chapter  7
18 Pages

Trying the Last

WithMarlena Tronicke

After Titus Andronicus, Macbeth is Shakespeare’s second bloodiest creation, but in contrast to Titus, comparatively little blood is shed in front of the audience. Instead, the text is pervaded by blood imagery, much more so than any other Shakespearean tragedy. A play that so mercilessly massacres one character after another should not shy away from staging a suicide. But not only does Macbeth not kill himself, he even provides an explanation as to why he will not do it: “Why should I play the Roman fool, and die / On my own sword? whiles I see lives, the gashes / Do better upon them” (5.8.1–3). These seemingly negligible lines are usually overlooked, even though as a reference to suicide they are just as concrete as Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be.” With Lady Macbeth, the play also features an actual suicide, but like Ophelia, Portia, and Goneril, she dies offstage.