Friday, 19 October 2012

Macbeth "Sleep no more" analysis


Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep”—the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

   In the passage, Macbeth hallucinates and thinks that he hears someone saying “Sleep no more.” In reality, the voice is caused by his conscience.
  This is a very critical passage in which assert the theme that guilt will always recoil upon the culprit. A guilty conscious, a blameful, responsible feeling of culpability leaves Macbeth guilt ridden and full of remorse, which is crucial to the understanding of a Shakespearean tragedy. Macbeth, being the tragic hero, who receives more retribution than he deserve, instigates sympathy amongst the readers as he is tormented by his guilt, showing his honor and potential greatness and diverts himself from a villainous character. This passage is also important in the sense that it’s the beginning of Macbeth’s downward spiral as his guilt adds on to his paranoid and arbitrary trait, which in turn pushes him to commit more crime. There is a dark and eerie mood throughout the passage, which adds to the tension. In addition, the tone of Macbeth is solemn and conscience-stricken.  
  Symbolism is the most important and recurrent literary device used in the passage.  Sleep can be interpreted in various ways. First of all, Sleep can symbolize tranquility and peace. By murdering sleep, Macbeth has murdered his internal peace, for he would then live in fear and guilt in the days to come. Moreover, Duncan can represent peace and goodness of his country. When Macbeth murders Duncan, he brings the people of Scotland into turmoil, thus murdering the tranquility and peace of his country. Sleep can also represent innocence, purity, and conscience.  He murders his true conscience as he kills Duncan, and the last vestiges of the honorable Macbeth die at the end of this speech. Sleep, like all symbols, can also be understood literally, and in this case, its effect is to create foreshadowing. Further into the play, his conscience becomes disturbed and he experiences insomnia. Lady Macbeth also falls into a sleepless state, and the sleeplessness in both cases represents the culpability and their consciences’ torment.
  Metaphor is also used in the passage to further emphasize his frustration and guilt. A "ravell'd sleave" is a tangled skein of thread or yarn. Macbeth uses it as a metaphor for the kind of contravention we experience when we have so many problems that we can't see the end to any of them.
Macbeth also describes sleep as “Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, Chief nourisher in life’s feast,” which compares sleep to a soothing bath after a day of hard work, and to the main course of a feast. The vivid imagery used here shows that to Macbeth, sleep is not only a necessity of life, but something that makes life worth living, and he feels that when he murdered his King in his sleep, he murdered the meaning of life. Since Duncan is portrayed as a virtuous king, it could also be inferred that by murdering Duncan, Macbeth has stripped away the people of Scotland of their comfort, freedom, and joy and foreshadows the chaos that Macbeth would eventually bring.
  In terms of syntax, the author uses parallelism, which is the repetition of words, phrases, and clauses to emphasize a point. In this case, Macbeth compares sleep with “sore labor’s bath, balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, and chief nourisher in life’s feast,” which attributes sleep with a series of good qualities. By doing so, Macbeth is emphasizing the goodness, purity, and importance of sleep.

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