For my literary element I chose to express the motif of guilt in Macbeth through the picture seen above. It depicts bloody hands attempting to wash off blood, a reference to Scene 2 in Act 5. In this scene, Lady Macbeth is sleep walking and speaking to herself regarding the murders “What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?” (L39-40). Although she herself did not directly commit the murder, she helped plan and carry it out therefore having as much accountability for it as Macbeth. Yet, Macbeth expresses a different kind of fear-based guilt. He fears others discovering his actions and killing him: “How is’t with me when every noise appalls me?… Ha, they pluck out mine eyes” (A2, S2, L76-77). Lady Macbeth’s guilt is internal and morally-based; it slowly develops as time goes on, eventually overwhelming her.
Right after the murder is committed she says “My hands are of your color, but I shame to wear a heart so white” (A2, S2, L82-83) demonstrating her apparent lack of guilt over the murder and how “a little water clears us of this deed.” (L86) However, this is not the case. She is merely denying its existence, causing the guilt to fester and grow within her and ultimately leading her to take her own life.
Her subconscious reveals and expresses the extreme guilt that goes along with the murders, as well as her inability to wash the blood from her hands: “What will these hands ne’er be clean?” (A5, S2, L45) While this image can be seen as a literal depiction of Lady Macbeth’s actions, its true meaning and importance come from the symbolic aspects that express the motif of guilt. Her hands represent her conscience, once clean and pure, but now covered in dark, dripping blood that stains the skin. The blood is a representation of all the violence and treachery that went into obtaining power, resulting in her overwhelming guilt. The guilt stains her conscience as the blood stains her hands.
**A=act, S=scene and L=line(s)