Major Symbols and Motifs
Explore the different symbols within William Shakespeare's tragic play, Macbeth. Symbols are central to understanding Macbeth as a play and identifying Shakespeare's social and political commentary.
Throughout Shakespeare's Macbeth, the weather plays an important role. The rebelling nature of wind and lightning indicates the disruption within the natural order of society. It makes it seem as if the weather is upset with Macbeth's actions. In many Shakespearean plays — including this one — rebelling nature shows a departure from accepted political and moral order.
Blood itself — the color, the smell, and importance — is vital to life and shocking to see. The constant presence of blood in Macbeth repeatedly reminds the audience about how serious the consequences of the characters actions are. But almost surpassing the importance of physical blood is the imagined blood found throughout the play. Imaginary blood represents guilt for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It's not until after the murder of Duncan that their guilt begins to manifest. As their guilt grows, so does the importance of the blood.
What's more, the imaginary blood also shows how Macbeth and Lady Macbeth both lose a grasp on reality. Often quoted is the fact that Lady Macbeth cannot get the imagined blood off her hands nor can her husband. Their guilt is all consuming and inescapable. The imagined blood haunts both characters, following them until their death.