Despair one of the key emotions that drive both the plots of ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Macbeth’. Although the despair in Macbeth is represented by guilt and in ‘Hamlet’ it is by grief. Both emotions result in the tragic ends of characters such as Ophelia and Lady Macbeth.
In ‘Macbeth’ Shakespeare repeatedly plays around with the word ‘sleep’ in ways that are both hidden and obvious. In doing this, he leads the audience to think of sleep as something that soothes the mind and is a release from stress. Macbeth talks of sleep as something precious, and peaceful that ‘knits up the ravelled sleeve of care’. Shakespeare portrays sleep in this sentimental way to make his spectators aware of the value of sleep so that Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s inability to sleep becomes something of importance and intensifies the extremities of their emotions of guilt. As soon as the murder is committed Macbeth declares he heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more, Macbeth murders sleep’. This shows his realisation that due to his guilty conscience he will no longer be able to rest because his heinous crime will be something that will continue to disturb him. It is as if the punishment for his murder of Duncan is that his guilt will now ‘murder sleep’. Act 3 scene 2 shows that sleep has indeed inflicted ‘terrible dreams’ upon him that ‘shake him nightly’ and sleep is no longer something that can bring him serenity. He loses something valuable that is often taken for granted because of his crime. On the other hand unlike Macbeth, Lady Macbeth does not audibly confront her guilt nonetheless in Act 5 we learn that it has affected her in the same way. The Gentlewoman tells the doctor that during her sleep she rises from her bed to write on a piece of paper and then returns to sleep. The doctor says that it is ‘a great perturbation of nature’ to act as if awake when in fact a sleep. We discover that Lady Macbeth is unable to rest even in her sleep due to her guilty conscience and is likely to be the...
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