English IV, Block –G
15 November 2013
The Sleepless Night of a Guilty Conscience
Many people find it difficult to sleep with a guilty conscience because the sinful acts that take place in the dark will always come to light. Sleep reoccurs as a common motif throughout English literature for many centuries. Even the most influential writer in all of English literature, William Shakespeare, explores the element of sleep in Macbeth, one of the darkest and most powerful tragedies written in the early 1600’s. In the play, Shakespeare tells the journey of Macbeth and Banquo’s encounter with the Three Witches who predict their futures. The Three Witches prophesy that Macbeth will someday claim his title as King of Scotland. This prophecy leads to his obsession with power, which causes his inability to sleep and guilt for his actions. William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth utilizes the motif of sleep to demonstrate the theme that sleep awakens the guilty from rest and summons them to suffering the consequences. One way in which Shakespeare utilizes the motif of sleep to demonstrate the theme that sleep awakens the guilty from rest and summons them to suffering the consequences occurs through Banquo’s inability to sleep. In Act II, scene i, the setting begins with Fleance pondering why his father, Banquo, has not gone to bed yet. Banquo goes on to tell his son about his sleepless nights because of something or someone restraining him from sleeping. Tired and restless, Banquo wearily states, “Hold my sword…Merciful powers retrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature give way to in repose,” foreshadowing Banquo’s obliviousness to his own fate and other disturbances that will appear intensely throughout the play (Macbeth II. i.4-9). The significance of this scene in the play shows that Banquo feels somewhat uneasy and guilty for playing a part in helping Macbeth claim his title as King of Scotland through his lethal actions. He realizes...
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