“There is no tongue that moves”
moral powers, sounding it like thunder when necessary and
guiding it with reason, honesty and loyalty.
Paul. I’ll use that tongue I have. If wit flow from’t
As boldness from my bosom, let’t not be doubted
I shall do good. (2.2.51-53)
What she utters is never flattery but only the alarming
truth, which is like a curative force that expels the infections
engendered by the king’s venomous speech. Her speech, whose
force comes from its truth, is a remedy for the king’s lack of
sleep, and in turn sleep is the most desirable treatment for his
disturbed and distracted soul.
Paul. I come to bring him sleep. . . .
[ . . . ]
Do come with words as medicinal as true,
Honest as either, to purge him of that humor
That presses him from sleep. (2.3.33, 36-39)
Paulina’s words, which have the power to restore the
natural cycle of human health, are just the opposite of Lady
Macbeth’s wicked tongue that deprives her listener of sleep.
For Macbeth himself, sleep is the “Balm of hurt minds, great
Nature’s second dish, / Chief nourisher in life’s feast”
(Shakespeare, 1984: 54), a description which also seems to fit
the soothing sleep Paulina’s healing words bring to Leontes’s
“hurt mind.” And yet her words do not so much soothe as
the listener, and indeed the whipping rope was an
effective and popular therapy aimed at purging certain
infections plaguing the patient.
Whipping was a popular treatment in the prison-hospital for syphilis
inmates in 18th-century Paris. According to Michel Foucault, the attendants
beat and whipped them in order to cure their disease, as it was “a medicine
[ . . . ] which, all at the same time, fought disease at the expense of health