Why would Banquo prefer not to fall asleep? (Act II, Scene 1)

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

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In Act II, Scene I of Macbeth, Banquo cannot sleep because strange thoughts come to him when he does. He tells Fleance:

"A heavy summons lies like lead upon me, /And yet I would not sleep./ Merciful powers, /Restrain in me the cursèd thoughts that nature /Gives way to in repose" (lines 6-10). 

In other words, while the "summons," or call to sleep, lies on him as heavy as  lead, he does not want to sleep. He calls on the "merciful powers" to stop the nightmares that visit him in sleep, as he dreams about the weird sisters and their prophecies.

Later in the scene (lines 19-20), he tells Macbeth that he dreamt of the weird sisters the night before, and he wonders if their prophecies will come true, as some of what they have predicted has already come true for Macbeth. The theme of troubled sleep runs throughout the play, as Macbeth has trouble sleeping when he is consumed with guilt after killing Duncan. 


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