What Do Birds Symbolize In Macbeth

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In literature, birds often represent beauty, freedom, and grace. Shown soaring through the sky, these creatures remind us of freedom and life. However, in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, birds represent chaos, the moral and physical destruction of Shakespeare’s characters. As the play progresses and the kingdom crumbles, Shakespeare presents birds alongside the destruction, thus transforming such elegant creatures into symbols of doom. Even though birds do occasionally display order, that order is ultimately crushed as more birds appear, suggesting that all order ultimately breaks down. Oftentimes, birds are used to create false hope. As the play opens, Duncan asks an injured captain about Macbeth’s battle with the rebel Macdonwald, to which the captain responds that Macbeth was as scared by the enemy “[a]s sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion” (I.2.35).…show more content…
When Macbeth sends murderers to Macduff’s family, Macduff’s son tells his mother they must live “as birds do” living “[w]ith what [he] get[s]" (IV.2.32-33). The boy says he will live however he can, suggesting that he believes he will live. The boy’s prudent response creates a sense of hope, as if the family will survive. In that sense, the boy refers to the birds in order to make the family feel safe. However, the same birds are soon used to foreshadow the boy’s death. His mother calls him a“[p]oor bird! [who’d] never fear the net nor lime” (4.2.34). The mother says the boy does not fear things he should, using the motif of birds to both warn the boy and create a sense of foreboding. In that way, the birds warn that peace is destined to be broken. The birds’ quick shift from hopeful to foreboding highlights how order leads to chaos. By utilizing the motif of birds both in the original orderly scene, and then in the ultimate chaotic scene, Shakespeare connects the two, showing the reader how order progresses into
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