Dana BufordMrs. McGrathGifted 10December 23,2018Sleep Motif in Macbeth Sleep is the natural state of rest in which your body is inactive, your eyes are closed, and your mind does not think. We all need sleep in order to survive. It heals our minds and bodies. Our bodies all require long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate and synthesize hormones. Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories.
Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, and increased anxiety. The Shakespearean play Macbeth tells the tragic story about a valiant warrior, Macbeth, who gives in to prophecies, given to him by the three witches, about him becoming future king. After Lady Macbeth convinces Macbeth to carry out the act of committing the murder of King Duncan, their fate is decided for them. They experience many consequences for their actions, which eventually leads to their deaths.
Throughout the play, Shakespeare uses sleep as a reward and consequence in order to show the innocence, guilt, and conscience of the characters. Typically, sleep is associated with innocence and peaceful minds. In Macbeth, only the innocent people are able to sleep while people who have committed terrible sins suffer from lack of sleep, nightmares, and sleepwalking. After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth is unable to sleep properly. He suffers from insomnia and nightmares. By killing Duncan, Macbeth loses his innocence and therefore he kills his own peaceful sleep. Macbeth even recognizes this himself in saying, Methought I heard a voice cry.
Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep.’ •the innocent sleep, Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care, The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, Chief nourisher in life’s feast (Act II, scene ii, 47 – 52).In killing Duncan, Macbeth acts rashly, not considering all of the consequences. He now lives in fear and guilt and his conscience does not allow him to sleep. His nightmares and lack of sleep cause him to suffer and feel as if his being dead would be best. Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep In the affliction of these terrible dreams That shake us nightly. Better be with the dead, Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace, Than on the torture of the mind to lie In restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave. After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well…nothing can touch him further (Act III, scene ii, 20-26, 29).Unfortunately, with Macbeth having the three witches prophecies racing through his mind, he comes to the decision that Banquo must die as well, in order for him to keep position as the Thane. Macbeth hires two men to kill Banquo as well as Fleance and expresses to Lady Macbeth that the business that they began by killing Duncan is not yet complete because there are still threats to the throne, but does not specify who. This deed further corrupts Macbeth’s conscience and innocence only causing the sleeplessness and consequences following it to worsen. Another effect of sleeplessness is seen in Macbeth’s lack of trust. 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 situation. Both of these events of distrust show a lack of good judgment in which is another repercussion of sleep deprivation. They again prove 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 evil. Also by keeping this behavior from Lady Macbeth, it distances Macbeth from the one person who thought the same way as he did.Although Lady Macbeth does not directly commit the murders, she experiences repercussions for the murders as well. She becomes so full of guilt that she walks and talks in her sleep. I have seen her rise from her bed, throw her nightgown upon her, unlock her closet,take forth paper, fold it, write upon’t, read it, afterwards seal it, and again return to bed; yet all this while in a most fast sleep (Act V, scene i, 5 – 9). She also rubs her hands together in attempt to cleanse her hands of the guilt she feels for encouraging the murder. Out, damned spot, out I say!…What will these hands ne’er be clean?…Here’s the smell of blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand(Act V, scene ii, 37, 45, 53 – 55). Her guilt causes her to release everything in her subconscious, in which includes the secrets of her own as well as her husband. Wash your hands, put on your nightgown. Look not so pale. I tell you yet again, Banquo’s buried; he can not come out on’s grave (Act V. scene ii, 65 – 67). Lady Macbeth’s deprivation of sleep eventually leads to her insanity and comittance of suicide. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s lack of sleep shows the guilt they are feeling and how much the murders go against their conscience. As there is punishment for all bad deeds, the lack of sleep is part of theirs. This punishment was foreshadowed by the witches when they were plotting to punish the sailor by not letting him sleep I’ll drain him dry as day. Sleep shall neither night nor day Hang upon his penthouse lid. He shall live a man forbid. Weary sev’nnights, nine times nine, Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine (Act I, Scene iii, 19-24).The deeds of Macbeth not only affect him and his wife, but the people of Scotland as well. When Duncan was King, the country experienced peace. However, as soon as Macbeth becomes king the kingdom is flipped upside down. Since Macbeth feels internal turmoil, the people of Scotland also experience turmoil. Macbeth causes all the peace and sleep to change to distress and sleeplessness. Malcolm’s goal is to see “that chambers will be safe” (Act V, scene iiii, 2). When Malcolm’s army defeats Macbeth’s army, peace and sleep are restored to Scotland. As with most of us, when we do something wrong our conscience usually makes us feel bad, causing us distress. We then attempt to make things right. As a result, we possess clear consciences once again. Throughout the play, Shakespeare uses sleep as a reward and consequence in order to show the innocence, guilt, and conscience of the characters. In the end of Macbeth, sleep overcomes sleeplessness by Malcolm’s forces of good defeating Macbeth’s forces of evil. Sleep represents our clear consciences and is therefore necessary to maintain our own internal peace as well as peace in the larger community.