Perhaps, a human’s most vulnerable state is being asleep. When a person is sleeping, he or she does not controls thoughts and actions. Sleep and its disorder are prominent motifs in the William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth”. In the scene where Lady Macbeth sleepwalks she reveals her feelings and regrets over murders she has committed or has been guilty of. Although her gentlewoman and doctor consider it to be an illness, it is her frank confession.
Lady Macbeth is a strong-willed and resolute woman. She accepts the plan to kill King Duncan without hesitation, “That I may pour my spirits in thine ear; / And chastise with the valour of my tongue / All that impedes thee from the golden round…” (Shakespeare 1.5.27-29). However, she does not only encourage her husband, but carefully plans the crime. After the murder, she cold-bloodedly hides the evidences – carries the daggers to the servants and stains them with King Duncan’s blood. Moreover, she reproaches her husband “Infirm of purpose!” (Shakespeare 2.2.66) and does not cares of her hands being in blood literally and figuratively, “My hands are of your colour; but I shame / To wear a heart so white” (Shakespeare 2.2.79-80). On the other hand, she does not participate in murders of Banquo, Lady Macduff and her son, and hardly knows about her husband’s plans.
While Lady Macbeth sleepwalks, she recalls all murders she participated or guesses about, “Yet who would have thought the old man / to have had so much blood in him… The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?” (Shakespeare 5.1.43-44,46). No doubts, she feels guilty of committed crimes and fears that her soul was stained forever – she thinks that her hands are in blood and constantly rubs them to wash it away.
In “Macbeth” the motif of sleep holds an important place. On the one hand, sleep associates with death – King Duncan was killed being asleep, Macduff calls sleep a “death's counterfeit” (Shakespeare 2.3.81). On the other hand, sleep is vital for a human’s health. When Macbeth sees a Banquo’s ghost, his wife considers the lack of sleep to be the reason for his hallucination, “You lack the season of all natures, sleep” (Shakespeare 3.4.141). When Lady Macbeth becomes conscious of the burden of all murders, she is deprived of ability to rest at night. The Doctor describes her state as “A great perturbation in nature, to receive at once / the benefit of sleep, and do the effects of watching!” (Shakespeare 5.1.10-11) Thus, sleepwalking is a curse, a punishment for a lost soul.
Lady Macbeth may be judged of committing one murder. Though, it was she who inspired her husband and supported his lust for power. She understands that, and feels guilty of the atrocities in the kingdom.