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Blood Motif in Macbeth

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The longest running tradition in medicine, bloodletting, was a widely accepted practice with a three-thousand year-old history from the ancient Egyptians to the late 19th century. At that time, physicians thought that disease was a curse caused by the supernatural. It was a common idea that blood carried the vital force of the body and was the seat of the soul. Anything from body weaknesses to insanity were attributed to a defect in this vital fluid. Bloodletting was a method for balancing other fluids in the body and cleansing it of impurities. Shakespeare takes the same knowledge of blood and applies it to "Macbeth" in which the connotations not only foretell one's glory but also one's guilt.

In many contexts, blood symbolizes one's heroism and power. At the battlegrounds, Duncan notices the approaching sergeant and asks, "What bloody man is that?"(I.ii.1). The use of blood signifies the captain's bravery through his wounded state. He reports back their victory and symbolizes the violence that took place. This also alludes to Macbeth's heroic qualities in which he too had fought on the same grounds. Lady Macbeth cries out for courage and strength by saying, "And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood" (I.v.49-50). The use of blood in this context also relates to one's power using the idea of it being a life source and a vital part to the soul. By thickening her blood, she believes she will have courage with a stronger substance flowing throughout her body, therefore, capable of becoming stronger. Macbeth honors Duncan and says, "His silver skin laced with his golden blood" (II.iii.131). By comparing Duncan's blood to gold, it glorifies him and his position of king that was unjustly robbed of him. It relates back to the idea of blood being the source of life and the make-up of a person. Any items with gold are things of high value and are prized possessions. By saying that Duncan had golden blood, it symbolized great power.

Despite the use of blood as a good connotation, Shakespeare uses blood to describe other connotations. In many instances, blood is what haunts Macbeth before and after the murder. "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"



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