Hunting and traps


Falconry huntingHunting was an occupation popular with the aristocracy of the time (and a personal obsession of James I) and so imagery from hunting, particularly falconry, is used in association with the nobles in the play.

Brachiano and Vittoria

In the early part of the play hunting imagery is used in reference to Brachiano's pursuit of Vittoria:

  • In Act 2 scene 1 Brachiano is compared to a ‘polecat' trying to attack ‘a dove-house'.
  • Another reference relates him to an eagle:
  • ‘Some eagles that should gaze upon the sun
    Seldom soar so high, but take their lustful ease,
    Since they from dunghill birds their prey can seize.
    You know Vittoria.'
    The implication here is that Brachiano is the base carrion bird feeding on the corrupt body of Vittoria.
  • In Act 3 scene 1 Flamineo's role in luring Vittoria earns him the image of being Brachiano's ‘stalking-horse', a decoy used in hunting to lure prey.


Later in the play Francisco's pursuit of vengeance against Brachiano and Vittoria is portrayed in terms of hunting:

  • Monticelso tells Francisco:
‘Aim like a cunning fowler, close one eye,
That you the better may your game espy.'
(Act 4 scene 1)
  • In Act 4 sc 2, when Francisco needs to lure Lodovico into his plot, he uses a comparison with falconry: ‘With empty fist no man doth falcons lure.' He is about to bribe Lodovico.


Towards the end of the play, as the conspirators close in on their prey, there is an increasing use of imagery about traps and imprisonment:

  • Flamineo reflects on his life after his conscience has been aroused by his mother's madness. He sees the life of a courtier as a trap, life at court as a luxurious prison:
‘Oft gay and honoured robes those tortures try:
 ‘We think caged birds sing, when indeed they cry.''
 (Act 5 scene 4)

In the last scene (Act 5 sc 6) there is an increasing sense that there is no escape for Flamineo and Vittoria:

  • When his sister turns on him after the ‘failed' mutual suicide, she declares that he is caught ‘In thine own engine' and he reiterates the idea that he is ‘caught with a springe' – before in turn trapping Vittoria and Zanche in their duplicity
  • When the conspirators attack, Vittoria's desperation becomes clear as she tries to appeal to Gasparo to be more merciful than Lodovico:
‘I have seen a blackbird that would sooner fly
To a man's bosom than to stay the gripe
Of the fierce sparrow-hawk.'
  • But there is no way out, as is clear when she compares her soul to a ‘ship in a black storm' that is being driven onto the rocks.

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