In Macbeth, the imagery of animals behavior and class status advances the theme of
animals in relation to human characteristics. The examples discussed in my paper will
make it quite clear that this imagery is evident, throughout the play.
In Act 1 sc. 3 line 8, the first witch chants and says that the sailor is the master of
the Tiger. The witch is comparing the man to a Tiger. The tiger is a very good animal and
is near the top of the Elizabethan World Picture. Hence the man is good. Furthermore
the witch say's that she herself is like a rat without a tail. Thus she is missing something
important. The witch is incomplete, just like the rat. Furthermore I believe she is hiding
something because when you are missing something you are apt to be very self conscious
and hide it. In addition the rat is veer low on the chain of being.
The next passage is Act 1 sc. 7 line 49. In this passage Lady Macbeth is quoted
saying "like the poor cat I 'th' adage" (1, vii., 49). That means "the cat who eats fish but
will not get his feet wet " (Folgers, p 40). Lady Macbeth is telling Macbeth that he is like
the cat because he wants to become king but he won't get his hands bloody. However
Lady Macbeth would find someone else to get their feet wet, someone to do her dirty
In act 2 scene 4 line 15, the old man and Ross talk about the recent murder. The
old man says that the killer, an owl made sure no one was looking and attacked the falcon
and killed it. The owl, lower then the falcon on the chain of being usually eats mice, which
is low on the hierarchy. But this time the owl eats the falcon whom is usually on the top
of the hierarchy.
Later in the play during act 3 Macbeth talks bout the list of dogs and the list of
men. On line 140 in sc.1 Macbeth compares the murders with the lowliest of dogs. In
the next act, Act 4 three witches use very lowly animals to describe Macbeths kingship. In
sc. 1 lines 1-30 the witches say that Macbeths is very similar to the hedgehog, toads and
lizards. These animals describe Macbeth in different ways. The hedge hog shows that
Macbeth is as greedy as a pig. The lizard shows that he is as slippery and slimy as a lizard.
Finally the toad might be symbolic of Macbeths soul, his soul is as ugly as a toad.
Throughout the play the animals behavior and status relate to human
characteristics. Sometimes these relationships are very abstract and sometimes they are
quite evident. To conclude the animals represent human characteristics very accurately.
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