Aug 18, 2014

Predatory Thanatosis and Shakespeare's Falstaff

Camouflage: Yellow Warbler

At Butlers Birds on 8/14/14  [], the blogger mentions the Eastern Pee Wee and the House Finch in connection with “predatory thanatosis,” a wonderful academic phrase that means mimicking death--yes, playing possum, or playing dead like Falstaff--Shakespeare's comic, pragmatic, lovable, execrable, drunken, cowardly, obese knight, Sir John Falstaff. (see below).

I wondered about a bird's reasons for pretending death. It's usually for safety--creating lack of interest from a predator. But some think it's possible that a bird might be trying to trick a predator or a prey into coming close enough for a surprise counterattack by the supposedly injured or dead "possum bird."And if birds don't do it, other animals do.
Eastern Wood-Peewee or Eastern Phoebe ??
I looked at a couple of additional sources on Wikipedia and found that some male spiders fake death in order to improve their chances for survival after mating with a female.The males usually die after mating, and sometimes the female eats her suitor.

So how could I fail to think of poor old Edward Lee and Sadie Bell in my last post (8/13/14). Here it is again, with the news above from the animal kingdom added for a bit of context. You’ll be forgiven if you find yourself humming “Frankie and Johnny” as you read—“Rat a tat tat, three times she shot, right through that hardwood door. He was her man, but he was doin’ her wrong.” 
Female Baltimore Oriole? Trying to be Subtle?

I hope you'll look at Wikipedia's fascinating info on predatory thanatosis, even at the risk of finding your imaginative self picturing these bird, snake, fish, spider, and human maneuvers in 3D Technicolor.

Once again from The Oakland Press, Pontiac, Michigan, July 26, 2014:

Bond revoked for Southfield woman convicted of shooting boyfriend over sexual performance.         
            Sadie Bell, 58 . . .  shot her longtime lover, Edward Lee, after he produced what she believed to be an inadequate amount of ejaculate during a sexual encounter.
            She accused Lee of cheating on her.
            Bell and Lee had been having an affair for 15 years . . . .

I don't know if Falstaff can be appreciated
outside the plays themselves (both parts of Henry IV, plus
Henry V), but his self-serving, devious
humor can be seen here, as can the high stakes underlying the banter between him and Prince Hal, who has become King Henry V:

  • Henry V. That villanous abominable misleader of youth, 1445
    Falstaff, that old white-bearded Satan.
  • Falstaff. But to say I know more harm in him than in myself,
    were to say more than I know. That he is old, the 1450
    more the pity, his white hairs do witness it; but
    that he is, saving your reverence, a whoremaster,
    that I utterly deny. If sack and sugar be a fault,
    God help the wicked! if to be old and merry be a
    sin, then many an old host that I know is damned: if 1455
    to be fat be to be hated, then Pharaoh's lean kine
    are to be loved. No, my good lord; banish Peto,
    banish Bardolph, banish Poins: but for sweet Jack
    Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff,
    valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore more valiant, 1460
    being, as he is, old Jack Falstaff, banish not him
    thy Harry's company, banish not him thy Harry's
    company: banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.

See the gator snout just above the lily pads? Good time for the immature ibis to play dead


Pasadena Adjacent said...

Not Shakespeare - this is where you and I and the rest of the literary establishment part ways. I get it...but for me he's like the white canvas in the art world is to the vast majority. Yup, shakespeare is brilliant, top of the heap and an endless source of academic study - but I go bleary eyed after three sentences.

But birding - that's my new pleasure. I went to Walmart and purchased a double hooked bird feeder, a big bag of hummingbird sugar, two feeders and a 50 pound bag of seed.

Banjo52 said...

PA, points for honesty. And there's a lot of Shakespeare that does nothing for me. Ditto opera and a lot of other classical music.

Good luck with the birds. It's been a great hobby for me, and I've learned a lot about the winged ones and other animals.

Julie Brown said...

That is really interesting behavior that I was unaware that birds engaged in.

Banjo52 said...

Julie, I think I heard the spider business way back when, but the bird info is new to me too. In my pic, can you tell if I guessed right between Peewee and Phoebe?

Stickup Artist said...

Shakespeare trips me up. I think it's the old English.
Tennessee Williams is more my speed. "Predatory Thanatosis", fascinating. And I'm going to go to get one of those hummingbird feeders.

Anonymous said...

Falstaff can be very much appreciated in Chimes at Midnight.

Ken Mac said...

On vacation?

Ken Mac said...

is there a creature in there?

Ken Mac said...

man, you on a long vaca or what?

Ken Mac said...


Lovers' Lane