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Shakespeare's Birds

Shakespeare's Birds - Peter Goodfellow This was fun, and very satisfying (TWSS). In his oeuvre, Shakespeare made reference to over fifty different types of birds- most, but not all, native to England. He called on them to create moods, signify ideals and enhance settings. Author Peter Goodfellow has catalogued all of this according to species, and includes excerpts from the different works where the birds appear. The commentary is short and sweet, and ranges from falconry to etymology to cooking. Most birds only get about two pages. Some of the items here are common knowledge: the owl is taken as a symbol of wisdom, ravens ominous, doves indicate peace, and eagles are majestic. What I found a lot more fun was the esoteric stuff:Barnacle Geese (p.20) are native to arctic climates, and are only very rarely seen in England. Shakespeare used the image of these birds to give an air of strangeness to The Tempest. In Henry VI, Part I, Oswald's allegiance is compared to a kingfisher's bill... when popular superstition had it that a kingfisher's bill always faces into the wind. (i.e. his allegiance shifts with the wind)In Shakespeare's day, Woodcocks were considered dimwitted birds. (Karen: insert Woodcock joke here) The unflattering comparison to signify stupidity comes up again and again, in Love's Labor Lost, The Tempest, and Hamlet, for starters.The Bard appeared to hold the popular belief that the migration of Swallows was the most punctual and reliable of all species, and the definitive avian indicator of the passage of the seasons. In Timon of Athens, when Timon swears he will follow his Lord "as the swallow follows summer", he is saying that his fidelity will be unsurpassed. (p64)I love stuff like this. I will for sure be grabbing this book the next time I encounter a bird in anything by Shakespeare. Honorable mention to illustrator Peter Hayman, whose ink, watercolor, and colored pencil drawings add just the right touch!