Act I of Shakespeare’s Richard III ends with the murder of the Duke of Clarence, presaged by the dream of drowning he recounts at the start of the scene. Here, just as the dream is about to end, howling fiends seize the terrified Clarence to take him to hell.
In the same play, Richard III has a troubled sleep on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth Field. Visited by the ghosts of those whose deaths he caused, he dreams the battle is in progress. As the last ghost leaves, he awakens with a start shouting “Give me another horse; bind up my wounds. Have mercy, Jesu!”
Thomas Tryon believed that dreams of demonic visitations like Richard III's were caused by sleeping on one’s back, eating heavy suppers just before bed, and drinking spirits in excess. He suggests that nightmares could be avoided by sleeping on one’s side and eating a healthier diet.
Thomas Nash argues that dreams are based on thoughts and experiences that happen over the course of the day: “A dream is nothing else but a bubbling scum or froth of the fancy, which the day hath left undigested.” As for nightmares, Nash claims they are the result of guilty feelings. For example, the dreadful sins of treason and murder would cause terrible dreams.
Physician Jacques Ferrand wrote a book on the causes, symptoms, and cures of “Love, or Erotique Melancholy.” Ferrand describes terrifying instances of people, mostly women, who believe that they were raped by the devil in their sleep, “when as in truth they were only troubled with the Nightmare.”