Macbeth believes he heard a voice crying:
Me thought I heard a voice cry “Sleep no more!
Macbeth doth Murder sleep”—the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,(50)
Chief nourisher in life's feast— - See more at: http://www.enotes.com/topics/macbeth/etext/act-ii#etext-act-ii-act-ii-scene-ii
What this imaginary voice is suggesting by "Macbeth doth murder sleep" is that Macbeth's crime is especially heinous because he killed a man while his victim was sound asleep. Since the murdered man was totally defenseless, he will serve as an example to everyone--and especially to Macbeth himself--that sleeping is not safe. It should be a state of peace, comfort and security, but Macbeth's example has made it a state of extreme danger. The voice continues:
Still it cried, “Sleep no more!” to all the house;
“Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor
Shall sleep no more. Macbeth shall sleep no more.”( - See more at: http://www.enotes.com/topics/macbeth/etext/act-ii#etext-act-ii-act-ii-scene-ii
Macbeth has seen how vulnerable a king can be when he is sound asleep, and now he proposes to become the king himself. He is accepting the danger that goes with the position. Therefore he will be afraid to go to sleep and will suffer from insomnia for the rest of his life. This lack of sleep will drive him half insane and cause him to behave more and more erratically and tyrannically. He can't sleep and he can't trust anybody. It wouldn't help him any to be guarded by attendants while he tried to go to sleep. Duncan had two grooms supposedly guarding him, but they were useless.
Macbeth realizes he is setting a bad example that others might follow. Earlier he says to himself:
But in these cases
We still have judgement here, that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which being taught return
To plague the inventor. This even-handed justice(10)
Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice
To our own lips. - See more at: http://www.enotes.com/topics/macbeth/etext/act-i#sthash.QjWyKeH6.dpuf
If a good king like Duncan can't safely close his eyes and go to sleep, then how could a murderer and usurper expect to do so?
Macbeth appears to be developing a split personality even at this early stage, just after he has committed the murder. In saying that Glamis has murdered sleep and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more, the voice is suggesting that one half of Macbeth represented by Glamis feels shame, guilt, and pity, while the other half represented by his new identity as Thane of Cawdor will be punished with lifelong insomnia for making Glamis do the deed. When Macbeth inherited the title of Cawdor, he must have inherited the treacherous nature exhibited by the former thane who was executed on Duncan's orders.
Macbeth is mainly suffering from guilt. Guilt, we are told by psychologists, is based on fear of exposure and punishment. It is very hard to go to sleep when we are frightened--although that is a time when we would very much like to be able to fall asleep.
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Macbeth Literary Analysis The play Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare’s great tragedy filled stories. Throughout the play there are many different themes and symbols; one of the more important ones being sleep. Sleep or mainly sleep deprivation; the act of not getting much sleep, is something that fuels the character it effects, in their actions. During the first act there is not much talk of this particular theme, but the witches do make a very good “prediction” about what will happen to Macbeth: “…I’ll drain him dry as hey: Sleep shall neither night nor day Hang upon his penthouse lid;…” (pg. 305, Lines 18-20).
The first witch is saying how the life of him will be drained out, that he will not sleep at night or during the day; these actions are what eventually cause him to go insane. Act II opens up with Banquo talking to his son Fleance; this is on the night Macbeth murders King Duncan, he says: “A heavy summons lies like lead upon me, And yet would not sleep. Merciful powers, Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature Gives way to in repose! ” (pg. 319, Lines 6-9). While Banquo does not say what exactly is bothering his sleep, but we can presume it has something to do with the witches’ predictions.
Later in the scene Macbeth suggests to Banquo that he would reward him if he helps him with something related to what the witches said earlier. Banquo seems hesitant, and Macbeth ends with saying: “Good repose the while! ” (pg. 320, Line 29), meaning a good night’s sleep, this is somewhat ironic is the story. Following Banquo going to bed, Macbeth has a sleep induced hallucination in which he sees a bloody dagger floating in midair, and he tells himself that it’s not time for this yet: “Now o’er the one half-world Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse The curtain’d sleep. (pg. 320 Lines 49-51) After Macbeth murders King Duncan he is so scared that he can not move, gazing at his bloody hands, he talks to his wife telling her he just left Duncan’s room and he heard a noise in another room: “There’s one did laugh in’s sleep, and one cried ‘Murder! ” He says this because he feels that those men know what he had just done, even though they were sleeping, they can see his bloody hands. Minutes later Macbeth continues to tell Lady Macbeth that he was sure he heard a voice say that he would never sleep again: “Methought I heard a voice cry “Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep, the innocent sleep, Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care, The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, Chief nourisher in life’s feast. ” This is arguable one of the best sleep themed quote of Macbeth, it almost sums everything up. It says that when a person has a lot of problems with no end in sight, they will tend to “sleep on it” in hopes of figuring out the answer. He goes on further to compare sleep to a soothing bath after a hard day of work, then a main course at a big feast.
In Macbeth’s mind sleep is not only a necessity of life, but it is what makes life worth living, and he feels that when he murdered King Duncan in his sleep, he murdered sleep itself. Sometime after coming in to Act III we learn that right after Macbeth sends out the two murders to kill Banquo we realize that Macbeth can not sleep anymore. He tells his wife that he will tear the world apart rather the continue to “eat our meal in fear and sleep In the affliction of these terrible dreams That shake us nightly” (pg. 339 Lines 17-19).
He then continues to say the it would be better to be dead then “on the torture of the mind to lie In restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave; After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well” (pg. 339 Lines 21-23). Ecstasy in this sense does not mean pleasure but the sense of leaving the body, an idea when some “loses their mind. ” Overall Macbeth says he can not sleep and when he does he has terrible nightmares and he feels he is going insane. A couple scene’s later after Macbeth encounters the Ghost of Banquo, Lady Macbeth states “You lack the season of all natures, sleep” (pg. 48 Line 141). She is saying that she can notice the effects of his lack of sleep, and that without sleep anyone would go mad. Act IV continues the theme of sleep; when Macbeth is told that he should beware Macduff; Macbeth swears the Macduff “shalt not live; That I may tell pale-hearted fear it lies And sleep in spite of thunder” (pg. 355 Lines 84-86). The thunder signifies revenge for the murders he has done, even though he has not been able to sleep he now feels that this one more murder will fix everything.
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Act V focuses more on Lady Macbeth and how the murders have affected her sleep, during the opening scene a Doctor and a Gentlewoman are discussing her sleepwalking, she explains to the doctor the she has seen the lady “rise from her bed, throw her night-gown 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” (pg. 370 Lines 3-7). The doctor then comments “A great perturbation in nature, to receive at once the benefit of sleep, and do the effects of watching! (pg. 370 Lines 8-11). The doctor is basically saying that there must be something troubling this woman for her to act this way. While Lady Macbeth sleeps she is not getting any sleep, instead she relives the horrors of Kind Duncan’s murder and a visit from Banquo’s ghost. Later in the play while Macbeth is putting on his armor, he asks the doctor about how his wife was doing. He replies with “Not so sick, my lord, As she is troubled with thick coming fancies, That keep her from her rest” (pg. 74 Lines 38-39). So by the end you can recall all the times how sleeplessness was either one of the main causes or the main cause in many of the characters actions and reasoning. Every time there was a “supernatural” essence, it could be linked to lack of sleep, the motives behind the murders could also be linked to sleeplessness. So out of all the themes and symbols, many people feel that sleep is more of the most important and problem causing theme in this play by the great William Shakespeare.
Author: Cari Minns
Macbeth Literary Analysis on Sleep
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