Macbeth 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, Duncans 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 Duncans 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 Macbeths hands. It overpowers their ability to forget their actions and clear their consciences. Duncan’s blood on Macbeth and Lady Macbeths 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 Macbeths 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 Duncans blood staining the entire ocean red. Immediately after murdering Duncan, Macbeths guilt is brought on much like a large gaping gash while Lady Macbeths 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 husbands 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 Duncans murder succeed. The same symbol of Macbeth and Lady Macbeths 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 Duncans 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 Duncans 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 Duncans 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 Macbeths suicide is directly a result of her inability to rid herself of the guilt and Macbeths execution is directly related to ” blood will have blood”, (III, iv,122).