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Leon Rooke.

Toronto, Stoddard, c1981, 1983.
Distributed by General.
157pp, cloth, $14.95.
ISBN 0-7737-2011-1.

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by Boh Kinczyk.

Volume 11 Number 5.
1983 September.

Shakespeare's Dog is a bawdy, irreverent, and very funny novel told from the point of view of the bard's usually loyal canine friend, Hooker. Stuck in Stratford with a sluttish wife and three "snotnose children" and no prospects for advancement, young Will dreams of Londontown where even the Queen's lapdog applauds a good play. But Anne Hath-her-way will have none of it:

         It had been going on for nigh on three
         years, was Will's regular wage whenever
         he got his courage up and muttered to
         Anne, to the sky, or to me that London
         was calling him.
         "Next month, darling, after we're wed."
         "Next month, sweetheart, after Susanna's born."
         "Next month, my liefest one, after I've twinned."
         "Next month, dearest, after hog butchering's done."
         "Next month, lamb, after woodcutting, after the
         haying, after the wool's in, once the tanning's
         done, once the children are married, oh any day,
         darling, once I'm dead."

Hooker, "knowing that Stratford was not a dog's town," sides with Master Will and inadvertently creates the crisis that puts them on the road.

But Hooker does not always side with his Two Foot master. He routinely refers to the bard as "bugger," "scribbler," "priss," "sop," and "weasel." Indeed, the mongrel's complaints are numerous and sometimes rather pointed:

         The strutter knew no Latin and less Greek,
         but in these areas he smoked like a chimney
         compared to what he knew of suffering and
         misery, of the soul and its plumage, of man's
         most bloated condition.

On the other hand, dog and man seem to share many of the same insights. Hooker has nothing but contempt for the Two Foot's hogs: "Daily he did all and more than these glutted swillers ever asked for or needed, and to hear them root, squeal, and wallow you'd think the world itself revolved around their wet-holes." In the winter, though, Hooker and Master Will would

         see something very much resembling our hogs'
         great broadsides hanging gut-open from crossbeams
         erected by the pigscote, iron scalding kettles
         ablaze all around-and such jealousy as our mix
         felt heir to was knuckled right out. "Where are
         your oinks now?" I might chide these hangers as
         we trotted by their ghost pens. "Where are your
         gibes, your gambols, your fat hoggish contentments?"
         And Will, brushing hair from pig's hide over the
         boiling kettles, would look rapt, fix on us his
         sorcerer's gaze, and take pause to scribble inspiration

If solemn, unadulterated adoration is your only response to Shakespeare's greatness, you will not choose to worship at this shrine. But you'll be missing out. As someone once said, "the cat will mew, the dog will have his day."

Boh Kinczyk, Central Elgin C. I., St. Thomas, ON.
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