The Witches’ Way
SShakespeare use which looking at metaphors and character reactions represents innocence and the natural—to demonstrate the corruption, and ultimately defeat, of the natural by the supernatural. Macbeth believes sleep is innocent. Later in the play the conquering of sleep establishes the theme of the supernatural over the natural. With this theme in mind, it is possible to make sense of a seemingly random story added by the witches. In the end, the witches conquer the natural using their supernatural abilities.
Macbeth has the perception that sleep is associated with innocence. Immediately after Macbeth murders Duncan, his guilt leads him to say he will not be able to engage in innocent acts: Me I thought I heard a voice cry ‘ Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep” the innocent sleep”(II, ii, 47-48).
Macbeth says the line immediately after he assassinates Duncan. In the first line, the voice Macbeth hears is his conscience, which tells him he cannot sleep due to his shameful actions. The second line is a double-entendre and correlates to innocence on two levels. Literally Macbeth is feeling remorseful as he killed Duncan while he was engaging in the “innocent sleep.” The mere fact that Macbeth killed his victim, person in the most innocent of states magnifies his guilt. The second layer of meaning to this line is Macbeth has killed his ability to ever again sleep innocently. His action taints his mind with guilt and his own conscience will not let him engage in something he believes is innocent. “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”(II, ii, 49-510)
Shakespeare uses multiple metaphors to refer to sleep, and describes it in terms of the other natural life processes such as dying, eating, cleaning, and healing, thus demonstrating his belief that sleep is a very natural thing and an essential process. When Macbeth says, “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”(II, ii, 49-51), it represents sleep being natural by using natural processes as metaphors. In the first line, Shakespeare uses “the death of each day” to represent falling asleep and moving on to the next day. With the use of the two metaphors: “sore labour’s bath” and “balm of hurt minds”, Shakespeare emphasizes that sleep naturally cleans and refreshes one from the day’s physical hard work and mental troubles. The “great nature’s second course” metaphorically shows that sleep is nature’s foremost process. The second course is the main and principal course in a meal; thus when Shakespeare uses the second course to describe sleep, he is proclaiming it as the most important. . Before Macbeth meets the witches, the witches share a story that seems to have little bearing on the play; however, the function of the story is to demonstrate the witches ability to perform supernatural acts. Using there supernatural acts the witches are able to conquer the pure and natural process sleep. When the First Witch says, Her husbands’ to Aleppo gone, master o’ ‘th Tiger; But in a sieve I’ll thither sail, And, like a rat without a tail, I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do…(I,iii, 9-11) Then, the witches, who represent the supernatural, manipulate the poor sailor by easily corrupting the natural process of sleep. In the second line in which the witch utters in such a nonchalant manner that she will sail around in a sieve, Shakespeare establishes that witches are capable of doing anything. This tone sets the stage for later corruption of the sleep by the witch. The final lines exemplify the assurance that the witches and the supernatural will always able to control the natural. The First Witch Says: I’ll drain him dry as hay. Sleep shall neither night nor day. Hang upon his penthouse lid. (I, iii, 16-21) It is clear that the witch...