In so many plays, Shakespeare's night crawls with offending shadows. Though the witching hour sees graves' tenants off to their malicious machinations, humans take refuge in cozy beds. Sleep can thus protect mankind from wandering evils, but further yet, sleep is a rejuvenative force than can delineate the distinction between man and monster. Sir Toby Belch can night-long cloister himself amid fellow Bacchanalians with nominal ill consequence. In the tragic realm, however, characters who linger in evil hours often meet demise. Thus sleep is double-edged: it at once protects and exposes humanity at its utmost vulnerability. Sleep repairs, but insomnia can render its victim a deranged shadow of his/her former self. Hamlet and Macbeth present a tension between sleep and sleeplessness that permeates both tragedies in very tangible ways. Thus for Hamlet and Macbeth, the ominous political, interpersonal, and psychological ramifications of sleep and its disturbances often effect minds, hearts, and even narrative structures.
[...] In this context, more” is an entreaty to close forever the catalog of wrongs done to both Hamlet and mankind. The catalog of suffering, though universal in its aim, has more specific and pointed implications on king Hamlet's murder and Hamlet's drowsy midsection. Instead of disparaging it, the English canon generally lauds love. Nevertheless, Hamlet decries pangs of despis'd love”—but from whence such strange sentiment? Over the tragedy's course, Hamlet finds various ways of exalting—even deifying—his father. Such deep-seated filial loyalty commands obedience. [...]
[...] The difference between the protagonists' respective situations lies in the varying degrees of control Hamlet and Macbeth have over their particular nightmares. Hamlet's prison, for example, is as enormous as Denmark itself. Meanwhile, Macbeth is incarcerated in his own oppressive ambition—if Hamlet possesses a distracted globe, Macbeth's globe is focused to the point of monomania. Indeed, Macbeth lacks the mind-numbing profusion of themes so richly expressed in Hamlet. Instead, Macbeth's is a tale of self-fulfilling prophecy and the destructive consequences of ambition. [...]
[...] Though Hamlet has woven himself into a sinister dreamscape, the alternative of “stir[ring] from inward dreams and tak[ing] his place in the outward world where kings are killed” (Calderwood 14) seems an undesirable one. The willfully quiescent second soliloquy gives way to the pensive third, which is ultimately the centerpiece of Hamlet's sleep imagery. Though the third soliloquy is perhaps the most academically analyzed, it proves crucial to understanding the complex roles of sleep and death in the Shakespearean tragic milieu. [...]
[...] Though through different means and to different effects, the sinister plot devices in Hamlet and Macbeth both arise from postponed or interrupted sleep. For example, unlike king Hamlet's ghost, Duncan's spirit does not appear in Macbeth per se. When Macbeth murders sleeping Duncan, however, Macbeth effectively murders any chance of rest for either Scotland or himself. As Paul Jorgensen notes: “[Macbeth] will be able to sleep no more, perhaps unto eternity” (Jorgensen 108). Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more! [...]
[...] Shakespeare ingeniously brings Hamlet to paragon focus and clarity in Hamlet's last line. Thus Hamlet is a tragic, peculiar concordia discors, where the protagonist's soliloquies exhibit the tragedy's structural progression from chaos to an ordered embrace of reason and destiny—from disjointed dream to climactic, cataclysmic wakefulness. Sleep prolongs Hamlet and twists tragic form into a strange concordia discors; sleeplessness in Macbeth, however, accelerates the tragedy's disintegration into chaos. Macbeth opens in the victorious aftermath of a gruesome war; thus the play begins with reconcordance in the wake of disarray. [...]
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