Sleep became a very important symbol in William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. A major theme of the play was guilt and how it ate away at the life and personality of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, tearing them away from who they used to be. The nightmare that their lives turned into was a reflection on their lack of sleep and inability to escape from the evils they committed. Right after Macbeth murders Duncan, he says “Now o'er the one half-world / Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse / The curtain'd sleep" (2.1.49-51). This reveals how the nightmares Macbeth experiences when he tries to sleep are so terrible thy even penetrate the curtains around his bed.
The symbol of sleep, or lack thereof, goes hand in hand with the grief associated with murder. After the wicked sisters give Macbeth and Banquo their prophecies, Macbeth starts living in his head, thinking only of the future. At this point, Macbeth is only worried that if he did commit the murder, he would be caught, and the somewhat selfish fear for his own life is the real cause of stress in in life. This seems to be a common theme throughout, as Macbeth is scared that problems could arise in the future.
Sleep is meant to be an escape from reality, where one can dream and not have to worry about the stresses of their lives. But in the case of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, the little sleep they get throughout the play is wrought with nightmares. This constant source of terror eats away at them. Without sleep they both start to lose their minds and their personalities change. Macbeth goes from a feeble, emotional, calculated character to a stone cold, power mad paranoid king. He steadily loses his mind as the world around him crumbles, becoming more and more removed from what he used to care about. Lady Macbeth on the other hand, transforms in the opposite direction. Before the murder and the in beginning of their demise, she was a thirsty, determined, stubborn woman who was willing to risk it all for glory. “The...
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