Friday, April 23, 2010

It's William Shakespeare's Birthday

Today is the birthday of a famous man named William Shakespeare.  He was born in 1564, which was a really long time ago, and he lived in England.  Mr. Shakespeare had a funny name that made him sound like some sort of warrior caveman.  But actually he was an actor.  And also he wrote lots of poems and plays.  Today lots of kids have to read Mr. Shakespeare's plays in school.  Some kids like doing this, but other kids think the plays are hard to read because they have words in them that nobody uses anymore.

Mom has read a bunch of Mr. Shakespeare's plays because she majored in English in college.  And this is why she remembers what day his birthday was and she made me write about him in my blog.  But the problem with Mr. Shakespeare is that we don't know much about his personal life, including whether he had any dogs or not.  In fact, we don't even know if he wrote his own plays or not.  It would be very shocking to think that someone else wrote Mr. Shakespeare's plays, but it might be the truth.

Anyway, the part about whether he had a dog or not is what I am most interested in.  While doing some in-depth research, I found out that a man named Leon Rooke wrote a book called Shakespeare's Dog.  I have not read this book, but it got a 5-star rating from two out of two readers who posted reviews on Amazon.com.  The book is about a dog named Mr. Hooker, who lived during the time when Elizabeth the First was the queen of England.  Which was the same time that William Shakespeare was around.  These two readers said the book was very good.  I asked Mom if we could buy it, but she said no, because we already have too many books that we don't have time to read.

So anyway, the fact that there is a book called Shakespeare's Dog does not really prove that William Shakespeare himself had any dogs.  Back in those days, dogs were not treated as nicely as they are now, which is very sad.  If you called someone a dog, for example, it meant you did not have a good opinion of that person.  Like, for example, in one of Mr. Shakespeare's plays, The Merchant of Venice, here is what Shylock says:  "Thou callest me a dog before thou hast cause.  But since I am a dog, beware my fangs."

Here's a quote I like better.  It's from A Midsummer Night's Dream:  "Bulldogs are adorable, with faces like toads that have been sat on.  My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind; So flew'd, so sanded; their heads are hung with ears that sweep away the morning dew..."  I looked up flews and learned that it is what you call the parts of a dog's upper lip that hang down.  Basenjis don't have droopy lips, so we don't really need to use a word like flews very much.  I'm not sure what it means to say that a dog is "sanded," but this person in the play seems to be saying that he likes bloodhound-type dogs better than smushy-faced dogs like bulldogs.

Anyway, that's the problem with Mr. Shakespeare.  He was always using words that you have to look up in the dictionary.  And also he didn't write an autobiography or give interviews to the press so that people could learn about his personal life and whether he liked dogs or not.  One thing we do know about him is that he was probably born in this house, which Mom has actually visited.

Okay, well, that's pretty much all I can tell you about a man that we don't know much about.  I just wish he had written some plays about dogs.  That would have been a really good thing to do.

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