"Methought I heard a voice cry "Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep," the innocent sleep, (2.2.33)
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course, (2.2.36)
Chief nourisher in life's feast,--"
--From "Macbeth -- Act 2 Scene 2" by William Shakespeare
utters these lines as he ruminates with Lady Macbeth
, his wife; upon the murder
he has just completed, namely killing King Duncan in his sleep
, therefore effectively removing the
most difficult obstacle to his own ascendancy to the throne. In these few lines William Shakespeare, the
author of Macbeth; paints a picture of brutality and at the same time reinforces the idea of sleep as
incarnate, the very essence of it. One of the few things we keep from our childhood, it is a
where, as Macbeth so murderously illustrated, we are at our most vulnerable
Just a moment of rest at the twilight of the day, yet also a gateway into sublimity and the
unconscious mind, we rarely can sleep well if around someone we don't trust or like. But being in the
presence of a trusted or loved one, we can instantly drift, without hesitation or fear. Macbeth knows
this, as he fears that by betraying the trust of sleep, he has actually 'murdered' sleep for himself,
sleep that is precious and the "Chief nourisher in life's feast,".
In these lines and the scene before, Macbeth has not only murdered another human being, and not only
sleep, but trust and innocence as well, the qualities of sleep. We all sleep in our beds and under
the roofs of our houses so soundly, because we trust these places and that warmth that is trust
envelopes us as sleep. Like angels coming and sprinkling glittering jewels of sleep on our persons. If
one day I were to lose sleep over something I have done, like Macbeth, who will "Sleep no more!", I
will surely know that I have lost something inside of me.
The fear, during childhood, of monsters and demons, that haunt us, just before we fade away, pulling
us back to the waking world, returns as guilt and sorrow and other psyche-polluting creatures, in our
adulthood, and then we begin to treasure how immeasureably beautiful the simple act of resting our heads
and laying down our bodies truly is. Metallica sings of these childhood fears, in "Enter Sandman"
where James Hetfield, the lead singer admonishes the sleepy protagonist to "Say your prayers, little
one," an appropriate piece of advice.
Tonight before I sleep, I will say a prayer, I think, of gratitude for my lively sleep.