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Images of Night and Sleep in Macbeth.

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Introduction

Images of Night and Sleep in Macbeth 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. ...read more.

Middle

In general, sleep is a good thing that replenishes the body after working during the day. Yet, after the murder of Duncan, for Macbeth there will be no more the sweetness of sleep: "Methought I heard a voice Cry "Sleep no more!/ Macbeth does murder sleep"" (2.2.47-48). Macbeth will no longer be able to sleep soundly because the murder of Duncan will always be on his conscience now. After Macbeth realizes that he will never be able to sleep peacefully anymore, he realizes how precious and innocent sleep truly is. It is "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" (2.2.49-52). As Macbeth looks at Duncan, he knows that "Duncan is in his grave./ After life's fitful fever he sleeps well./ Treason has done his worst; nor steel nor poison,/ Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing/ Can touch him further" (3.2.25-29). At least Duncan is now in a restful and peaceful state, whereas Macbeth can no longer obtain the spiritual and physical replenishment of sleep anymore. Nothing can longer bother Duncan, for his is in eternal rest. As the play goes on, it becomes obvious that Macbeth's mind is malfunctioning due to a lack of sleep. At the end of the banquet scene, when Macbeth claims to see Banquo's ghost, Lady Macbeth says to her husband, "You lack the season of all natures, sleep" (3.4.173). ...read more.

Conclusion

As Macbeth and his Lady continue to stay up at night, their minds become confused about what time of night it is. At night they don't get any rest and eventually become insane. Throughout the dramatic tragedy of Macbeth there are numerous images of night and sleep. It is during the night when many of these tragic acts occur. The terrible deeds performed at night lead to the destruction of Duncan's kingdom. Before Duncan's murder, the role of each individual in the kingdom was clearly defined. Everyone and everything had its particular place in the "Great Chain of Being". Since the chain was broken when Duncan was murdered, chaos and tragedy now rule in the place of happiness and well-being. In western society, night and its darkness carry a negative meaning. Many robberies, murders, and other terrible crimes take place late at night. Children grow up with the sense that the night is a scary time and bad things happen to those people who go out at night. Most people avoid the danger of the night by sleeping during this time of darkness. Sleep is suppose to be a good thing. Yet instead of sleeping at night, Macbeth commits terrible acts during this time because he doesn't want to be seen. These gruesome deeds end up being disastrous because it throws his natural rhythm of resting out of order. He disrupts the order of sleep and can no longer get a good night of sleep. The gruesome acts planned by Macbeth at night lead to the destruction of his natural order of sleep, and even more tragically the inner kingdom of Macbeth's mind. Walk 2 ...read more.

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