Sleep and Nature

July 13, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Shakespeare’s, Macbeth, there seems to be an uncanny connection between the images of sleep and nature. The play refers to the results of nature being thwarted, and since sleep is the primarily natural function of every human being, its seems the most appropriate in relaying the theme. Macbeth, in his natural state, is an honorable member of the King’s loyal court. At the time he is introduced, he is being promoted to Thane of Cowdor because the former thane had been treasonous against the state of Scotland. Upon meeting the witches, Macbeth begins to consider rebellion against his natural state, yet nature remains static until Macbeth murders the King Duncan, as he sleeps. When “Lord Glamis had murdered sleep” (II. 2. 41), the downward spiral of nature changing its course is propelled. When Macbeth murders Duncan in his sleep, he murders sleep itself, the most natural thing in the world, thus causing nature itself to be skewed on both a personal and cosmic level. The witches themselves begin the idea of nature not being as it seems. “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” (I.1.12). Banquo notices their unnaturalness. “You should be women, and yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so. “(I. 3. 45-47) When they disappear, Macbeth points out that they are unnatural. ” And what seemed corporal, melted, as breath into the wind.” (I. 3. 81) Macbeth is a natural warrior, and has already distinguished himself as such. Yet with the introduction of the witches, Macbeth is introduced to something unnatural, beyond the scope of his familiarity, and begins to consider murdering outside of war, something that is unnatural to him. “My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, shakes so my single state of man that function is smothered in surmise, and nothing is but what is not.” (I. 3. 139-142) Lady Macbeth tries to convince her husband what it means to repress natural emotions and carry out promises. “I have given suck, and know how tender Œtis to love the babe that milks me ­ I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, and dashed the brains out, had I sworn as you have done to this.” (I.7.54-58) As Macbeth passes the room of Donalbain and Malcom after he murders their father, he hears them mutter “Murder!” in their sleep. Nevertheless, as one says “God bless us”, Macbeth is unable to answer “Amen.” (II. 2. 23-29) Macbeth had killed before, as a soldier, but the personal murder he had just committed was an unnatural act, and so he was unable to participate in a natural act, such as prayer. This idea of Christianity being natural and anything else unnatural is promulgated during the curse of the witches as they prepare a cauldron spell. “Liver of blaspheming JewŠNose of Turk and Tartar’s lips, finger of birth-strangled babe, ditch delivered by a drab”(IV.1.26-31). The witches, unnatural as they are, are able to take what is natural and successfully negate it.Macbeth himself, although he is being introduced to the possibility of the natural turning unnatural, is not witness to it himself until he commits an act that goes against nature. He kills Duncan in his sleep, as an effort to fulfill the prophecy bestowed upon him by the unnatural witches. Yet as he murders sleep, he succeeds in murdering his own natural state, thus thwarting nature all around him. “Macbeth shall sleep no more!” (II. 2. 4) refers to changes in both Macbeth and the cosmos. With the murder of “the Lord’s anointed temple” (II.3. 69), nature has gone wild. Lennox describes the unruly night. “Where we lay, our chimneys were blown down, and, as they say, lamentings heard I’th’air, strange screams of death, and prophesying with accents terrible of dire combustion and confused events new hatched to th’woeful timeŠ.my young remembrance cannot parallel a fellow to it.” (II. 3. 53-63). The old man, upon describing his reaction to Ross, gives a sense that this significant event carries huge implications on a cosmic level, not just for Macbeth. “Threescore and ten I can remember well, within the volume of which time I have seem hours dreadful and things strange; but this sore night hath trifled former knowings.” (II. 4. 1-5). With this murder of sleep, nature as a whole has changed. The calmness that once existed was killed as well, as the people no longer felt that relations could be held in a natural way. The ramifications hold true for Macbeth, on a personal plain, as he tries to get rid of anyone who is a potential enemy, continuously returning to the witches to prophesize what is more to come. Thematically, Macbeth is initially a great warrior, but as events pursue, his nature changes. Macbeth continues to kill, but his killings become less brave. He kills Duncan and the Chamberlains as they sleep and hires men to kill Banquo so he won’t have to do it himself. His nature begins to change as he changes nature. Lady Macbeth, she who herself had preached to Macbeth to repress his nature and do what he had promised, is subject to the consequences as well, as her sleeping patterns become unnatural. “I have seen her rise from her bed, throw her night-gown upon her, unlock her closet, take forth paper, fold it, write upon’t, read it, afterwards seal it, and again return to bed; yet all this while in a most fast sleep.” (V. 1. 3-7) She is asleep, but she has no rest. Her sleep has been murdered as well. Macbeth has succeeded in murdering sleep and thus changing nature.Macbeth had always thought nature could be depended upon, not realizing that he himself going against it has proven otherwise. The apparitions brought by the witches prophesize that “nobody born of woman shall harm Macbeth” (IV. 1. 80-81) and that “Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him.” (IV. 1. 32-35) Macbeth is assured that he will be safe as long as nature follows its course. Yet Malcom and Macduff, upon hearing about the murder of Macduff’s family, seek revenge against Macbeth, and in variations of the original prophecies, the predictions come true. The advancing troops of Macduff camouflage themselves in branches from Birnam Wood, and Macduff declares that he was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripped.”(V.7.44-45). The C-section of Macduff proves that sometimes nature cannot rely on itself completely and needs to be helped by humanity, thus revealing to Macbeth that he too has managed to help nature, although not positively. His murder has led to the extinguishing of emotion, a quality inherent in the nature of man. “Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts, cannot once start me.” ( V. 5. 14-15) To him, life no longer has meaning, it is just going through the motions. “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” (V. 5. 23- 28). This uttered by Macbeth who had been a man of so much promise as “Brave Macbeth.” (I. 2. 16) Macbeth, who had once considered murder to be so unnatural, had not realized that “toad, that under cold stone days and nights has thirty-one sweltered venom sleeping got.”(IV. 1. 6-8). Sleep is generally viewed as a time of rest and openness to the world, where man is in a passive role. By taking advantage of the natural sleep of Duncan, Macbeth has produced a poison throughout the state, thus changing the state of sleep, and consequently nature as a whole.Macbeth had never realized that he could change nature, and so going against nature to commit the unnatural had never fazed him. Yet he had murdered sleep, the most natural thing possessed by man, thus affecting the sleep of all of Scotland thereafter. Even more so, he had changed nature itself, causing things to happen that normally would not have, and had changed the nature of himself, the warrior Macbeth. He had once held no fears, and yet as King, he was ridden. He had once had so much confidence in success, and yet as he was held on a stake to die, he had none. The unnatural had always existed in the world, Macbeth had just never dabbled in it. As Macbeth accepted the challenge of the witches to go against both divine and personal nature, he had not realized that it was a challenge, and that was his hubris. He murdered sleep, unaware that sleep was man’s in his most natural state, and would thus result in nothing short than the pursuit of the unnatural.

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