Macbeth Essay About Sleep

Sleep Motif In Macbeth Essay

Palsgrove 1

Kelsey Palsgrove

April 8, 2013

Brit Lit

2nd Draft

Sleeplessness to Nightmare to Sleepwalking to Death: The Consequences of Evil Actions in Macbeth

William Shakespeare's Macbeth tells the tragic story about a great warrior, Macbeth, who gives into temptation to prophecies about him becoming future king by the three witches. After Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, commit the murder of King Duncan, their faith has been decided for them. They experience numerous consequences for their action, which eventually lead to their deaths. Throughout the entire play of Macbeth, sleep, or the lack of sleep, is predominant. Sleep is very crucial in our lives since it keeps our bodies and brains functioning property. Similar to our lives, sleep is also crucial in Macbeth. Typically, sleep is associated with innocence, purity and peaceful minds. In Macbeth, only the good-hearted people are able to sleep while people whom have committed terrible sins suffer from lack of sleep, nightmares, and sleepwalking. Shakespeare uses sleep and sleeplessness as a motif to distinguish the good characters from the evil characters. Sleeplessness is a major consequence for those who have committed sins; sign of guilt; and development of characterization for major characters.

Sleeplessness in the play symbolizes the disorder and havoc occurring or about to occur in Scotland. Within the first lines, the three witches cast a spell, "Sleep shall neither night nor day, hang up his penthouse lid" (1.3.19). The spell casts a disruption of sleep, which makes sleep no longer a routine or natural thing for the people of Scotland. Almost no one is getting a good night sleep. If someone is to fall asleep, he's or she's will experience nightmares or sleepwalking. Sleep is a necessity, and without sleep, people become delusional and crazy. This quote is also foreshadowing the weary, restless atmosphere of the play, which will result to unconscious decision.

The characters that have not committed a sin, such as Banquo, are experience the effects of sleeplessness as well. "Hold, take my sword, there's husbandry in heaven;/ Their candles are all out. Take thee that too./ A heavy summons lies like lead upon me,/ And yet I would not sleep:" (2.1. 4-9). Banquo is a good spirit but happens to know about the three witches' prophecies, which are causing him to experience nightmares. He is aware that there is something seemingly evil about what the witches have prophesized, even though they claimed Banquo's sons would become heirs to the throne of Scotland. Banquo's nightmares and sleeplessness are foreshadowing Duncan's murder and developing the theme of guilt.

Banquo is not the only one having nightmares, however Duncan...

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Importance Of Sleep In Shakespeare's Macbeth

Macbeth:  The Importance of Sleep

Macbeth   Sleep is a time when our minds are at rest and the subconscious comes out to play.  Sleep is oftentimes considered the place where we are able to see into our future and perhaps figure out how to solve our problems.  Sleep is also what heals and cures our minds and bodies.  Without sleep we slowly begin to disintegrate.  Mind and body no longer cooperate without the healing force sleep brings with it.  Shakespeare uses sleep both as a reward and as a consequence in his plays.  If a character is innocent and pure, he is allowed restful, fulfilling sleep.  If the character lacks these traits of goodness, he is condemned to a lifetime of insomnia and other problems.  In Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, the reader can see this idea manifest itself in many different ways.  From the beginning, when Macbeth hears the voice to the end of the play when Lady Macbeth sleepwalks, the reader sees many examples of this use of sleep. 

One first encounters the idea of sleep in Macbeth when the central character, Macbeth, murders the sleeping king.  After the murder, Macbeth believes he hears a voice cry out, "Sleep no more… Glamis hath murder'd sleep, and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more"(II.ii.58-60)! At this point the reader does not really think much of this warning, assuming it to merely be Macbeth's guilty conscience rather than anything important.  But as the signs of the voice's prophecy begin to surface like the symptoms of a disease, Macbeth slowly becomes irrational and ruthless.  This is partially due to the, "terrible dreams, that shake [him] nightly” which serve as a symbolic reason for why Macbeth is unable to sleep.  In killing a [peacefully] sleeping king, Macbeth has murdered his own [peaceful] sleep. 

A second effect of sleeplessness is seen in Macbeth's lack of trust for mortals. Macbeth no longer seems able to trust his old friends, or anyone else for that matter; his lack of sleep develops into paranoia.  He orders the murder of Banquo and keeps it from Lady Macbeth, his partner in this entire evil feat.  Both of these events of distrust show a lack of good judgment.  Together, they again show that Macbeth’s lack of sleep is greatly affecting the way that he thinks, because he would never have acted in this way before.  By ordering the death of Banquo, Macbeth slips deeper into the grasp of evil.  As well, keeping this behavior from Lady Macbeth distances Macbeth from the one person who thought the same way as he did and who, even in the end, would defend him and his actions.   

Yet another effect of his self-inflicted insomnia is Macbeth's naiveté when it comes to the witches.  He seems to believe everything that the three...

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