Possibly the White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla, Pygargue à queue blanche.

8 occurrences (6 vulture, 2 vultures)

The vulture is mainly used by Shakespeare in relation to the Promethean myth, where "Prometheus tied to Caucasus" (TIT 2 1 17) has his immortal liver eaten endlessly by an eagle, and not a vulture which does not prey on living animals. The confusion in this myth between the vulture and the eagle must come from the translations of the earlier versions from the Greek and Latin.

If Shakesperare, while writing these lines, was thinking about a bird he may have encountered, or which his contemporaries were familiar with, the only hypothesis, as with the Griffin (see GRIFFIN), is the White-tailed Eagle. It is the largest bird of prey to be found on the British Isles. For the most part, it lives on carrion and is sometimes called the Sea Eagle as it scavenges mainly along the coast. Once abundant, the last wild British pair bred on the Isle of Skye in Scotland in 1916. Since then, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Nature Conservancy Council have organized a reintroduction program which started in 1975. A small population of about 12 pairs is now breeding successfully on the Isle of Rhum.

A very powerful evocation of this large bird of prey, whatever its name, is found in the Merry Wives of Windsor (1 3 81) "Let vultures gripe thy guts," not only vulture is in the plural, but the verb used by Shakespeare is "gripe" which was also a name for the Griffin.

The reference to the Promethean myth is an opportunity for Shakespeare to explore different levels of intertextuality; from a direct reference - "Let vultures vile seize on his lungs also!" (2H4 5 3 135), to a more figurative use, applied to the individual: "To ease the gnawing vulture of thy mind" (TIT 5 2 31), and then to society: "Thus, while the vulture of sedition" (1H6 4 3 47). This classic Tudor preoccupation with civil unrest was already alluded to in the previous act:

Civil dissension is a viperous worm

That gnaws the bowels of the commonwealth.

(3 1 72-3)

The same image has then been used before, the shadow of the vulture has already flown over the audience.