The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

April 26, 2016

April 26, 1564

April 26, 1564 is the date on which William Shakespeare was christened. Just a few years earlier Queen Elizabeth I had assumed the English throne (1558).

We look now at one of his not infrequent cat references. In The Merchant of Venice Shylock says:

....[T]here is no firm reason to be rendered
Why he cannot abide ....
...a harmless necessary cat.

This may sound like a lukewarm endorsement of felines. In fact if you know much about the England of that era, it is clear Shakespeare's words come from a space of a love of cats. At Elizabeth's coronation part of the festivities included torturing cats; their cries were said to be the sound of the Roman Catholic Pope being admitted to hell. This was the background of normalcy against which we must measure Shakespeare's description.

And while we set the record straight: People who carry on about who wrote the plays we ascribe to Shakespeare base their arguments on an oversimplified view of human nature. One typical argument says since Shakespeare never apparently traveled to Italy, how were his scenes set there so authentic. What these writers miss is the very nature of genius. It cannot be explained by speaking in many languages, or seeing many countries. About genius, "there is no firm reason to be rendered."

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