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The Theme of Birds in Macbeth Essays

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Macbeth is a tragic play written by William Shakespeare which deals about the consequences of excessive greed. Shakespeare also uses an abundance of literary devices especially nature and animal imageries. These imageries are used to represent the disturbance in the Great Chain1 which is shown through the murder of King Duncan which destroys the natural order of things especially in the succession to the throne. The birds play the critical role of conveying this idea through foreshadowing and characterization.2
The first function of the bird as a thematic image is to foreshadow. And the most important foreshadowing of the play is the inevitable murder of the King of Scotland, Duncan, by the Macbeth. It is first seen during the Captain’s dialogue describing the battle between Macbeth and Banquo against Macdonwald. He compared them to “As sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion”3. From this phrase, the reversal of the roles can be clearly seen when the sparrow and the hare became the predators of the eagle and the lion became their prey. Another example is seen during Lady Macbeth’s beginning soliloquy, “The raven himself is hoarse/ That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan/ Under my battlements”4, the introduction leading to the murder scene of Duncan. The raven, which is the bird that symbolizes death, is the omen that signals Duncan’s doom.
The conversation between the Old Man and Lennox after the murder of the Duncan is the most important indicator of the disruption in the natural order of things and becomes the beginning note for the unfolding of the upcoming events after the king’s death. “On Tuesday last/ A falcon, towering in her pride of place,/ Was by a mousing owl hawk’d at and kill’d”5. The falcon represents the Dunc...


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...y Macduff after hearing that that his family has been slain. This reference shows how low Macbeth have sunk and how destroyed his morale are as to even kill a “defenseless woman and child”.1
Bird symbolisms and characterization allows the reader to fully understand the complex characters of the play especially Macbeth, who, at first was a honorable and brave general then later became so morally crippled that the audience’s perception of him changed throughout the play. Understanding the play’s multifaceted characters is important because the impact becomes much stronger. The usage of birds as a foreshadowing tool gives the readers the power of omniscience which plays into the play’s dramatic irony. Macbeth is a play that is full of tragic that as readers, knowing what happens next becomes an integral part of enjoying this complicated yet simple Shakespearean play.


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