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Monday, 4 May 2009

Good Company

File:Wriothesley southampton.jpg

Henry Wriothesley, third
Earl of Southampton, friend
and patron to Shakespeare,
imprisoned for his role in
the Essex rebellion, was
in his time of great need
kept company by his cat
Trixie, and a happier man
by far for it he was at that.

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southhampton
: John de Critz the Elder, c. 1601-03 (Boughton House)


Zephirine said...

And Trixie was clearly a puss of some personality, if the portrait is to be believed.

TC/BTP said...

Yes, the furious fixity of her gaze almost makes up for the apparent mild self satisfaction, despite injury and incarceration, in that of her human companion.

Anonymous said...

I wonder whether Willy liked cats too...

TC said...

Well, in The Merchant of Venice, Shylock, explaining why he wishes to have a pound of flesh taken from Antonio's heart, and that he has no good reason for wanting it, points out there are many irrational human feelings, for example the irrational dislike of felines. What good reason could there be, he asks rhetorically, for disliking "A harmless necessary cat..."? (IV, i, 55) "So can I give no reason, nor will I not,/More than a lodged hate and a certain loathing..."

Shakespeare would seem to be saying that cats are useful and necessary animals, so that even if one lacks a sentimental attachment to them, there are practical reasons why they should be tolerated. But humans are deeply irrational creatures, whose fears and phobias have no practical basis. To hate cats or want a pound of Antonio's heart--that's just the way some people are.