Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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How does Shakespeare use animal imagery to trace the downfall of Macbeth?

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The courage of Macbeth and Banquo is described to Duncan using animal metaphors. The captain tells his king that Macbeth and Banquo were not afraid of the counteroffensive of the Norwegians, comparing the Scottish leaders as eagles and lions instead of sparrows and hares.

Later, because Macbeth has subverted the Great Chain of Being with his act of regicide, the natural world begins to show signs of upheaval from the very night of the murder. An owl is heard to shriek at the time Duncan is killed. An owl attacks and kills a falcon instead of its usual prey, mice. Duncan's well-trained horses go berserk, break from their stalls, and begin to cannibalize each other.

Near the end of the play, when Macbeth is beginning to understand that his reign is coming to an end, he compares his situation to being tied to a stake and unable "to fly." Moreover, he asserts that he will not be used in the sport of bear-baiting. He understands that public opinion has turned against him and that people would enjoy...

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