William Shakespeare

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Sleep Symbol Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Sleep Symbol Icon
When he murders Duncan, Macbeth thinks he hears a voice say "Macbeth does murder sleep" (2.2.34). Sleep symbolizes innocence, purity, and peace of mind, and in killing Duncan Macbeth actually does murder sleep: Lady Macbeth begins to sleepwalk, and Macbeth is haunted by his nightmares.

Sleep Quotes in Macbeth

The Macbeth quotes below all refer to the symbol of Sleep. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Ambition Theme Icon
Act 2, scene 2 Quotes
Methought I heard a voice cry, Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep, — the innocent sleep;
Sleep, that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast.
Related Characters: Macbeth (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sleep
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 2.2.47-52
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 5, scene 1 Quotes
Out, damned spot! out, I say!
Related Characters: Lady Macbeth (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sleep
Page Number: 5.1.37
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Macbeth LitChart as a printable PDF.
Macbeth PDF

Sleep Symbol Timeline in Macbeth

The timeline below shows where the symbol Sleep appears in Macbeth. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2, scene 1
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
Macbeth enters. Banquo tells Macbeth his sleep has been troubled by dreams of the weird sisters. Macbeth claims never to think about... (full context)
Act 2, scene 2
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
...and he's upset that when one of the attendants said "God bless us" in his sleep, he was unable to say "Amen." He also thought he heard a voice say "Macbeth... (full context)
Act 3, scene 2
Ambition Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...someone might try to kill him as he killed Duncan, and seems envious of Duncan's "sleep" (3.2.25). (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
Violence Theme Icon
Nature and the Unnatural Theme Icon
...and a gentlewoman wait. The gentlewoman called the doctor because she has seen Lady Macbeth sleepwalking the last few nights, but she refuses to say what Lady Macbeth says or does. (full context)