The Book of Falconry or Hawking by George Turberville, 1575


In Shakespeare’s day, falconry and hawking were elite, expensive sports pursued by the upper classes. This beautifully illustrated manual, aimed at ‘Noblemen and Gentlemen’, offers advice on how to train hawks and conduct oneself in exclusive hunting circles.

The gendered language of falconry

Turberville makes fascinating use of strongly gendered language to describe the process of training birds, especially female hawks or ‘haggards’. In his instructions on how to ‘make a Falcon’ fly (pp. 79–80) and how to ‘make flight for a Haggard’ (pp. 151–52), the relationship between man and hawk seems based on subordination, but also the need for ‘care’ and ‘cherishing’ to make her do his will (p. 152).

The (male) human tames the wild (female) hawk by ‘hooding’ her and controlling her food. But he should ‘use hir gently’ to ensure she is ‘better manned’ (pp. 79, 128) – a term which makes taming seem masculine. However, Turberville also warns of the haggard’s rebellious power. Without careful treatment ‘she will not long be at your commaundement, but make you follow hir’ (p. 152).

The Taming of the Shrew

In Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of the Shew, men use animal terms to dehumanise women by comparing them to shrews, haggards and wild-cats. Petruchio employs the elite language of falconry to describe his taming methods, suggesting his dominant status, both in terms of social class and gender. He says he will ‘man’ his ‘haggard’ (4.1.193) by restricting Kate’s food and sleep, but insists ‘all this is reverend care of her’ (4.1.204). As a metaphor for marriage, falconry conveys the tension between respect and ruthless mastery.

Yet the falcon’s – and the woman’s – power is not fully suppressed by Shakespeare. Petruchio’s success is contrasted with Hortensio’s failure to win Bianca, ‘this proud disdainful haggard’ (4.2.39). Moreover, in John Fletcher’s play, The Woman’s Prize, or The Tamer Tamed (c. 1611), a comic sequel to Shakespeare’s, Petruchio’s new wife Maria proclaims herself a ‘free haggard’ (1.2.150).

Who was George Turberville?

George Turberville (1543?–c. 1597) was part of an established family with a long history in Dorset – they appear in Thomas Hardy’s famous novel, Tess of the D'Urbervilles. But because George was the fifth son, he didn’t inherit the family fortune and had to support himself financially. The Booke of Faulconrie or Hauking was perhaps compiled with the hope of securing noble patronage to fund Turberville’s other work as a poet and translator.

The Booke of Faulconrie is usually bound with The Noble Arte of Venerie or Hunting (1575), which was previously thought to be by Turberville, but is actually by George Gascoigne.

Full title:
The Booke of Faulconrie or Hauking, for the onely delight and pleasure of all Noblemen & Gentlemen: Collected out of the best aucthors as well Italians as Frenchmen, and some English practices withall concerning Faulconrie
1575, London
Book / Quarto / Woodcut / Illustration / Image
George Turberville
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
G.2372 (1.).

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Comedy in The Taming of the Shrew

Article by:
Penny Gay

Penny Gay investigates how The Taming of the Shrew both draws on and challenges comic conventions.

The Rover: An introduction

Article by:
Elaine Hobby
Gender and sexuality, Theatre and entertainment, Satire and humour, Politics and religion

Aphra Behn's The Rover engages with the social, political and sexual conditions of the 17th century, as well as with theatrical traditions of carnival and misrule. Elaine Hobby introduces Behn's play and explores how it was first performed and received.

Power and gender in The Taming of the Shrew

Article by:
Rachel De Wachter
Comedies, Gender, sexuality, courtship and marriage, Power, politics and religion

Does The Taming of the Shrew advocate sexual inequality or does it show and critique men’s attempts to subordinate women? Rachel De Wachter discusses how we should think about relations between the sexes in the play, and examines how writers, directors and actors have explored this question over the past four centuries.

Related collection items

Related works

The Taming of the Shrew

Created by: William Shakespeare

The Taming of the Shrew is thought to have been written between 1590 and 1592. It is a popular comedy, though its ...