Macbeth


“Discuss the significance of the sleepwalking scene and its relationship to the rest of the play.”



Sleep is the transitional state between wakefulness and death and gives our body and mind a chance to maintain, repair and protect itself. Lady Macbeth’s true personality is revealed during the sleepwalking scene. Her character follows the pattern of decline, despair and death. This pattern starts when she no longer had control over her husband, followed by hallucinations when she is sleepwalking and finally in suicide.


In the sleepwalking scene Lady Macbeth cannot bear to be without light, this is a contrast to the beginning of the play when she wanted to be surrounded by darkness. We see Lady Macbeth sleepwalking, washing her hands and talking to herself. She talks in a hesitant voice, madly going over and over the guilty details of her past. Early in the play, Lady Macbeth possessed a strong determination and sense of purpose than her husband and was the driving force behind her plot to kill Duncan. When Macbeth believed his bloodstained hand would never disappear, Lady Macbeth told him, "A little water clears us of this deed". Macbeth says that "all great Neptune's ocean" cannot cleanse him and that there is enough blood on his hands to turn the entire sea red. This will stay with him until his death. By the end of the play, however, Lady Macbeth shares Macbeth's sense that Duncan's murder has permanently stained them with blood. She to cannot stop thinking about the blood, “Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” Lady Macbeth is in her own private hell, which is a large contrast with her firmness and certainty at the time of Duncan’s murder. Her inability to sleep was predicted in the voice that her husband thought he heard while killing the king - a voice crying out that Macbeth was murdering sleep, “Macbeth doth murdered sleep.” Her delusion that there is a bloodstain on her hands adds to the play's use of blood as a symbol of guilt. The pair, in their destructive force, have created their own hell, where they are tormented by guilt and insanity.


An important change happens in the relationship between Lady Macbeth and her husband: Lady Macbeth is no longer the leader in their relationship and Macbeth is planning and scheming by himself without consulting his wife.


God and the devil have a strong presence in “Macbeth”. The characters look to heaven and hell as places they have to try and struggle towards or stay away from. Lady Macbeth asks the devil to make the night darker so that God would not see her commit the murder. She also begs for forgiveness after, as she realises she really wants to go to heaven. God and the devil seem to be the force behind the events of the tragedy. The witches have an impact on the whole theme of the play. Since they were able to predict that he was going to be Thane of Cawdor then he believes he is definitely going to be king. As Lady Macbeth awaits her husbands’ return she asks spirits to make her tough, so that she might be able to be part of Macbeth’s rise to king. “Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here…make my blood thick…” Lady Macbeth wants to get rid of her female tenderness and replace it with pure evil. She decides that the murder will take place in the night as she thinks that evil flourishes best in the darkness hidden from the gaze of heaven by the smoke of hell. Lady Macbeth asks the devil to cast a dark cloud over the already dark night. This way she will be able to think about the murder and complete the deed without God seeing it. “Come thick night…that my keen knife see not the wound it makes nor heaven peep through the blanket of dark to cry hold, hold.” Evil has invaded all of Lady Macbeth’s senses and later she desperately wants something feminine back. Lady Macbeth starts to feel remorse and prays for forgiveness so that she may go to heaven.


Visions and hallucinations reoccur throughout the play and serve as reminders of