Animals’ Behaviour Often Reflect One’s Own

857 words - 4 pages

Throughout many literary works, authors use animals or their behaviour to mimic or represent ideas in order to signify certain aspects of the characters and setting. In the tragic play of Macbeth, William Shakespeare successfully uses animal imagery as a prominent symbol to foresee upcoming events as well to portray Macbeth's growing guilty conscience. Thus, Shakespeare effectively employs animal imagery as a symbol in order to reinforce and highlight Macbeth’s mental deterioration in this tragic play.

As intricate as imagery may enhance a literary piece, Shakespeare uses this technique not only to achieve this very objective, but also to foreshadow forthcoming occurrences throughout the ill-fated play of Macbeth. When Lady Macduff says “The most diminutive of birds, will fight, / Her young ones in her nest, against the owl.”, she compares herself to small or weak birds who will fight against any predator, the owl , to protect its young ones as she would to shield Macduff’s and her son from any harm possible (4.2.12-13). Shakespeare uses the qualities and behaviour of the birds in order to portray them as weak and defenceless. These qualities are especially significant later on, as Lady Macduff and her son are taken advantage of when a few men swiftly murder them. Due to this, the audience is easily able to interpret the imagery as foreshadowing Lady Macduff's weakness when an enemy approaches her and her son. Another instance of where Shakespeare ideally uses animal imagery to allow the audience to recognise a clue to an upcoming event, is when the old man says to Ross, "A falcon tow'ring in her pride of place / Was by a mousing owl hawk'd at and kill'd", to which Ross replies "And Duncan's horses /… / Turn'd wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out / Contending with obedience …" (2.4.12-17). During this scene, it is apparent that the discussion represents the unnatural events that occurred during the night of the murder of King Duncan. However, observing the conversation between the old man and Ross, it is evident that the animal imagery creates irony in the scene, as it is simply unheard of for an owl to kill a falcon, and for horses to be cannibalistic. Therefore, the animal imagery used in all of the abnormal events that occur throughout the play, Macbeth, not only foreshadows forthcoming incidents, but it also symbolizes Macbeth’s rapidly decreasing sanity. Shakespeare’s use of animal imagery proves Macbeth’s mental downfall as it foreshadows a series of unnatural and horrid events with each more appalling than the previous...

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