The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0290 Friday, 14 February 2003
Date: Friday, 14 Feb 2003 11:50:24 -0000
Subject: Shakespeare's Dogs
I am currently directing a production of The Taming of the Shrew, and a
couple of years ago I directed The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Last night, I was watching the performance of IV.3 from the wings (this
is the scene where Petruchio brings in food, but prevents Katherine from
reaching it while Hortensio does the eating). During rehearsals, my
assistant director's dog, an Irish water-spaniel, did a good job of
clearing up the mess after this scene, and it occurred to me that, while
we get a lot of laughs at Hortensio's efforts to dispose of the food
with sufficient speed, having the dog on the stage to help at this point
could have been even more comedic.
This set me thinking, and I recalled that some of the lines I have cut
in the play are Petruchio's in IV.1:
'Where's my spaniel Troilus? Sirrah, get you hence,
And bid my cousin Ferdinand come hither.'
I have always assumed these to be colour, particularly because Ferdinand
never appears, (all the editions I have assume this as well) and that's
partly why they are cut in this production. But Shrew and Two Gentlemen
were written fairly close to each other, and of course the latter does
have a dog on stage. Crab is never explicitly identified as any type of
dog, as far as I can tell, but Launce does describe his mistress as
having 'more qualities than a water-spaniel', so it seems possible to
me, at least hypothetically, that Shakespeare had available to him a
spaniel of some sort that could be trusted to provide a comic
performance in both these plays.
Does anyone on this list know
a) is there much evidence of use and training of animals in Elizabethan
theatre in general?
b) is there anything to support my idea of a dog in the Shrew, or in
other of Shakespeare's plays?
c) has a dog been used in a modern production of the Shrew, and to what
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