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VARIOUS TEXTS: THE BLOOD MOTIF IN 'MACBETH'

Writing about imagery - The blood motif in 'Macbeth'.

If you are not studying 'Macbeth' you can apply this exercise to the play you are studying. The word blood occurs 41 times in 'Macbeth'. In the three quotations that follow we can see how Shakespeare exploits this motif as his characters develop during the play.


Macbeth with King Duncan's blood on his hands
ACT 2 SCENE 2
MACBETH:

Whence is that knocking?
How is't with me, when every noise appals me?
What hands are here? Ha, they pluck out mine eyes!
Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
Clean from my h and? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.

Re-enter LADY MACBETH.
LADY MACBETH:

My hands are of your colour, but I shame
To wear a heart so white...
Retire we to our chamber.
A little water clears us of this deed.
How easy is it then! Your constancy
Hath left you unattended.

Macbeth dismisses his wife's fears
ACT 3 SCENE 4
MACBETH:

I am in blood
Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er.

Lady Macbeth is sleep walking and talking to herself
ACT 5 SCENE 1
LADY MACBETH:

Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One - two - why then
'tis time to do't. Hell is murky. Fie, my lord, fie!
A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who
knows it, when none can call our power to acco
unt? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?

LADY MACBETH:
Here's the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes
of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!



Assignments:

Reply to the following assignments concerning above quotations:

1. Describe Macbeth's reaction to Duncan's blood on his hands.




2. Describe Lady Macbeth's reaction.




3. How does Macbeth feel about blood half way through the play?




4. How has the memory of Duncan's blood affected Lady Macbeth's mental state by the end of the play?




5. How has Shakespeare used imagery to emphasise Lady Macbeth's change of attitude?






Source: GCSE English and English Literature, p. 53. Letts-Education


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