The Ineradicable Bloodstain Motif in Macbeth


Charlotte Artese (Agnes Scott College)

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth’s tyrannical reign begins with his murder of the previous king, Duncan. The folk narrative motif E422.1.11.5.1, “Ineradicable bloodstain after bloody tragedy,” marks the Macbeths with their crime, but while the bloodstains in legends and folktales are usually supernatural, Shakespeare modulates the guilty stain on the Macbeths to the natural. He renders the bloodstains as metaphorical or delusional, uncanny but not unnatural. Other medieval and early modern English texts include the motif of bloodstained hands as an indicator of guilt, and a 1610 description of a performance of Macbeth also seems to recognize the role of the motif in the play.

Part of 26-04 Nature Abhors a Tyrant, Tuesday, October 19, 5:15 pm–6:45 pm