William Shakespeare and dogs

Narrated from: Curious Dog Facts

William Shakespeare is one of the greatest poets and playwrights in human history.

And of course, dogs are present in his world-famous plays – though usually just metaphorically. While the word “dog” is used 151 times in Shakespeare’s works, there is only a single dog that makes an actual appearance – Crab.

Crab – the Shakespearean dog – makes two cameo appearances in the comedy “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”. He is described as large (“a dog as big as ten of yours”), lethargic (“he is a stone, a very pebble stone”), leashed (“he that’s tied here, Crab my dog”), and comes in the company of his master – Launce.

Still, only one dog in 38 plays? And a dog with the name of “Crab” – some people believe that Crab only got a name as part of an elaborate joke with the nature of human language!

The sad truth is that the great poet was probably not very fond of dogs.

The main argument seems to be that in many of his plays the villains are compared to dogs. Upon his death the infamous Richard of Gloucester is called “bloody dog” by his enemies, the two villainous sisters in the play King Lear are called "dog-hearted daughters", and so on. In fact, it seems that in many of his plays dogs are used only to illustrate vileness and bestiality.

However, we dog-lovers should not be quick to judge the great poet. He lived in times much different than ours – and his plays are a product of this time. The people of earlier times often treated dogs as something far less than human – the exception being members of the nobility of course, who would often treat their prized dogs much better that their people!

If you look into our present day language, you will notice some expressions (like the infamous “son of a bitch”) which are a remnant of these times when people viewed dogs as something vile and corrupt.

To summarize – if he lived nowadays, William Shakespeare probably wouldn’t have described dogs as villainous.

If you favor this theory, then you will probably like to hear about a modern book, taking an alternative view of the past. This book, entitled “Shakespeare’s Dog”, in fact tells a story about William Shakespeare from the viewpoint of his very own, though fictional, canine – Hooker!

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