The Importance Of Sleep And Death In Macbeth

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Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays. However, the short length doesn’t mean that there is any shortage of profound messages and deeper meaning to be found. The imagery used throughout the book is a great example of this. Although imagery’s primary purpose in normal literature is to make the world more vivid, Shakespeare does a great job of adding deeper meaning to the imagery that he uses, especially that of sleep and death. Sleep and death imagery is used to explore the characters’ inner thoughts and fears, their struggles with the morality of their actions, and to show retribution for their actions. Shakespeare allows the reader to see the characters’ inner thoughts by creating a relationship between sleep and the characters’ …show more content…
Sleep is described in the book as something that keeps us from becoming evil. When Macbeth hallucinates the ghost of Banquo at the banquet, Lady Macbeth excuses his behaviour by saying that “[he] lack[s] the season of all natures, sleep” (3.4.140). By referring to sleep as the “season of all natures” (3.4.140), Lady Macbeth is calling sleep a seasoning or preservative, for human nature. She means that one that has good sleep is one that has a clear conscience. To the other characters in the book, this phrase just seems like an excuse for Macbeth’s strange reaction to Banquo’s ghost. In reality, though, Lady Macbeth is showing that she can see that Macbeth’s guilt is affecting him negatively, and that he is unable to deal with it. She shows her understanding of Macbeth’s feelings and personality, and attempts to comfort him with empathy while maintaining her image to the confused guests. This relation can be seen even further when Banquo has difficulty sleeping earlier in the play. While meeting with Fleance during the night, he speaks about his troubles sleeping, saying “A heavy summons lies like lead upon me, / Any yet I would not sleep: merciful powers, / Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature / Gives way to in repose!” (2.1.6-9). When Banquo says this, he outlines the relationship between sleep and inner conflict and moral struggles more explicitly. He is complaining to Fleance about how he is tired, but cannot sleep because he starts to think about evil things while asleep, showing how his inner struggle can affect sleep. Further, the way that sleep is affected by moral struggles is shown later, when Macbeth resolves to kill Macduff. Macbeth swears that Macduff "shalt not live; / That I may tell pale-hearted fear it lies / And sleep in spite of thunder" (4.1.83-86). By saying this, Macbeth shows that he

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