Ostrich Struthio camelus, Autruche.
2H6 4 10 28 p but I'll make thee eat iron like an ostrich,
Tilley (I97) has many examples to give of this popular belief which originated in early scientific works, often based on Pliny. SEAGER quotes Bartholomew (Chap. 12, § 33):
The ostrich hath a body as a beast, and feathers as a fowl, and also hath two feet and a bill as a fowl. [...]; and is so hot, that it swalloweth, and digesteth and wasteth iron.
Hence, Cade in 2 Henry VI threatens Iden:
- Ah, villain, thou wilt betray me, and get a thou-
sand crowns of the King by carrying my head to him;
but I'll make thee eat iron like an ostrich, and swal-
low my sword like a great pin, ere thou and I part.
(4 10 26-9)
This natural phenomenon associated with an act of violence produces an element of violence, but even more so, one of irony, resulting from the discrepancy thus created.