Carrion Crow Corvus corone corone, Corneille noire.
36 occurrences ( 20 crow, 16 crows)
ERR 3 1 80 Well, I'll break in; go borrow me a crow.
ERR 3 1 81 A crow without feather? Master, mean you so?
ERR 3 1 83 If a crow help us in, sirrah, we'll pluck a crow together.
ADO 1 1 121 I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow
MND 2 1 97 And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;
MND 3 2 142 Fann'd with the eastern wind, turns to a crow
MV 5 1 102 The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark
AWW 4 3 277 p E'en a crow a'th' same nest.
WT 4 4 221 Cypress black as e'er was crow
JN 5 2 144 Even at the crying of your nation's crow,
H5 2 1 87 p he'll yield the crow a pudding one of these days.
H5 4 2 51 And their executors, the knavish crows,
2H6 4 10 83 Leaving thy trunk for crows to feed upon.
2H6 5 2 11 And made a prey for carrion kites and crows
TRO 1 2 248 p the eagles are gone: crows and daws, crows and daws.
TRO 4 2 9 Wak'd by the lark, hath rous'd the ribald crows,
COR 3 1 138 The crows to peck the eagles.
COR 4 5 43 p I'th' city of kites and crows.
COR 4 5 44 p I'th' city of kites and crows?
ROM 1 2 89 And I will make thee think thy swan a crow.
ROM 1 5 47 So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows
JC 5 1 85 And in their steads do ravens, crows, and kites
MAC 3 2 50 the crow / makes wing to th'rooky wood;
LR 4 6 13 The crows and choughs that wing the midway air
CYM 1 4 15 As little as a crow, or less, ere left
CYM 3 1 82 if you fall in the adventure, our crows shall fare the better for you,
CYM 3 3 12 When you above perceive me like a crow,
CYM 5 3 93 What crows have peck'd them here: He brags his service
PER 4 ch 32 With dove of Paphos might the crow / Vie feathers white.
TNK 1 1 19 The crow, the sland'rous cuckoo, nor
TNK 1 1 42 And pecks of crows in the foul fields of Thebes.
VEN 324 Outstripping crows that strive to overfly them.
LUC 1009 "The crow may bathe his coal-black wings in mire,
PHT 17 And thou treble-dated crow,
SON 70.4 A crow that flies in heaven's sweetest air.
SON 113.12 The crow or dove, it shapes them to your feature.
The crow is able to use both woodland and open country, it would have been widespread from the first, but over recent centuries has been killed with increased success on farmland. It is the equivalent of the raven in less mountainous and less forested areas. HARTING comments that:
So closely indeed, does he resemble the raven upon a slightly modified scale, that we might also fancy him: "a crow a'th' same nest" (AWW 4 3 277).
"As black as a crow" is listed by TILLEY (C844) as a proverb:
Cypress black as e'er was crow
(WT 4 4 221)
But Shakespeare seldom refers to "black" separately, that is without "white" close by to give the contrast. Indeed in the song by Autolycus quoted above, the preceding verse was: "Lawn as white as driven snow" (4 4 220). HARTING comments on Autolycus's song that:
Here we have not only the crow contrasted with snow, but also cyprus, a thin transparent black stuff, somewhat like crape, placed in contradistinction with lawn, which is a white material, like muslin.
The crow can be thus contrasted with white birds; swan and dove are found three times each within a ten line context of crow:
The crow or dove, it shapes them to your feature.
Shakespeare makes full use of the symbolic value of this contrast which takes on the aspect of a moral fable:
The crow may bathe his coal-black wings in mire,
And unperceiv'd fly with the filth away;
But if the like the snow-white swan desire,
The stain upon his silver down will stay.
Another proverb (TILLEY, C853) is: "He will say the crow is white". Shakespeare has:
With dove of Paphos might the crow
Vie feathers white.
(PER 4 ch 32-3)
Among other improbabilities of the sort, the image of the bird devoid of feathers is striking and recurrent: "moulten raven" (1H4 3 1 146). Shakespeare plays with this idea and others about an upside-down world where "fowls have no feathers, and fish have no fin". The "crow" itself is either the bird or a crowbar in this farcical dialogue:
DROMIO OF EPHESUS
Here's too much 'Out upon thee!' I pray thee, let me in.
DROMIO OF SYRACUSE
Ay, when fowls have no feathers, and fish have no fin.
ANTIPHOLUS OF EPHESUS
Well, I'll break in. - Go borrow me a crow.
DROMIO OF EPHESUS
A crow without feather? Master, mean you so?
For a fish without a fin, there's a fowl without a feather.
(To Dromio of Syracuse)
If a crow help us in, sirrah, we'll pluck a crow together.
ANTIPHOLUS OF EPHESUS
Go, get thee gone. Fetch me an iron crow.
(ERR 3 1 78-84)
The last part of the bird/crowbar quibble rests on a proverbial saying "I have a Crow to pluck with you" (TILLEY, C855) which meant to settle a quarrel.
Again in The Phoenix and Turtle, "swan" is in the stanza that precedes "crow", and colour plays its role with white / sable. But here, the old beliefs associated with crows appear. SEAGER cites Holland's Pliny (vii, 48) where an explanation for "treble-dated" can be found: "Hesiodus saith forsooth, that the crow liveth nine times as long as we". "With the breath thou giv'st and tak'st" can be traced to Hortus Sanitatis (Bk. iii, § 34) quoted by SEAGER:
They are said to conceive and lay their eggs at the bill. The young become black on the seventh day.
Let the priest in surplice white
That defunctive music can,
Be the death-divining swan,
Lest the requiem lack his right.
And thou treble-dated crow,
That thy sable gender mak'st
With the breath thou giv'st and tak'st,
'Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.
Above all, the crow is the meanest carrion bird, even the ravens and kites, in their own way and in the eyes of Shakespeare, retain something of the majesty of the large birds of preys, the crow is base and mediocre:
The fold stands empty in the drowned field,
And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;
(MND 2 1 96-7)
In his edition, H. F. BROOKS explains that "the 'murrion flock' are 'murrained': victims of sheep-plague".
Iden, addressing the dead body of Cade, whom he has just killed on the stage, says with utmost scorn:
Hence will I drag thee headlong by the heels
Unto a dunghill, which shall be thy grave,
And there cut off thy most ungracious head,
Which I will bear in triumph to the King,
Leaving thy trunk for crows to feed upon.
(2H6 4 10 79-83)
The crow is the symbol of battle-fields, after the battle:
I'th' city of kites and crows.
(COR 4 5 43)
In the third act of Cymbeline (Sc.1), when Caius Lucius, the Roman Ambassador, comes to demand tribute from the British king, he is met with a flat refusal, and Cloten, one of the lords in waiting, deriding his threat of war, says:
(HARTING, p. 112)
His majesty bids you welcome. Make pastime with
us a day or two, or longer: if you seek us afterwards in
other terms, you shall find us in our salt-water girdle:
if you beat us out of it, it is yours: if you fall in the
adventure, our crows shall fare the better for you: and
there's an end.
(CYM 3 2 78-83)
But "crow" can also be found in less menacing contexts, when alluding to the "crow-keepers" or the "scarecrows" not listed here:
That fellow handles his bow like a crow-keeper:
(LR 4 6 88)
The scarecrow that affright our children so.
(1H6 1 4 42)