Though only written in three weeks and full of loose ends, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is full of the lessons of life. There are also many themes included in this play, some being animals, clothing, darkness, and blood. Blood is one of the largest themes in the play. It’s used frequently but it is used for more than one metaphor. The use of blood is what gives the play feeling of foul play and darkness. It (blood) is woven all through the play.
“What bloody man is that?” (Act 1. Scene 2. Line 1).
In these, the opening words of the play’s second scene, a sergeant then tells the story of Macbeth’s heroic victories over Macdonwald and the King of Norway. The sergeant’s telling of the story is in itself heroic, because his loss of blood has made him weak. Thus his blood and his heroism seem to enhance the picture of Macbeth as a hero. As Lady Macbeth plans to kill King Duncan, she calls upon the spirits of murder to
“make thick my blood; / Stop up the access and passage to remorse” (Act 1. Scene 5. Lines 43-44).
Lady Macbeth wants to poison her soul, so that she can kill without remorse. Just before he kills King Duncan, Macbeth is staring at the “dagger of the mind,” and as he does so, thick drops of blood appear on the blade and hilt. He says to the knife,
I see thee still, / And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, / Which was not so before” (Act 2. Scene 1. Lines 45-47).
However, he’s not so far gone that he doesn’t know what’s happening to him:
“There’s no such thing: / It is the bloody business which informs / Thus to mine eyes” (Act 2. Scene 1. Lines 47-49).
Of course the “bloody business” is the murder he’s about to commit. He asks himself if all the water in the world can wash away the blood:
“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand?” (Act 2. Scene 2. Lines 57-60.)
And he answers his own question:
“No, this my hand will rather / The multitudinous seas incarnadine, / Making the green one red” (Act 2. Scene 2. Lines 57-61).
In contrast, his wife thinks his obsession with blood shows that he’s a coward. She dips her hands in the dead King’s blood, and smears the grooms with that blood, then tells Macbeth that
“My hands are of your colour; but I shame / To wear a heart so white” (Act 2. Scene 2. Lines 61-62).
She means that now her hands are bloody, like his, but she would be ashamed to have a “white” — bloodless and cowardly — heart like his. She leads him away to wash his hands, and she seems quite sure that
“A little water clears us of this deed” (Act 2. Scene 2. Line 64).
Ironically, when she later goes mad, she sees blood on her hands that she cannot wash away, no matter how much water she uses. Telling Malcolm and Donalbain of their father’s murder, Macbeth says,
“The spring, the head, the fountain of your blood / Is stopp’d; the very source of it is stopp’d” (Act 2. Scene 3. Lines 98-99).
Here, the primary meaning of “your blood” is “your family,” but Macbeth’s metaphors also picture blood as a life-giving essence. A second later, blood is spoken of as a sign of guilt. Lennox says that it appears that the King was murdered by his grooms, because
“Their hands and faces were all badged [spotted, marked] with blood” (Act 2. Scene 3. Line 102).
In another second, blood appears as the precious clothing of a precious body, when Macbeth, justifying his killing of the grooms, describes the King’s corpse:
“Here lay Duncan, / His silver skin laced with his golden blood” (Act 2. Scene 3. Line 112).
In this scene, the last mention of blood comes from Donalbain, who says to his brother,
“the near in blood, / The nearer bloody” (Act 2. Scene 3. Lines 140-141),
meaning that as the murdered King’s sons, they are likely to be murdered themselves. It’s strangely dark on the morning after the night of King Duncan’s murder, and Ross says to an Old Man,
“Ah, good father, / Thou seest, the heavens, as troubled with man’s act, / Threaten his bloody stage” (Act 2. Scene 4. Lines4-6).
The “stage” is this earth, where we humans play out our lives. Because of Duncan’s murder, the stage is bloody and the heavens are angry. Moments later, Macduff enters and Ross asks him,
“Is’t known who did this more than bloody deed?” (Act 2. Scene 4. Line 22).
The deed is “more than bloody” because it is unnatural. King Duncan was a good and kind man whose life naturally should have been cherished by everyone.
These are only some of many, many uses of blood in the play. Out of so many different themes in Macbeth, blood is the largest. Those examples were just up to the end of Act 2, which shows how much it’s involved in the play’s meaning. Without the use of blood as a theme Macbeth wouldn’t have been the same. It is also used for more than one meaning in several instances. This also shows the diversity of the meaning. Shakespeare was able to weave blood all through the play and thus give it a feeling of darkness and evil.