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Sleep Motif In Macbeth Essay

1460 words - 6 pages

Palsgrove 1Kelsey PalsgroveApril 8, 2013Brit Lit2nd DraftSleeplessness to Nightmare to Sleepwalking to Death: The Consequences of Evil Actions in MacbethWilliam 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 is the only one getting sleep. According to Macbeth, "It is the bloody business which informs/ Thus to mine eyes. Now o'er the one half-world/ Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse/ The curtain'd sleep;" (2.1.48-51). The world Duncan is living in is a world of sleep, in which...

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