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Macbeth - Shakespeare


Hating clichés, at an early age I set out to refute the proverb "A picture is worth a thousand words". To my dismay, I succeeded in my argument only in literal terms, for 1000 words can be more accurate and meaningful than one picture. But nearing the end of my research I coveted the very thing I set out to defame. My favorite and strongest subject had quite simply betrayed me. Mathematics with all of it's numerical numbers and symbols was to be the main support of my stance on the cliché, which I would soon come to embrace and love, yet it proved rather to change my mind. In higher mathematics and physics, a picture quite literally solves the problem. A picture not only leads to the solution but in itself is the solution. A picture suggests the inner workings of the problem itself, and quickly uncovers the true depth of the problem and allows you to solve it with the technique intended by the one who posed the problem in the first place. And so it comes to pass that math is quite figuratively and literally entwined with art. But whereas math’s entanglement is necessary in order to set up equations and to fully understand the depth of problems, English’s entanglement with pictures is rather quite voluntary. However, it cannot possibly be coincidental that the best authors not only tell their story but also "paint" it. Imagery in writing is perhaps just as important as it is in Math if not more so. Without imagery of all sorts, writing becomes mechanical; such mechanical writing would be the downfall to authors such as Shakespeare, Kurt Vonnegut, and Hemmingway. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, how if at all would Shakespeare show depth to characters? Life as Shakespeare knows it is not meant to be read. By painting pictures, Shakespeare shows us the true depth of life as these characters know it, and he allows us to see life in a perspective that he wishes it to be seen through. By writing in pictures, Shakespeare allows us to interpret small pictorial nuances that would otherwise be left unknown, never to be ascertained. Shakespeare deliberately uses the idea that blood symbolizes manliness, conscience, and patterns of life, in order to better portray the thousands of words that he leaves unsaid.

The purpose of imagery is to force certain strong emotions upon the audience in terms that will get your purpose across. Shakespeare undoubtedly uses imagery for this very particular reason. In such cases where verbosity is unacceptable and is relatively weak, Shakespeare merely has to say, "What bloody man is that? He can report, as seemeth by his plight, of the revolt the newest state" (1.2.1), and the reader immediately understands that the man in question has just emerged from a battle in which he was wounded with honor yet injured in pride. His bleeding wound therefore gives him authority, and blood is introduced as a symbol of authority, honor, and principally Shakespeare’s perception of a man. To understand blood imagery, there are requisite terms and definitions that must first be understood, it is therefore necessary to understand that Shakespeare’s perception of a man is not limited to the physical realm. When Macduff learns of the fate of his family, Malcolm advises he "dispute it like a man" to which Macduff replies that "[he] shall do so, yet he must also feel it as a man" (4.3.259). To feel as a man… this can only mean that the bloody sergeant in the opening scenes of Macbeth is not but a pawn of destruction and battle, he is a human being with blood, and as such, he has the ability to feel complex emotions. Therefore when Lady Macbeth calls "spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, [to] unsex [her] here… [and] make thick [her] blood [and] stop up the access and passage to remorse, [so] that no compunctious visitings of nature shake [her] fell purpose" (1.5.47), she is not asking to become a man nor is she asking to "feel it like a man" as Macduff did. She is asking to be stripped of her humanity, both feminist and mainly aspects of her existence. Quite simply she is asking for the blood of her body to cease it’s never-ending flow so that she does not feel anything at all. Such an image of a cold-blooded monster portrays what words quite simply cannot do. Shakespeare is using blood, which symbolizes guilt, remorse, and "compunctious visitings of nature", so as to portraywhat Lady Macbeth wishes to sacrifice in order to fulfill her ambition.

Shakespeare writes blood imagery not only to pertain to conscience and manliness, but also to the patterns of life itself which he cannot possibly describe otherwise without suggesting blood imagery. Shakespeare describes life as a spring, "[a] head, [a] fountain of your blood" (2.3.115) Shakespeare knows that life is change, and that there can be no life without change. There can be no life without blood, for blood is the very source of existence, and blood is therefore change. A fountain can clog with blood and the flow of life is but temporarily stopped. Yet life can never stop until it leads on into death, so the blood builds up pressure as emotions become exaggerated, and eventually the fountain gushes out. Lady Macbeth wishes to have thick blood in order to avoid the consequences and guilt of her actions, yet the blood of her fountain will flow again, and her guilt will catch up with her actions. Another harsh reality of life is that love is but a breakable bond that the common man may break or mend at his choosing, and there is a name for those that take advantage of love and friendliness, they are backstabbers. Backstabbers have, "daggers in [their] smiles[, for] the near in blood, the nearer bloody." (2.4.163) So Niccolo Machiavelli had it right on his thoughts of fear and love. Fear is clearly the more certain protection versus backstabber, for if you love them, as you do those who are near in blood, then they are tempted with treason. Shakespeare proves all these facts of life with various uses of the word blood.

The bloody path: an intangible road where paths lead onto paths, and where labyrinths of mazes of emotion are present. Macbeth keeps right on course to the center of his own bloody path drawn by an air drawn dagger which leads him on to murder, and to murder, and to murder. Without understanding the bloody path, and more importantly blood, it is impossible to understand Macbeth as a human being caught up in his own bloody works. Shakespeare therefore uses blood as a necessary bridge between his audience and enlightenment.



2006 Philosophy Paradise