Goshawk Accipiter gentilis, Autour des palombes.

2 occurrences (1 estridge, 1 estridges)

The Goshawk was not among the most prestigious raptors used for the purpose for falconry, but it had an important role to play as it was used for practical hunting of potential food such as partridges, hares and rabbits. This role must have afforded it some protection when nesting, since a supply of young birds was needed by falconers.

The two passages in which "estridge" is found are undoubtedly the most-disputed in Shakespeare's works when birds are concerned: does "estridge" mean ostrich or goshawk?

All furnish'd, all in arms;

All plum'd like estridges, that with the wind

Bated, like eagles having lately bath'd,

Glittering in golden coats like images,

As full of spirit as the month of May,

And gorgeous as the sun at midsummer;

Wanton as youthful goats, wild as young bulls.

I saw young Harry with his beaver on,

His cushes on his thighs, gallantly arm'd,

Rise from the ground like feather'd Mercury,

And vaulted with such ease into his seat

As if an angel dropp'd down from the clouds

To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus,

And witch the world with noble horsemanship.

(1H4 4 1 97-110)

Now he'll outstare the lightning; to be furious

Is to be frighted out of fear, and in that mood

The dove will peck the estridge; and I see still,

A diminution in our captain's brain

Restores his heart; when valour preys on reason,

It eats the sword it fights with: I will seek

Some way to leave him.

(ANT 3 13 195-201)

Critics are divided over this point and A.R. HUMPHREYS and M.R. RIDLEY, respectively editors of the Arden 1 Henry IV and Antony and Cleopatra, give arguments in favour of each interpretation.

Dover Wilson much favoured the "ostrich" interpretation, especially in Antony and Cleopatra where he thinks that it is appropriate to Egypt. RIDLEY's comment is:

That, to begin with, is not so, unless the limits of the ostrich's geographical distribution were in Shakespeare's day further north than they are now. But in any case would Shakespeare have given a moment's thought to the geographical appropriateness of the ostrich...?

In each extract, one element supports the "ostrich" meaning. In 1 Henry IV, "All plum'd" may refer to the ostrich plumes used as ornaments. In Antony and Cleopatra, "it eats the sword it fights with" may be linked to "but I'll make thee eat iron like an ostrich, and swallow my sword like a great pin" (2H6 4 10 26-9), (see OSTRICH).

But Douce in his Illustration of Shakespeare, (1807, i 436), quoted by RIDLEY, appeals to "So doves do peck the falcon's piercing talons" (3H6 1 4 41), where in this very Shakespearian reversal of situation, the dove faces a bird of prey. It is possible to add another quotation from A Midsummer Night's Dream: "The dove pursues the griffin" (2 1 232), (see GRIFFIN).

"Estridge" as goshawk is unnoticed by OED, but it lists "ostridge-keeper" as meaning people in charge of hawks as compared with those in charge of falcons. OED quotes Urquhart's translation of Rabelais as evidence: "the falconrie managed by ostridge-keepers and falconers". Among French falconers this difference survives and there still are: "fauconniers et autoursiers". Izaak Walton chose to name his fowler-falconer character Auceps in order to go along with Piscator and Venator. In All's Well That Ends Well, the first Folio provides us with an interesting stage direction "Enter a gentle Astringer" (Act V, scene 1), but this also is much-disputed, and is often interpreted as "Enter a Gentleman, a stranger", as nothing in the context supports the falconry interpretation.

In 1 Henry IV the reference to falconry is clear with "bated like eagles", meaning fluttering its wings, especially after "having lately bath'd".

About the Goshawk, Bartholomew (Bk. 12, §2) quoted by SEAGER says that it "is a royal bird, and is armed more with boldness of heart than with claws". This description fits that of the young Prince Henry, or the remarks made by Enobarbus: "and I see still / A diminution in our captain's brain / Restores his heart; when valour preys on reason".

The images Shakespeare wants to create are more concerned with mood than ornaments. These images evolve from the bird, either an ostrich or a goshawk - with plumes and all - to predatory behaviour that has been inverted - in this case the goshawk. A third level, moral this time, is reached, and as in Bartholomew's treatise it has to do with boldness of heart.