Let Vultures Gripe Thy Guts

Shakespeare created much beautiful imagery with birds. Take this quote from Romeo and Juliet:

‘Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at Heaven’s gate’

But, we do know that the Bard was brilliant with a well-placed insult, often invoking his winged friends. What are some examples of Shakespeare’s bird-based barbs?


‘The owl shrieked at thy birth, an evil sign;
The night-crow cried, aboding luckless time;’
Henry VI, Part 3. 1590-93

‘Go, ye giddy goose.’
Henry IV, Part I. 1596-97

‘Let vultures vile seize on his lungs also!’
Henry IV, Part 2. 1597-98

‘By my troth, he’ll yield the crow a pudding one of these days. The king has killed his heart.’
Henry V, 1599

‘Let vultures gripe thy guts!’
The Merry Wives of Windsor. 1597-1601

‘My ashes, as the phoenix, may bring forth
A bird that will revenge upon you all.’
As You Like It. 1598-1600



‘But I am pigeon-liver’d and lack gall.’
Hamlet. 1599-1601

‘If you love an addle egg as well as you love an idle head you would eat chickens I’ th’ shell.’
Troilus and Cressida. 1601-2

‘You are cock and capon too, and you crow, cock, with your comb on’
Cymbeline, King of Britain. 1608-10

‘Though thou canst swim like a duck, thou art made like a goose’
The Tempest. 1611


Header Art: Clarence Holbrook Carter. Over and Above #14
Painting #2: Clarence Holbrook Carter. Over and Above #13


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Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton