Sleeplessness In Macbeth

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Authors will often include motifs, or recurring idea, in their writing to add an overlaying theme or emotion to the story. The use of motifs is a classic element that was used and continues to be used by famous writers such as Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Macbeth uses the more broad motif of sleep throughout the play to connect major individual themes. These themes of helplessness, death, and a guilty conscience relate together to illustrate the character development within Macbeth and compare it to those who are exposed to his ever-increasing violent tendencies and malicious behavior. The theme of sleep relating to helplessness occurs primarily in the beginning sections of the story while Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plan the murder…show more content…
To create added depth to this contrast between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth Shakespeare begins to incorporate the idea of sleeplessness to contrast to the initial motif of sleep. It appears only once at the beginning of the story, while Macbeth feels guilty about the murder of King Duncan. Macbeth says that “[he] does murder sleep’- the innocent sleep… the death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath… nourisher in life’s feast” (2.2.47). This appears as one of the only occasions in which Macbeth expresses guilt. Lady Macbeth, however, shows these same feeling of regret later in the story and to a greater extent, also relating to Macbeth’s “murder of sleep”. Later in the story, a gentlewoman accounts Lady Macbeth’s sleep struggles and describes how she has “seen [Lady Macbeth] rise from her bed, throw her nightgown upon her... And return to bed...while in a most fast sleep.” (5.1.9) This sleepwalking begins to take a turn for the worst when the doctor notes that Lady Macbeth’s situation is “Not so sick.. As she is troubled with thick-coming fancies that keep her from her rest.” (5.3.49), referring to her confession of involvement in Macbeth’s murder of the late King Duncan, and showing the newly-found guilt Lady Macbeth finds in her own

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