Robin Erithacus rubecula, Rouge-gorge familier.

3 occurrences (1 ruddock, 1 robin-redbreast, 1 redbreast)

In the past the Robin followed the rooting wild boar to benefit from its digging. Now it sees the human gardener as a rather poor substitute. CHAUCER wrote about "The tame rodok" in The Parlement of Foulys,(l. 349) and judging from the numerous representations found everywhere, from mugs and plates to napkins, it is the elected bird of the English country life.

The Robin has long been endowed with the power to look after the dead, an idea associated with the superstition that bad luck comes to the one who harms or kills a Robin. GOODFELLOW in Shakespeare's Birds (1983), quotes the well-known nursery rhyme, Who Killed Cock Robin. This privileged relationship with the dead is found in Cymbeline in the speech by Arviragus upon what he thought was Fidele-Imogen's death. THOMAS (p. 74) reports among beliefs concerning animals that "robins would bury dead persons with moss and leaves".

With fairest flowers

Whilst summer lasts, and I live here, Fidele,

I'll sweeten thy sad grave.:thou shalt not lack

The flower that's like thy face, pale primrose, nor

The azured harebell, like thy veins, no, nor

The leaf of eglantine, whom not to slander,

Outsweetened not thy breath: the ruddock would

With charitable bill (O bill sore shaming

Those rich-left heirs, that let their fathers lie

Without a monument!) bring thee all this;

Yea, and furr'd moss besides. When flowers are none,

To winter-ground thy corpse -

(4 2 218-29, emphasis added)

In The Two Gentlemen of Verona, when Valentine asks Speed "how know you that I am in love?" (2 1 16), he replies "Marry, by these special marks: first, you have learned (like Sir Proteus) to wreathe your arms like a malcontent; to relish a love-song, like a robin-redbreast ..." (2 1 17-9), like a female robin courted by a singing male as is the custom among birds.

About the "red-breast teacher" HARTING suggests that "the allusion may be to the "recorder", a sort of flute by which instrument birds were taught to sing" (p. 142).


Come, sing.


I will not sing.


'Tis the next way to turn tailor, or be red-breast teacher.

(1H4 3 1 252-3)

The "recorder" is found in two other plays: Hamlet: "Ah ha! Come, some music, come, the recorders." (3 2 285) and Midsummer Night's Dream: "Indeed, he hath played on this prologue like a child on a recorder" (5 1 122-3 p).