Animal imagery in Shakespeares Macbeth
Every animal has different qualities, like their colour or their personality. We have animal species on this earth who out known to have been heroes and murderers. Even with their differences, each animal is attached to a certain meaning and can create a certain tone for the reader.
William Shakespeares Macbeth makes use of this idea well. Shakespeare uses this imagery to its full potential by not only setting tones but also for so much more. In the Scottish play, Shakespeare uses animal imagery for foreshadowing and for characterization. Shakespeare first uses animal imagery to foreshadow the death of Duncan and later on foreshadows the breakdown of Macbeth and Scotland itself. Animal imagery is used throughout the play to portray the changes in Macbeths personality and emotions.
The raven himself is hoarse/ That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan (Act 1, Scene 5, Lines 41-42.) This foreshadows Duncans death because the raven was believed to be the messenger of evil tidings. Lady Macbeth had just received word that Macbeth was Thane of Cawdor and would become king of Scotland. She believes Macbeth is not capable of direct action and was determined to convince her husband to murder Duncan who was the present king.
Shakespeare foreshadows the downfall of Scotland by including the unusual actions by animals. A falcon tow ring in her pride of place, was by a mousing owl hawkd at and killd (act 2, scene 3, Lines 14-15) This does not only echo the tragedy of Duncan but foreshadows the collapse of Scotland and Macbeth. A mighty falcon was killed by a mouse-hunting owl which is just the start of an unbalanced kingdom.
Shakespeare strengthens the connection between the reader and his characters by comparing them to animals. Yes; as sparrows, eagles, or the hare, the lion./ If I say sooth, I must report they were/ As cannons overcharged with double cracks./ So they doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe (Act 1, Scene 2, Line 38-42) In this quote, the soldier is talking to Duncan about how tough Macbeth and Banquo were against the other army. His words prove that Macbeth and Banquo are fearless and incredible fighters.
In contrast to the quote above, Shakespeare displays Macbeth fears by comparing Banquos ghost to 3 ferocious animals: Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear, / The armd rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger; Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves/ Shall never tremble. (Act 3, Scene 1, Lines 122-125) This quote reveals that Macbeth is a coward and it may be a sign that he is regretting what has already been done.
Gall of goat, and slips of yew, / Sliverd in the moons eclipse, / Nose of Turk, and Tartars lips, / Finger of birth-strangled babe, / Ditch-deliverd by a drab(Act 4, Scene 1, lines 27-31) This quote is just a fraction of the animal imagery throughout this scene. As the witches are creating their potion, their ingredients consist of human and animal parts. The potion represents Macbeth and how is no longer just a man, but he is also part animal since he no bares no conscience and acts in savage ways.
Animal imagery is used continuously throughout the play Macbeth. It is most noticeably used for foreshadowing the death of Duncan and the deterioration of Macbeth and Scotland. It is also used constantly to illustrate the revolution of Macbeths personality and emotions.