Sleep Motif In Macbeth

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Throughout the first two acts of Macbeth, the motif of sleep is portrayed through several opposing perspectives. We are first introduced to this recurring idea in the first scene, when the witches elect to meet Macbeth on the heath during the battle’s aftermath. The First Witch says that she will punish a woman by preventing her husband from sleeping on his voyage, declaring that “I will drain him dry as hay: Sleep shall neither night nor day Hang upon his pent-house lid;” (I.ii.18-20). The phenomenon in this scene is presented as an basic item that is to always be taken for granted, like clean water and shelter. If someone were to be denied the right to sleep, it would constitute torture. As another example, Banquo pleads “merciful powers, …show more content…

Here, sleep is shown as leaving a person vulnerable to attack and as helping imminent danger avoid the scrutiny of others. After the discovery of Duncan’s lifeless body, Macduff compares death to sleep, crying out “Shake off this downy sleep, death's counterfeit, And look on death itself! up, up, and see” (II.iii.51). Macduff claims that sleep is a false version of death, while Lady Macbeth points out that they are sometimes indistinguishable, remarking of the sleeping guards “That death and nature do contend about them, Whether they live or die.” (II.ii.9-10). In this manner, sleep in Macbeth is the epitome of the witches’ oxymoron “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”. Sleep has been demonstrated to be a necessity that serves as a respite from the turmoil of the day, yet it has been shown to be a method of placing oneself in mortal peril - or perhaps be a form of death itself. As the play progresses, sleep may not be a benefit to the receiver but a curse to the

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