Sleep and Sleep Deprivation in Shakespeare’s Othello – Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine



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“Sleep themes of insomnia, somnambulism, and nightmares are obvious in Hamlet and Macbeth; however they are evident throughout his work. This paper focuses on sleep references in Othello. First performed 400 years ago, Othello is one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies. The plot line of love and jealousy is deeply compelling, but there are a surprising number of sleep references embedded in the play that may not be immediately apparent to the casual reader. Instead, we understandably get caught up in the immense drama of the play, but sleep themes are there, lurking in every act. It’s not just references to insomnia but to other sleep problems—themes of domination through sleep deprivation, themes of sexual parasomnias, and themes of adverse effects of stress on sleep and the difficulty of treating insomnia. This paper will examine these passages and place them in the context of contemporary sleep medicine research.”


Article analyzing the themes and use of sleep and sleep deprivation by Shakespeare and his well-known play, Othello, in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. According to this article, sleep themes are apparent in much of Shakespeare’s work, like Hamlet and Macbeth, but also important in Othello.


  • Joel E. Dimsdale


  • Sleep in Othello


  • Journal: Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Vol. 5, No. 3


  • June 15 2009


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