Posts Tagged: animals

Hares, conies, and rabbits: The hunted and the melancholy

When, in Henry IV, Part II, Bardolph calls his page a “whoreson upright rabbit,” he’s not exactly thinking of the animal we now know as rabbits. (2.2.84) In Shakespeare’s day, “rabbit” referred specifically to the young of conies (the European rabbit); it was a word like puppy or kitten. Adult rabbits were always called conies,… Continue Reading »


Shakespeare’s much-maligned toads and frogs

There may not be a more insulted character in all of Shakespeare’s canon than Richard III. The woman he’s wooing, Anne, calls him a hedgehog. In the very next scene, Queen Margaret calls him an “abortive, rooting hog,” a “bottled spider,” and a “poisonous bunch-backed toad” (Richard III I.3.239, 256, 260-261). And this isn’t the… Continue Reading »



The pelican in her piety

If you search for the word “pelican” in Shakespeare’s plays, you come across three instances, in Hamlet, King Lear, and Richard II. All three refer to a symbolic meaning of the pelican that can feel remote to today’s reader or audience member, but which Shakespeare’s audience would have been more familiar with.