Methought I Heard A Voice Cry

What does Macbeth mean when he says "Macbeth does murder sleep"?

It is a sign of his guilt when Macbeth thinks he heard a voice say, "Macbeth does murder sleep." Sleep is a notable theme in Macbeth, especially because Macbeth kills King Duncan while he is asleep. This scene shows Macbeth distressed about murdering an innocent man while he was vulnerable. Moreover, Macbeth has taken advantage of what is supposed to be a peaceful state, and for the rest of the play sleep will represent a state of danger not so unrelated to death.

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Macbeth believes he heard a voice crying:

Me thought I heard a voice cry “Sleep no more!
Macbeth doth 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,(50)
Chief nourisher in life's feast— - See more at: http://www.enotes.com/topics/macbeth/etext/act-ii#etext-act-ii-act-ii-scene-ii

What this imaginary voice is suggesting by "Macbeth doth murder sleep" is that Macbeth's crime is especially heinous because he killed a man while his victim was sound asleep. Since the murdered man was totally defenseless, he will serve as an example to everyone--and especially to Macbeth himself--that sleeping is not safe. It should be a state of peace, comfort and security, but Macbeth's example has made it a state of extreme danger. The voice continues:

Still it cried, “Sleep no more!” to all the house;
“Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor
Shall sleep no more. Macbeth shall sleep no more.”( - See more at: http://www.enotes.com/topics/macbeth/etext/act-ii#etext-act-ii-act-ii-scene-ii

Macbeth has seen how vulnerable a king can be when he is sound asleep, and now he proposes to become the king himself. He is accepting the danger that goes with the position. Therefore he will be afraid to go to sleep and will suffer from insomnia for the rest of his life. This lack of sleep will drive him half insane and cause him to behave more and more erratically and tyrannically. He can't sleep and he can't trust...

(The entire section contains 531 words.)

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