Accipitridae and Falconidae.

35 occurrences

These generic terms could be applied to any raptors, especially when used for the purpose of falconry, the extent of their variety is shown by this famous quotation from the Boke of St Albans, 1486:

An Eagle for an Emperor, a Gyrfalcon for a King; a Peregrine for a Prince, a Saker for a Knight, a Merlin for a Lady; a Goshawk for a Yeoman, a Sparrowhawk for a Priest, a Musket for a Holy water Clerk, a Kestrel for a Knave.

* EAGLE: Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, Aigle royal;

* GYRFALCON: Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus, Faucon Gerfaut;

* PEREGRINE: Peregrine Falco peregrinus, Faucon pèlerin;

* SAKER: Saker Falcon Falco cherrug, Faucon sacre;

* MERLIN: Merlin Falco columbarius, Faucon émerillon;

* GOSHAWK: Goshawk Accipiter gentilis, Autour des palombes;

* SPARROWHAWK: Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, Epervier d'Europe;

* MUSKET: male Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, Epervier d'Europe;

* KESTREL: Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, Faucon crécerelle.

1. HAWK: 19 occurrences

Bird name: 13 occurrences (8 hawk, 5 hawks)

Else: 6 occurrences (3 hawking, 2 hawk, 1 hawked)

2. FALCON: 16 occurrences

Bird name: 15 occurrences (8 falcon, 1 falcons, 4 falcon's)

Else:1 occurrence (falconer's)

Hawks and falcons were divided into different categories, two of them are cited by Shakespeare, the eyas (see MUSKET) and the haggard. The haggards were the birds that had been captured wild and that were one year old (fully moulted once). When it was possible to train them, when they were not too wild, they proved the best for falconry, as they had learned to prey in the wild.

I know her spirit are as coy and wild

As haggards of the rock.

(ADO 3 1 35-6)

Shakespeare transposed the meaning to love relationships in some plays like Much Ado About Nothing, quoted above, or Othello:

If I do prove her haggard,

Though that her jesses were my dear heart-strings,

I'd whistle her off and let her down the wind,

To prey at fortune.

(3 3 264-7)

The first thing in the process of training was to affix to the legs of the hawk the jesses or short straps of leather which remain always on her, and by which she is held. Witness the quotation cited above, "though that the jesses were my dear heart-strings" (OTH 3 3 264). In Shakespeare's time varvels or little rings of silver were attached to the end of the jesses, and on these the name of the owner was often engraved. If a wild-caught hawk was taken she was at once seeled thus. A needle and fine thread was passed trough the lower eyelid, which consists merely of thin skin insensible to pain, passed over the crown of her head, [...] by loosening the twisted thread day by day a little more daylight is given until the thread is entirely removed as training progresses. (Shakespeare's England, § 2 Falconry by the Hon. Gerald LASCELLES).

She [Desdemona] that so young could give out such a seeming,

To seal her father's eyes up, close as oak,

(OTH 3 3 212-3)

In addition to seeling, a hod was placed on the hawk's head to ensure her perfect quiescence when not taken on hand. (ibid).

Hood my unmann'd blood, bating in my cheeks,

With thy black mantle; till strange love, grown old,

Think true love acted simple modesty.

(ROM 3 2 14-7)

With a quibble on "unmann'd which meant either untrained (for a hawk) or without a husband".

With hood, jesses, and varvels provided, the work of manning the hawk is begun. She must be taken on the fist, and gently stroked with a feather or hand until she begins to submit to such treatment. [...] Sometimes all does not go well, and she must be brought to her bearings by fatigue. [...] No one has ever better described the process than Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew:

Another way I have to man my haggard,

To make her come and know her keeper's call

That is, to watch her, as we watch these kites

That bate and beat and will not be obedient.

She ate no meat today, nor none shall eat;

Last night she slept not, nor tonight she shall not.

(4 1 180-5)

The man who undertakes the task of taming a haggard must make up his mind to sacrifice a good deal of his night's rest in the early stages of the progress. Should all go well, however, in a few weeks our hawk will display no fear of men or dogs, even when bareheaded in the open air. A pair of bells of shrill tones will have been attached to her legs in anticipation of the day when she shall first be flown at quarry, and perchance bring it to the ground amid thick covert, where she might long be searched for unsuccessfully without the aid of the bells. (ibid)

As the ox hath his bow sir, the horse his curb, and

the falcon her bells, so man hath his desires

(AYL 3 3 71-2)


With trembling fear, as fowl hear falcon's bells.

(LUC 510)

But great care will be taken by the falconer that his hawk is in the pink of condition.

In Richard II, Shakespeare refers to the method used by falconers to repair broken feathers, a method called imping:

If then we shall shake off our slavish yoke,

Imp out our drooping country's broken wing,

(2 1 291-2)

[Should] any untoward mishap occur, and the falcon [would] feel inclined to revert to her ancient independence rather than keep her attention fixed on the lure and on that alone. That excellent falconer Petruchio bore this well in mind when he said:

My falcon now is sharp and passing empty,

And till she stoop she must not be full-gorg'd,

For then she never looks upon her lure.

(SHR 4 1 177-9)

(ibid), (for "lure" see HAWKS and FALCONS)

We can see how Gerald LASCELLES, himself a falconer, takes a great interest in what Shakespeare tells us so accurately about falconry in his time. However Shakespeare did not choose to include falconry in its poetry as a testimony of his time, but as a means to communicate more forcibly the ideas he develops. Thus in Petruchio 's soliloquy, which is central to The Taming of the Shrew, the falconry metaphor sets the tone, that of an aristocratic game.