Sleep in the proclamation- “sleep no more!

Sleep is used to symbolize and reveal a character’s conscience.

Macbeth’s stress and frustration are emphasised, through the utilisation of repetition and a monosyllabic verse in the proclamation- “sleep no more! Macbeth doth murder sleep”. Furthermore, Shakespeare’s implementation of the exclamation mark aids in illustrating this imagery. The juxtaposition ‘murder sleep’ presents Macbeth in a defenceless state, contradicting the ideals of the murder’s attentiveness. The naturality and purity of sleep contrast Macbeth’s inability to sleep, revealing he has disrupted the course of nature and ‘the great chain of being’. Shakespeare uses this murder to warn the audience in the Elizabethan era, our deepest darkest ambitions are the ruins of us, and as kingship was essential in the sense that regicide was unforgivable- such a message would not have been taken lightly. In addition, Lady Macbeth aids in creating this imagery as she sleep talks; “to bed, to bed;”, the repetition reflects her inner turmoil and the erratic speech; showing her decline into paranoia.

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Furthermore, Lady Macbeth is portrayed to believe that she’s awake desperate to hide behind the curtain of sleep. The semicolon creates a dramatic pause, illustrating the cascade of emotions she is experiencing such as remorse, guilt and desperation. Furthermore, revealing her vulnerability and exhaustion. Shakespeare, perhaps references to Greek mythology: Tartarus; hades himself (the god of the underworld) is calling her to die, foreshadowing her mysterious passing.

This additionally is supported by the ‘knocking’ at the gates of hell and the metaphor of death ‘knocking’ at your door, moreover foreshadows death and creates a tense filled atmosphere as the audience has never seen Lady Macbeth appear so decrepit. The ‘gate’ describes her hidden secrets and guilt, illustrating her acceptance of fate and her consumption of guilt. Lady Macbeth is unveiled to have surrendered herself and is now knocking at the gates of hell. Lady Macbeth denigrates Macbeth’s cowardice;-“was the hope drunk wherein you dressed yourself”, this accusation of inebriation chastises Macbeth’s pride and honour. Therefore, by belittling his change in plans, Shakespeare unveils Lady Macbeth’s dominance and sense of authority over Macbeth, subsequently contrasting the Elizabethan relationship structure.

The repetition of rhetorical questions emphasises the figure of command and signals a tone of disbelief. The competitive question ‘hath it slept since’ incorporates sibilance, linking to her sleepless state; signifying a total loss in hope and ambition.


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