Animal Symbolism in Shakespeare's Hamlet: The Imagery of Sex Nausea
In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:
In the plays which Shakespeare wrote after completing his series of romantic comedies culminating in Twelfth Night, he treated the theme of love satirically and tragically. The new series of sombre dramas. including Troilus and Cressida, Measure of Measure, Othello, and King Lear, begins with Hamlet. In all of these, the plot elements, laying bare the darker side of humanity, are highlighted by the use of animal and bird imagery suggestive of cruelty, greed, and especially lust. There is Lucio's characterization of Angelo as being so chaste that "Sparrows must not build in his house-eaves because they are lecherous" (Measure for Measure III.ii.175-76); Iago's innuendo that the allegedly adulterous lovers are "as prime as goats" (Othello III.iii.403); and Lear's denunciation of seemingly virtuous women who in reality are given to "luxury"-"The fitchew nor the soiled horse goes to't/ With a more riotous appetite" (Lear IV.vi.117-23).1 This kind of imagery in Hamlet may not be as obtrusive as it is in some of the other plays, but thematically it is just as significant.
Wentersdorf, Karl P.
"Animal Symbolism in Shakespeare's Hamlet: The Imagery of Sex Nausea,"
Comparative Drama: Vol. 17
, Article 4.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/compdr/vol17/iss4/4