Monday 26 May 2014

Shakespeare Writes About Cats

Is this the only time Shakespeare mentions the cat in his works? Quite possibly, but I don't believe so...more to follow perhaps.

The Rape of Lucrece (1594) is a poem by William Shakespeare about Lucretia.

This is a quote from two lines in this narrative poem:
Yet, foul night-working cat, he doth but dally,
While in his hold-fast foot the weak mouse panteth:
He portrays the domestic and stray cat as a tormentor. He seems to dislike the domestic cat because he uses the word "foul". He portrays the cat as a night stalking, sinister creature although I presume the lines are referring to a person. That is my impression.

We read a lot about the possibility that Shakespeare is not the true author of works attributed to him. So perhaps Shakespeare liked cats! On this account he did not.

In the days of the late 1500s the domestic cat was less domestic and more a community cat. There were probably many sick stray cats on the streets looking mangy. Sad days for the cat. This may have made it harder to warm to the cat of Shakespearian times.

There were still many cat lovers of that time. 200 year later Dr Johnson loved his cat Hodge.

Update: some more Shakespeare on cats:

My thoughts on the above quote from Lucrece is supported by this line from Cymbeline:
In killing creatures vile, as cats and dogs.
Merchant of Venice:
Slow in profit, and he sleeps by day
More than the wild cat
This is interesting as he knew that wild cats slept a lot and he seems to be describing a lazy person but I am told he is comparing wild and domestic cats (it does not seem like that to me though). The wild cat is not lazy but efficient and therefore does not need to work all day. The time spent hunting prey is relatively short.

King Henry The Fourth
I am as vigilant as a cat to steal cream (Falstaff)
Cats don't steal! But cats like cream because it contains fat and fat is a good source of energy.

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