Armed with this knowledge, we can trace the trajectory of birds through the course of Macbeth. When we first hear of Macbeth, he is described as an ‘eagle’, fearless of the sparrows that surround him in battle. They were, however, considered vermin in Shakespeare’s day. They croak, breed, haunt, shriek, scream, clamour, tower, hawk, kill, wing, rouse, fight, swoop, and, in the case of a little ‘howlet’ missing its wing, provide an ingredient ‘for a charm of powerful trouble’ brewed by the weird sisters. (4.3.217-220). Similarly, Lady Macduff speaks as ‘the poor wren, | The most diminutive of birds’, who ‘will fight, | Her young ones in her nest, against the owl’. These aren’t just figments of the Macbeths’ imagination: Lennox describes how ‘the obscure bird’, or owl, hidden in darkness, ‘Clamoured the livelong night’, and an old man insists that, a week earlier, a lowly ‘mousing owl’ killed a noble falcon in flight.
They were considered unclean, their hooting ‘betokening death’ if heard at night. This might come as a surprise: the glimpses we catch of kites riding the thermals high above the motorway can seem precious, a little flash of a wilderness lost – kites became extinct in England and Scotland in the 1870s, and their numbers have only recently begun to recover. How will you be celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday this April. Banquo and Duncan enter the castle watching ‘the temple-haunting martlet’, smelling ‘heaven’s breath’ and ‘delicate’ air and failing to hear the croaking raven. He is about it" (2.2.2-4), "the obscure bird / Clamour'd the livelong night" (2.3.60-61), On Tuesday last / A falcon, towering in her pride of place, / Was by a mousing owl hawk'd at and kill'd" (2.4.11-13), Light thickens; and the crow / Makes wing to the rooky wood: / Good things of day begin to droop and drowse; / While night's black agents to their preys do rouse" (3.2.53), "If charnel-houses and our graves must send / Those that we bury back, our monuments / Shall be the maws of kites" (3.4.70-72), "Stones have been known to move and trees to speak; / Augurs and understood relations have / By magot-pies and choughs and rooks brought forth / The secret'st man of blood" (3.4.122-125), the natural touch: for the poor wren, / The most diminutive of birds, will fight, / Her young ones in her nest, against the owl" (4.2.8-11), "Sirrah, your father's dead; / And what will you do now? Used in this way, ‘chuck’ has had a long life – and survives to this day – as a term of endearment. What he says obviously compares Fleance to a bird, telling him to fly and be free from violence, thus innocent.
There are sparrows, eagles, ravens, ‘martlets’ (house martens), owls, falcons, crows, chickens, kites, ‘maggot-pies’ (magpies), choughs, rooks, and wrens. (4.2.30-31), "With what I get, I mean; and so do they" (4.2.33), "Poor bird! Birds make frequent, and often noisy, appearances in Macbeth. O hell-kite!
Macbeth Glossary temple-haunting martlet (1.6.6) A martlet is a tiny swallow, also known as a house martin, who prefers to build its nest on a house or, as Duncan states, a church (temple).Note the great irony in Duncan's speech. It is this superstition that Macbeth refers to when he muses: ‘Augures, and understood relations, have | By maggot-pies, and choughs, and rooks brought forth | The secret’st man of blood’. Owls, for instance, weren’t always considered wise, or as suitable subjects for children’s stories and poetry – as characters who Can Spell and Explain Things in 100 Acre Wood, for instance, or who go to sea in a pea-green boat and dance by the light of the moon. eagles, or the hare the lion" (1.2.34-35), "The raven himself is hoarse / That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan / Under my battlements" (1.5.38-40), "Hark! Macbeth … Explanatory Notes for Lady Macbeth's Soliloquy (1.5), The Psychoanalysis of Lady Macbeth (Sleepwalking Scene), Contemporary References to King James I in, Soliloquy Analysis: If it were done when 'tis done (1.7.1-29), Soliloquy Analysis: Is this a dagger (2.1.33-61), Soliloquy Analysis: To be thus is nothing (3.1.47-71), Soliloquy Analysis: She should have died hereafter (5.5.17-28), Explanatory Notes for the Witches' Chants (4.1), The Effect of Lady Macbeth's Death on Macbeth, Shakespeare's Workmanship: Crafting a Sympathetic Macbeth, Temptation, Sin, Retribution: Lecture Notes on. It was noted that they scavenged flesh and fruit ‘indifferently’, and they were believed to ‘warneth what shall fall’ if one could read the signs correctly. When Macduff hears about the news of Macbeth killing his “pretty chickens and their dam, At one fell swoop”(IV, iii, 224-225), he calls Macbeth a “hell-kite”(IV, iii, 223).