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Animals in Shakespeare

             Shakespeare is the master of transformation. In his many plays he uses animal comparisons in his character portrayals to enhance their traits and to show how humans are part of the natural world. This dehumanization is humbling and effectively serves to show that although we may be humans we are not above fault. Man has long appraised and portrayed his own character by means of comparison with animals, as we have seen in Aesop's fables and Ovid's Metamorphoses. Shakespeare realized the entertainment value of using animal references in his plays and he was a master at weaving these comparisons into the personalities and objectives of his many characters. .
             A character will commonly begin a play as one persona. However, by the end of the play the character will have gone through a transformation involving the personification of one or more animals. There are lessons that the characters must learn, and by going through these changes they are allowed to achieve a metamorphosis. Shakespeare often chose which animal would depict which character by their physical traits, for if a woman were timid and graceful she might be compared to a deer and if a man were heavy with a loud voice he would be compared to a lion or a bull. These reasons for comparisons are obvious; however Shakespeare's reasons for casting characters in this manner were not always apparent. For example, he mostly used the comparison of dog' to denote a repulsive creature. His opinion of them seems to be contemptuous, however an exception to this lies in the Taming of the Shrew where the nobleman has great love for his hunting gods: "Huntsman, I charge thee, tender well my hounds I would not lose the dog for twenty pound- (Induction 1 lines 14-19). Therefore, we can not always rely on stereotypes when deciphering Shakespeare's use of animal analogies.
             Shakespeare was a devoted fan of Ovid's Metamorphoses and evidence of this work can be found throughout most of Shakespeare's plays.

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