Curtis Whitaker

Birding with Shakespeare

Birds have long played a special role in literature, myth, and religion, suggesting as they do a special connection between the terrestrial world and the heavens above. Shakespeare’s plays and poems are especially rich in bird imagery, with owls, ravens, eagles, sparrows, and even the mythical phoenix appearing in some of his most memorable lines. But however much we may think we “know a hawk from a handsaw” the way Hamlet does, Shakespeare’s understanding of birds as well as nature in general was very different from ours today. This talk will explore what we can learn from Shakespeare’s view of birds.