What examples of the motifs of blood and sleep are in Act 2 of Macbeth?

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teachertaylor's profile pic

teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In Act 2 of Macbeth, the motifs of blood and sleep are seen after Macbeth murders King Duncan.  Specifically in Scene 2, Macbeth runs back into his chamber to meet Lady Macbeth, and he is sure that someone has heard him commit the murder.  He says that he thought he heard someone say "'Macbeth does murther Sleep,'" and then Macbeth describes "the innocent Sleep" (II.ii.35).  The motif of sleep relates to Macbeth's inner conflict and sense of guilt at comitting such a crime to appease his own desires.  Further, the image of blood is present shortly after when Lady Macbeth realizes that Macbeth is still holding the bloody dagger with which he killed Duncan.  The motif of blood also relates to inner conflict and guilt.

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teachersage | (Level 2) Educator

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Blood is an image that permeates this play. Blood represents murder and guilt, in this instance the most guilty murder of them all, regicide or the murder of a king, God's anointed ruler. 

Macbeth knows what he has done and doesn't flinch from accepting that he has murdered a good king: he knows his ambition is overwhelming. As he returns after killing Duncan, however, he reveals his highly distraught  state of mind, his crime weighing heavily upon him. He speaks first of his guilt, represented by his awareness that he will never sleep easily again. In Act II, scene ii, he repeats, in various ways, that he will sleep no more:

Sleep no more! ... Macbeth does murder sleep ... Macbeth shall sleep no more.

Shortly thereafter, he speaks of blood, saying he has so much blood on his hands, that he is, in other words, so guilty, that all the oceans of the world can't wash his blood/guilt away. In fact, the blood on his hands would stain the green oceans red. As he says in his highly agitated state to his wife:

Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood/Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather /The multitudous seas incardine,/Making the green one red.

Blood, sleeplessness and guilt will continue to wend their way through this play. 






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