Essay On The Use Of Animals In Macbeth


In Macbeth by Shakespeare animals are constantly being mentioned such as serpents, hawks and much more. Humans are being referred to as animals and also constantly being categorized into predators and prey. One recurring animal throughout the play is an owl. An owl represents Macbeth and how he preys on other people. Shakespeare's purpose of using animal motifs is to categorize people into predators and prey, which develops the theme of how the human society is no more moral than the animal kingdom. 

In the play Macbeth, Shakespeare repeatedly uses an owl to represent Macbeth as prey and Duncan as a predator. Macbeth killed Duncan and the next day the old man is talking to Ross about how awful the night was and how strange it seems. The old man tells Ross, “On tuesday last / A falcon towering in her pride of place / Was by a mousing owl hawked and killed”(2.4.11-13).  The old man tells what weird and unnatural sight he saw. He says that he saw an owl kill a hawk. Which would not usually happen because a hawk is bigger and stronger than an owl. The hawk would usually be the prey against an owl. In this scenario the owl is the prey, which Macbeth is being referred to as an owl. The reason why Macbeth is being referred to as an owl is because he is the one that killed Duncan and was preying on him. Which in this scenario Duncan is being referred to as the hawk. A hawk is usually the prey that is strong and big that kills other animals. But in this case the hawk is the one that got killed by the owl. Representing how Duncan got killed by Macbeth in the prey and predator analogy. With the animal motif of humans being referred to as prey and predators, it helps develop the theme that the human society is no more moral than the animal kingdom. That humans hunt and prey on other humans just like the animal kingdom. In the end Shakespeare is using the animal analogy of prey and predators to represent that human society is no more moral than the animal kingdom.

Shakespeare uses the animals, serpent and worm, to categorize people into predators and prey. After Macbeth hears the news that Banquo is dead and Fleance escaped he refers to them as certain animals. Macbeth talking to Lady Macbeth says, “There the grown serpent lies; the worm that’s fled”(3.4.30). In this quote Macbeth is referring to Fleance as a worm. Fleance is the son of Banquo and is the one that escaped from being murdered. Fleance is being referred to the animal worm because worms are not harmful or scary, which is how Macbeth feels about Fleance. Showing that Fleance is the predator that Macbeth tries to hunt, in the prey and predator analogy. Macbeth also refers to Banquo as a serpent. Which serpents are snakes that prey on small animals and are scary. Banquo is the father of Fleance and is a major threat to Macbeth. Which is why Macbeth feels the need to kill Banquo. As a result Banquo is being referred to as an animal and even though serpents are usually the prey, the real prey is Macbeth. The reason why Macbeth is the prey is because he is the one that hired someone to kill both Banquo and Fleance. The prey and predator analogy helps show the recurring animal motif that humans act the same as the animal kingdom. The humans in Macbeth prey on other humans just like animals do in the animal kingdom. Shakespeare uses the prey and predator animal motif again to develop the theme of how human society is no more moral than the animal kingdom.     

In the play Shakespeare also uses another kind of bird, hell-kite, as the predator and chickens as the prey. Macduff got terrible news from Ross that his wife and children are dead. The audience knows that Macbeth hired someone to kill Macduff's family. Macduff replies to Malcolm and Ross, “He has no children. All my pretty ones? / Did you say all? O, hell-kite! All? / What, all my pretty chicken and their dam / At one fell swoop?”(4.3.16-19). Shakespeare uses the prey and predator analogy by referring humans to animals. In this quote Macduff refers Macbeth to a “hell-kite”. A hell kite is a type of bird that is known for preying on smaller animals. Macbeth is the prey and he is hunting Macduff's family. Which is why Macbeth was referred to as a hell kite. Macduff also refers to his children and wife as “chicken”. Chickens are known for being a predator and are harmless and very easy to hunt. Therefore, Shakespeare is comparing Macduff's children and wife to chicken because they are being preyed on by the hell-kite which is Macbeth. As a result of Macbeth hunting Macduff's family, the prey and predator animal motif helps develop the theme that human society is no different than the animal kingdom. That humans in Macbeth behave just like animals in the animal kingdom. With Shakespeare's intention in mind of comparing humans to animals using a predator and prey analogy it developed the theme that human society is no different than the animal kingdom. 

Throughout the play Macbeth, many characters are characterized into certain animals. The animal motif helps develop the characterization of people into prey and predators. Which develops the theme of how humans are no more moral than the animal kingdom. The animal motif is important because it helps show how humans act just like animals. That humans have more in common with the animal kingdom. Also the animal motif helps better characterize certain characters based on what animal Shakespeare is referring them to. In Macbeth animals play an important role into characterization of people, as prey and predators, and show how humans are no more different than the animal kingdom.

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