How Shakespear uses sleeplssness in Macbeth to represent guilt.

Essay by fuzzellA, April 2003

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The Guilt of Sleep

Shakespeare uses sleeplessness to represent the ever-increasing guilt of Macbeth and his wife throughout the play. At the beginning with the murder of Duncan when Macbeth wishes that someone could "wake" Duncan. Then later when Macbeth notes that the soon to be murdered Banquo is lucky because he will sleep. These are just some examples.

Shakespeare opens his theme of sleeplessness with the witches as they talk of a sailor's wife that would not share. They punish the sailor by plaguing his wife with the fault of his trouble: "sleep shall neither night nor day hang upon his penthouse lid." The theme continues as Macbeth plans to frame the king's guards and says "When we have marked with blood those sleeps two." It is important to notice that the groomsmen are sleeping showing that they do not carry the guilt.

Sleep presents it self more strongly however in the next act.

The act opens with Banquo mentioning that "a heavy summons lies like lead upon me yet I would not sleep" as Macbeth comes near. Macbeth is already carrying the idea of murdering the king and is deciding if he should follow through. Banquo's quote makes this apparent. Later Macbeth is about to murder Duncan and lady Macbeth says the "grooms do mock their charge with snores." The grooms remain innocent of the deed and thus remain asleep. Similar is the innocence of Duncan when Lady Macbeth notes that he "resembled my father as he slept." Even Duncan's children accent Macbeths guilt as he hear one say "Murder" then say his prayers and go back to sleep. Macbeth really begins to feel his guilt right after he murders Duncan when he hears a voice say "Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep'-...