Who was William Shakespeare?

Today is Shakespeare Day. William Shakespeare was an English playwright and poet, born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare
From Wikipedia

Some say this man did not have the education and experiences to produce the writing attributed to him. Various names amongst the aristocracy of the day and other writers are suggested as the ‘real’ Shakespeare.

Others suggest that Shakespeare was really a woman.

I decided to see if I could sniff out the truth – bipeds so often miss what’s right under their noses! I pondered about where to begin and I thought that a very good place to start would be with his own writing.

First Folio, William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Every Star Trek fan knows that you can’t appreciate Shakespeare until you’ve read him in the original Klingon, but, as I don’t know much Klingon and there’s a lot to read, I decided to begin in English with the most interesting bits – the bits about dogs.

The first quotation to spring to mind was “Cry ‘havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war”, but I was more interested in finding dogs in normal situations so I left Julius Caesar for another day.

I picked up a copy of Macbeth as it’s such a famous play. There’s a lot of murder and mayhem amongst the bipeds. The witches are up to no good at all, they use “tongue of dog” in one of their spells! Lady Macbeth makes a speech which puzzled me. She’s apparently speaking to a stain, or spot, on her hand. I’ve seen bipeds do some very strange things, but that’s strange even for a biped!

I did a little digging and I found that some capitalisation has been lost. It made perfect sense when I realised that Spot is a name. “Out, damned Spot! Out, I say!” It is clear to me that Spot is the family dog and the speech is a clever way of showing that Lady Macbeth is the villain of the play because only a wicked villain could speak to a dog in such a heartless way!

Then I turned my attention to The Two Gentlemen of Verona and, more specifically, the character of the dog called Crab. There’s a lot of peripheral stuff about bipeds falling in love and the complications that ensue, but the most important scene of the play revolves around Crab.

Crab is at the Duke’s Court in Milan with his biped, Launce, when he makes a puddle under the table. The Duke gives orders for Crab to be beaten, without even enquiring when Crab had last been taken outside. Launce takes the blame for the puddle and gets a beating. Obviously, the Duke must be very wicked indeed and Launce goes up in our estimation. I was surprised that the part of Crab is usually played by a biped in a dog costume.

Since bipeds have stolen one part belonging to a dog I thought I should take a closer look at some of the other characters. I turned to The Merchant of Venice and, my hunch was right, I found Shylock saying, “But, since I am a dog, beware my fangs:” (Act III Scene iii).

I sniffed around and I also discovered that some of the plays have had their names changed. Here is a list.

 

Current name Original name
The Merchant of Venice The Mastiff of Venice
Macbeth – The Scottish Play MacBones – The Scotties’ Play
The Merry Wives of Windsor The Merry Weimeraners of Windsor
As You Like It As You Lick It
The Two Gentlemen of Verona The Two Gentle Dogs of Verona
A Comedy of Errors A Comedy of Bones
Much Ado About Nothing Much Ado About Bones
Winter’s Tale Winter’s Tail
King Lear King Leonberger
Pericles (Great) Pyrenees
Antony and Cleopatra Antony and Clowiepatra
Julius Caesar Joe Likes Cesar¹
Romeo and Juliet The Bonio² that Julie Ate



Notes:

¹ Cesar is a well-known dog food for small dogs

² Bonio is a bone-shaped dog biscuit (cookie) sold in Britain

These are the first known examples of product placement.


My conclusion

Some of you have probably guessed by now what I found out – Shakespeare was a dog! He was more accurately known as Will.i.dog Shake.a.stick, but all his friends at the park called him the Bark. He was born in Stratford-a-bone-haven. If the Internet had been invented sooner, he would have been the very first dog with a blog.

The painting, at the beginning of this post, generally thought to be Shakespeare cannot be verified – no surprise there! He is rumoured to be one of the group of friends in this picture.

Group of five dogs

By Unknown maker, British (photographer, Details of artist on Google Art Project) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Disclaimer: If you have stumbled across my detective work while doing research for an essay for school or college, I would advise you to stick with the accepted views offered in Wikipedia – the academic world isn’t ready for this truth yet!

See you next Wednesday!