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Images Of Night And Sleep In Macbeth By William Shakespeare

2260 words - 9 pages

Images of Night and Sleep in Macbeth by William Shakespeare

The Shakespearean work Macbeth is a dramatic tragedy. It is a serious
play that represents the disastrous downfall of its central character,
Macbeth. In this tragedy there are many terrible acts of bloodthirsty,
premeditated violence. Many of these gruesome acts happen at night.
These incidents of tragedy have a major affect on the main characters
and their actions. Macbeth also contains many images of sleep. As the
play unfolds, the nature of sleep changes for the characters who act
during the night. The use of sleep and the night play three
significant roles in this play: evil things happen at night, sleep is
portrayed as naturally good and innocent, and sleep is thus altered
due to the evil acts that occur at night.

In the play Macbeth, many acts of evil and deception happen during the
night. The murders of Duncan and Banquo occur at night. As Lady
Macbeth plans the death of Duncan, she calls upon the night in her
opening soliloquy: "Come, thick night,/ And pall thee in the dunnest
smoke of hell,/ That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,/ Nor
heaven peep through the blanket of the dark/ To cry "Hold, hold""
(1.5.57-61). They plan the murder at night because she hopes it will
cover up the murder of the King and so that no one will see them. She
believes the night will hide from heaven the wounds that she and her
husband are about to inflict on Duncan. Lennox and Macduff come the
next morning to wake Duncan. As Macduff leaves the stage to wake
Duncan, Lennox and Macbeth begin to talk. Lennox describes last night
saying, 'The night has been unruly. Where we lay,/ Our chimneys were
blown down and, as they say,/ Lamentings heard I' th' air, strange
screams of/ death, . . . The obscure bird/ Clamored the livelong
night. Some say the earth/ Was feverous and did shake" (2.3.61-69). It
seems that during the night just past, a number of unnatural events
occurred. Evil deeds committed during the night result in chaos for
society the next morning. Thus, it is obvious that the killing of
Duncan disrupts order in the kingdom. As a result of Duncan being
murdered, there is now a civil war being fought in Scotland. Banquo's
murder also takes place during night. Once again Macbeth hopes the
darkness of the night will disguise the killing of Banquo saying,
"Come, seeling night,/ Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day"
(3.2.52-53). Macbeth feels that this act can't occur during the day
because the eye of compassionate nature will see it; therefore he
needs the night to blind the eyes. He also relies on the night to
block out the possibility of some person seeing the murderers. As the
time approaches for Banquo's scheduled return to Dunsinane, the
audience expects the arrival of night: "Light thickens; and the crow/

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