Article Title

Sleep and Death: The Twins in Shakespeare


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

The similitude of death for sleep and sleep for death is one of the commonplaces of both classical and biblical lineage and one of considerable vogue in early medieval and Renaissance literature and iconography. It is one of the topoi which Shakespeare returns to and dramatically exploits time and again, and it is worthwhile considering to what fine uses he puts this received idea. The most extensive as well as the subtlest use of the idea as dramatic image is to be found in Macbeth. But in a good many other plays the sleep-death coalescence is employed by Shakespeare not merely as an incidental stroke of dramatic rhetoric, but often to larger ends as well. What Shakespeare makes of this traditional motif is once an illustration of what a genius to an apparently minor convention or cliché and also further evidence that the links in the chain of the imagistic associations of Shakespeare are to be sought at least as much in traditional habits of thought and expression inherited by the artist as in the psychological make-up of the man in the way suggested by Caroline Spurgeon and Edward Armstrong.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.