In Act 2 Scene 2 of Macbeth there is this line.

What hands are here? Ha! They pluck out mine eyes.

Someone two days ago told me this is a reference to a different piece of literature. I didn't know how to spell the name of the reference so didn't write it down, and have forgotten what the reference was. I have no idea which piece of literature it is referencing, and wish to find out. This specifically refers to:

They pluck out mine eyes.

What does this reference?


It's a Biblical reference.

Noting that Macbeth is speaking of his own hands, and his own fears,

How is ’t with me when every noise appals me?

it is clear that this is an allusion to Matthew chapter 18, which speaks metaphorically of removing one's own bodyparts if they should bring you to sin.

Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.

Macbeth fears that his actions, which have led to terrible bloodshed (most notably in the murder of Duncan), have rendered him irredeemable.

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Possibly the Bible? From Matthew 18:9:

And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

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The OP states that the source is hard to spell. That can't apply to the Bible.

A classical character who actually blinds himself is Oedipus. His crime is the same as the one Macbeth contemplates--regicide, or murdering the king. Shakespeare's audience would be familiar with the story of Oedipus and with the constant reminders about the evils of regicide.

To someone unfamiliar with the name, Oedipus would be hard to spell, and he is a character known for blinding himself. As always, other interpretations are possible.

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