Role of Eyes and Hands Symbols are used throughout literature to express various meanings and ideas. William Shakespeare, in his play Macbeth, uses several symbols to explore a multitude of qualities of human nature. Eyes and hands are significant symbols that are continually used throughout the play. The eyes represent the knowledge of deeds, both past and present, and a person’s true thoughts and intentions, while the hand represents the person’s actions. Eyes and hands bring up the motif of sightlessness, one of the common curses from the witches, which is mentioned by Macbeth several times throughout the play.
They play a large role in developing the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth by revealing a number of characteristics of human nature, specifically the duplicity, blindness, and conscience of humans. Eyes and hands are used to display the duplicitous nature of humans. When Lady Macbeth says, “bear welcome in your eye, // Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower // But be the serpent under ‘t, “ (I, v, 63-65) she advises Macbeth to act deceitful by making sure his eyes are welcoming and not showing his true desires.
Conscience Essay Example
In numerous religions and cultures, eyes are considered to be the window into the soul that show all thoughts and desires desires and are related to prophecy. Macbeth has recently received the witches’ prophecy that states that he will become King. He must show false thoughts in his eyes to ensure that Duncan does not see his true intentions and the prophecy foretold. If Duncan were to find out Macbeth’s true aim, then Duncan would not stay and Macbeth would not be able to murder the King.
Lady Macbeth realizes the importance of this and uses the symbol of eyes to encourage Macbeth to act duplicitous. The hand is used to represent the actions that Macbeth performs. Lady Macbeth tells him that he must be welcoming in his actions and not show any traces of the crimes he is going to commit. Furthermore, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth wash their hands after the murder of Duncan. They deceive the others by washing their hands to hide the deed. Lady Macbeth says, “A little water clears us of this deed,” (II, ii, 67) which demonstrates the cleansing properties of water.
Water is used to cleanse the mind and soul; however, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have not had their minds and souls cleansed. They have only cleansed themselves physically and deceive others with their appearances. They are able to show that their hands and actions are clear and free of sin, but their conscience is covered in blood. Just as eyes and hands are used to display the duplicitous nature of humans, they also display human blindness. Eyes and hands also play a large role in showing human blindness, both morally and willfully.
After the death of Duncan, Macbeth, while looking at his blood-stained hands, says, “This is a sorry sight,” (II, ii, 21) to which Lady Macbeth responds, “A foolish thought to say a sorry sight,” (II, ii, 22) which exhibits Lady Macbeth’s moral blindness. While Macbeth feels the guilt and horror of the murder, Lady Macbeth tells him that it is absurd to feel guilty for the murder. Lady Macbeth sees Macbeth’s bloody hands, which represent the dreadful murder of Duncan, and instead of feeling the same guilt and horror, she feels nothing. Prior to the murder of Banquo, Macbeth says: Come, seeling night,
Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day, And with thy bloody and invisible hand Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond. (III, ii, 46-49) Macbeth calls to the blinding night to cover all sight and to not allow for people to see any deeds the hand performs. Macbeth commands the night to hide the eye of daytime so that no one will see the actions he will perform. Macbeth then brings up the bloody and invisible hand of night to defeat Banquo and Fleance. Macbeth displays his willful blindness by wanting the hand to not be seen, allowing him to be ignorant of the crime and not bear the guilt of committing it.
Macbeth becomes engulfed in the night and darkness and calls upon it to help achieve his own ambitious goal. Macbeth had earlier hesitated in killing Duncan and even told Lady Macbeth, “We will proceed no further in this business,” (I, vii, 31). Macbeth felt the guilt after the murder of Duncan. Now, however, he becomes morally blind, for he does not even feel any emotion for planning the murder of Banquo and Fleance. Additionally, following the declaration of the Prince of Cumberland, Macbeth says: Stars, hide your fires! Let not light see my black and deep desires The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see. ’ (I, iv, 52-53) This further reveals Macbeth’s willful blindness. He does not want the light to illuminate and reveal his dark intentions, and calls for the dark night again to hide his actions. Macbeth realizes that the murder of Duncan is a horrible thought, yet he chooses to remain ignorant of it so that he will not feel guilty. He believes that if the eye does not see what the hand does, then the action has never been performed, for he hs no knowledge of it. Macbeth fears seeing the horrid deed because then he must accept that he has done it.
Macbeth does not want to feel the effects of the guilt and feels that ignorance of the deed will save him from it. Just as human blindness is explored through the symbols of eyes and hands, so also are the characteristics of human conscience Human conscience is explored through both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth actions using eyes and hands. While Macbeth is washing his hands after Duncan’s murder he says: What hands are here! Ha! they pluck out mine eyes. Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red. (II, ii, 59-63) This demonstrates Macbeth’s guilt for the murder of Duncan. He sees his bloody hands, which symbolize the crime he has committed, and he feels the guilt in his eyes. The knowledge of the crime makes him feel uncomfortable and overcome with guilt. Macbeth says that nothing will be able to cleanse away the dark deeds he has committed. They will instead be shown to the world and his guilt will never be erased. Lady Macbeth’s hallucinations exhibit characteristics of human conscience. Lady Macbeth says, “Yet here’s a spot,” (V, i, 31) in her sleep.
She sees a spot of blood on her hand and attempts to wash it. She performs these actions every night at the same hour and she shows the effects of her guilty conscience. When she washed her hands with water following the murder of Duncan, her conscience was not cleared. She suffers the consequences of the guilt through hallucinations and restless sleep. Lady Macbeth attempts to wash and rub her hands to rid herself of the guilt and the spot of blood that gives evidence of murder. Afterwards, when Lady Macbeth cries, “What, will these hands ne’er be clean,” (V, i, 42) it further demonstrates the effects of murder on her onscience. Macbeth continues to kill Banquo and Lady Macduff. She feels that she can never rid herself of the crimes and blood being spilled. The murders continue and she cannot withstand with the guilt and effects of murder. Her conscience is completely destroyed from the burden and guilt of the murders. Eyes and hands are used as symbols by both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to explore a number of characteristics of human nature, including duplicity, blindness, and conscience. Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth to use his eyes and hands to act duplicitous.
She urges him to show a false image to hide his true intentions. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth both engage in hand washing following the murder of Duncan. This displays their deception in showing clean hands free of murder and guilt, while their conscience is bloodied. Eyes and hands are used to demonstrate the moral blindness of Lady Macbeth by showing her complete lack of guilt for the murder of Duncan. Macbeth is shown to be willfully blind by calling for the black night to conceal his actions and not allow his eyes see them. He also refuses to let his eyes see what actions his hand performs.
Macbeth becomes morally blind through his inability to feel guilt for the murder of Banquo and Fleance. Human conscience is also explored through eyes and hands as well. Macbeth sees his bloody hands and feels the guilt in his eyes, which burn with pain at the sight of the horrid crime. Lady Macbeth also suffers from a guilty conscience and receives hallucinations of a bloody spot on her hand. Eyes and hands play an important symbolic role throughout all of the play Macbeth. Bibliography Shakespeare, William, and Roma Gill. Macbeth. Oxford [England: Oxford UP, 1992. Print.