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Free Macbeth Essays: Sleep and Sleeplessness

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The Sleep and Sleeplessness Motif in Macbeth


We have consciences that function to tell us the difference between right and wrong. If we have clear consciences, we usually possess the ability to sleep. But when our consciences are full of guilt, we experience a state of sleeplessness. In Macbeth, Shakespeare uses the sleep and sleeplessness motif to represent Macbeth's and Lady Macbeth's consciences and the effect Macbeth's conscience has on the country of Scotland.

Lady Macbeth begins with an unrecognizable conscience. She explains to Macbeth that if she said she would kill her own child, she would rather do the deed than break her word to do so. As the play continues, however, Lady Macbeth begins to develop a conscience. After placing the daggers for Duncan's murder, she makes an excuse for not killing Duncan herself: "Had he not resembled / My father as he slept, I had done't" (2.2.12-13). These words introduce her conscience. Towards the end of the play, Lady Macbeth falls into a sleepless state, and this sleeplessness represents her guilt for her role in Duncan's death,...

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