The Shakespearian Tempest: With a Chart of Shakespeare's Dramatic Universe

By G. Wilson Knight | Go to book overview

APPENDIX A
THE SHAKESPEARIAN AVIARY

I

BIRD-LIFE is very significantly used in Shakespeare. Such images and impressions occur mainly in direct relation to all essences which may be, metaphorically, considered ethereal and volatile. Bird-life suggests flight and freedom and swiftness: it also often suggests pride. Birds are usually gentle and sweet, and in many instances accompany love; but they may also be evil, as in Macbeth, where, however, they yet harmonize with the ethereal and spiritual theme, the swiftness, the dizzying flight. Here, then, I regard a few 'bird' passages in relation especially to the human spirit regarded as that quality in man which is essentially ethereal and aspiring: in this relation we find, particularly, the falcon and the eagle. Next I pass to the lark, bird of dawn, observing its close association with light and music. Thereafter I relate both these strains to more general thoughts of the human spirit, especially to the Shakespearian phrases 'swift thought' and 'apprehension', and then to mythological figures such as Phaethon, Icarus, Cupid, and angels generally. Finally, I pass to The Phoenix and The Turtle. But this essay is in no sense exhaustive: it merely indicates certain directions of certain impressions. A comprehensive study of these birds would, however, be most valuable.


II

The falcon is continually used to suggest 'pride'. Now pride may well be either a pleasing or a repellent quality: it may tend towards fine aspiration or insulting insolence. Here it is as insolence:

This said, he shakes aloft his Roman blade, Which, like a falcon towering in the skies, Coucheth the fowl below with his wings' shade, Whose crooked beak threats if he mount he dies: So under his insulting falchion lies Harmless Lucretia, marking what he tells With trembling fear, as fowl hear falcon's bells.

(Lucrece, 505)

In the same way we hear of Coriolanus's 'soaring insolence'

-293-

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The Shakespearian Tempest: With a Chart of Shakespeare's Dramatic Universe
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Prefatory Note vii
  • Contents *
  • I Introduction 1
  • II The Histories, Early Tragedies, and Poems 20
  • III The Romantic Comedies 75
  • IV The Tragedies 169
  • V The Final Plays 218
  • VI Conclusion 267
  • Appendix A The Shakespearian Aviary 293
  • Appendix B The 'Hecate' Scenes in Macbeth 326
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