Macbeth – Blood Imagery

The purpose of blood imagery:

  • Contributes to the horror of the play
  • Represents guilt felt by major characters
  • Acts as a metaphor for the chaos within Scotland
  • Represents the notion of loyal self-sacrifice

Macbeth is a very bloody play. Shakespeare’s bloody imagery, including the vision of blood-spattered characters, enables him to create an atmosphere of horror and violence. Blood also symbolises guilt within the play. Towards the end of the play, the blood-soaked imagery conveys the idea of Scotland suffering under the tyranny of Macbeth’s rule.

The violence of the world of Macbeth is established with the entrance of the bleeding captain (Act 1 Scene 2). We soon hear of Macbeth’s gory action in the battle: how his sword “smoked with bloody execution” as he “carved out his passage” through enemy soldiers. When Macbeth finally reaches Macdonwald, he “unseamed him from the nave to the chaps / and fixed his head upon [the] battlements.’ The characters’ admiration of such violence clearly establishes Scotland at this time as a violent and bloody place.

(More to come as we move on to each scene…)