Macbeth Motif Essay
William Shakespeare, in his tragic play Macbeth, written in 1606, dramatizes the unrelenting power of deception, insanity, and greed which ultimately results in the demise of Macbeth. Macbeth allowed his desire to become king overrule his judgement which consummately terminated his existence. The play is full of pestilence and set in Scotland during the eleventh century. In Macbeth, sleeplessness is an important motif that permeates the dramatic structure. Shakespeare uses this fatigue to substantiate the guilt of Macbeth, to represent subconscious insanity, and to show a foreshadowing of bad things to come. The motif serves to dramatize the true overview of how the characters are handling the various tragedies that occur.
Initially, the motif of sleeplessness is used as a model of foreshadowing. For example, in Act II, scene i, Banquo finds it hard to sleep the night Macbeth is supposed to kill King Duncan. This is evidence that evil things will occur throughout the play. Furthermore, in Act II, scene ii, while Macbeth was killing Duncan, Malcolm and Donalbain arose in their sleep. One laughed and the other cried murder. This is their sleeplessness foreshadowing because Duncan was dead, even though the brothers did not know it yet. Shakespeares use of the sleeplessness motif as foreshadowing allows the reader to get a concept of what evil will come in the future.
Not only does Shakespeare use sleeplessness for foreshadowing he also uses it as a mode of guilt. For example, in Act II, scene ii, Macbeth thinks he hears a voice say, Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep! This is Macbeth imagining voices, telling him not to sleep because he is feeling immoral and liable for Duncans murder. Next, Macbeth is afraid to sleep peacefully because he knows that Duncan is in restless ecstasy(Act III, scene ii). Apparently, Macbeth is aware of his wrongdoing and feels culpable that he is king and alive, but only at the sacrifice of Duncan. By using guilt to show sleeplessness, Shakespeare shows that a corrupt crime can only leave the mind unsure and unable to rest.
The most significant aspect of this motif, however, is how it is used to demonstrate the insanity of Macbeth and his wife. For
instance, in Act II, scene iv, Macbeth is at dinner with Lennox, Ross, and other lords. He sees ghosts and is apparently insane. This proves that all the sleep in the world could never clear Macbeth of his crime, he is already destroyed. In addition, Lady Macbeth sleep walks and hallucinates a spot of blood on her hands in Act V, scene i. This proves that she has gone crazy as well. She cannot sleep because she is trying to remove the spot, which represents guilt. The strong use of insanity as a moving force in the play causes the reader to understand that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth cannot rid themselves of their evil deeds.
The play demonstrates that the subconscious can allow evil things to occur. The sleeplessness motif is significant because it shows how the characters in the play deal with their stresses. The eerie use of sleeplessness added to the guilt of the characters, the foreshadowing of evil supplied a dark sensation, and the irony of insanity showed that the characters souls could not handle the calamitous situations. Macbeth could not sleep because he was too guilt-ridden, which eventually drove him to the breaking point. Macbeths fate, foretold by the witches, finally caught up to him and after his frighteningly sleepless nights, he was now engrossed by the eternal sleep called death.