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The best way to draw a reader into a story is to focus on knowledge drawn from other sources and add to them in a way so that the reader can relate. William Shakespeare achieves just this with his ability to enhance Macbeth with reoccurring motifs throughout the play. Possibly the most prominent ones and those that represent the greatest are the sleep and serpent motifs. J When one possesses a conscience, the function to tell the difference between right and wrong; it impedes the ability to either make positive or negative decisions. If one has a clear conscience, they usually possess the ability to sleep. But when our consciences are full of guilt, they experience a state of sleeplessness. In Macbeth, Shakespeare uses the sleep and sleeplessness motif to represent Macbeth 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. Soon she 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, as well as all the murders Macbeth has committed.
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Macbeth also seems to follow the same path as his wife. He begins as a valiant soldier with a good, clear conscience. His ability to sleep symbolizes his clear conscience. Further into the play, his conscience becomes disturbed and he experiences insomnia. Macbeth's sleeplessness is a result of his fear and guilt. After killing Duncan, Macbeth hears a voice cry, "'Glamis hath murdered sleep,' and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more: Macbeth shall sleep no more" (2.2.45-46). Macbeth feels that the only way to make his guilt and fear disappear is to kill anyone who threatens his kingship, so his conscience will begin to believe that killing people is right and he will be able to enjoy guiltless sleep. .
Sleep also makes Macbeth have a negative impact on Scotland. A king usually represents the peace and goodness of his country. When he begins to experience peace and comfort the country does as well. As soon as Macbeth becomes king, however, the kingdom is flipped upside down. Since Macbeth feels internal turmoil, the people of Scotland also experience turmoil. Macbeth causes all the peace and sleep to change to distress and sleeplessness. Malcolm's goal is to see "that chambers will be safe" (5.4.2). When Malcolm's army defeats Macbeth's army, peace and sleep are restored to Scotland. T The snake, another recurring motif has long been used as a symbol of sly subtlety. A serpent's presence has been characterized by cunning cynicism dating as far back as biblical times, when the snake persuaded Eve to eat the forbidden fruit of Eden's garden Shakespeare uses this treacherous reptile in Macbeth to convey the same evil. In his poetic phrase, Shakespeare may not speak of a character's malevolence directly; rather, he alludes to it through serpentine imagery. When lady Macbeth receives Macbeth's letter informing her of his promotion to Thayne of Cawdor she tries to instill invisible evil into herself and her husband in preparation for Duncan's murder. She fears her husband is too weak to murder Duncan, which she believes is Macbeth's only path to the crown. After tauntingly questioning her husband's manhood, she convinces him to follow her gory plan and gave him instructions to “beguile the time, look like the time. Bear welcome in your eye, your hand, your tongue. Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it." She says that to succeed, they must feign mediocrity amongst their guests, concealing their sinister desires. Appearing normal will not invoke suspicions. The serpent Lady Macbeth speaks of is the evil ambition Macbeth has, craftily slithering out of the shade of the virtuous flower when the deed is to be done. It represents Macbeth's hidden ambitions and his wife's plans. It also follows the theme of appearance versus reality what Duncan thinks to have "a pleasant seat" is actually the poisonous serpent underneath, waiting till nighttime to prey on its victim. The snake is also a metaphor for the obstacles impeding his rise to power. When Banquo is murdered and Macbeth is told about the escape of Fleance he describes "There the grown serpent lies. The worm that's fled hath nature that in time will venom breed, no teeth for th' present." What Macbeth was worried about earlier is eliminated but his fears are not. He is now troubled by its spawn, the presently innocent "worm" that he knows will become a danger in time. Even after more bloodshed, Macbeth is not free of the sneaky snake. Fleance will mature into a threat, fathering a son that will begin the seven generations of Scottish kings Macbeth wanted to kill off.