Macbeth “...feels changed, tainted, by what he has done. He describes his guilt as a stain that he cannot wash off, for it would sooner color the whole world than fade from his skin”. Shakespeare also uses blood to symbolize Lady Macbeth’s initial lack of guilt. After Macbeth kills Duncan and is wracked with guilt, Lady Macbeth tells him he can wash off the blood with a little water (2.2.65). This shows Lady Macbeth’s lack of remorse at this point in the play. Later on, after Lady Macbeth learns that her husband killed Macduff’s wife and children, a doctor and a gentlewoman in Dunsinane hear her say, “The thane of Fife had a wife. where is she now? - What, / Will these hands ne’er be clean?” (5.1.36-37). This shows how Lady Macbeth has transformed from ruthless and guiltless after Duncan’s murder to guilt-ridden, haunted by her metaphorically blood-covered hands. This is reiterated later in the same scene when Lady Macbeth says, “Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand” (5.1.42-43). As well as using blood imagery to symbolize guilt, Shakespeare uses it to add a foreboding sense to Macbeth. While mulling over his and his wife’s plot to kill Duncan, Macbeth foreshadows his own downfall by saying,

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