What does Shakespeare say about dogs?

Answered by Jeremy Urbaniak

Shakespeare’s references to dogs in his works are predominantly negative and insulting. Throughout his plays, he uses a variety of derogatory terms to describe characters, often comparing them to dogs. These insults serve to highlight the characters’ negative traits or behavior.

One recurring insult involving dogs that Shakespeare uses is “whoreson dog.” This term appears in plays such as Cymbeline, King Lear, and Troilus and Cressida. By referring to someone as a “whoreson dog,” Shakespeare implies that they are a bastard or a despicable person.

Another insult that Shakespeare employs is “slave, soulless villain, dog,” which is found in Anthony & Cleopatra. This insult is particularly harsh, as it not only calls the person a dog but also suggests that they lack a soul and are morally corrupt.

In Henry V, Shakespeare uses the phrase “egregious dog? O viper vile!” to insult a character. Here, he combines the term “dog” with “viper,” emphasizing the person’s treacherous and deceitful nature.

The insult “cut throat dog” appears in The Merchant of Venice. This phrase implies that the person being addressed is not only a dog but also a ruthless and violent individual.

These examples demonstrate how Shakespeare uses dog-related insults to convey strong negative judgments about characters. By associating them with dogs, he suggests that they possess undesirable qualities such as dishonesty, treachery, and cruelty.

It is important to note that while Shakespeare’s references to dogs are predominantly negative, they do not reflect his overall view of dogs as animals. In fact, in some instances, dogs are depicted more positively in his plays. For example, in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, the faithful and loyal dog Crab is portrayed as a beloved companion.

Shakespeare’s references to dogs in his works are primarily insults, highlighting negative traits and behavior in characters. These insults serve to emphasize their moral shortcomings and are used as a means of negative characterization. However, it is essential to remember that these insults do not reflect Shakespeare’s overall view of dogs, as he also includes positive representations of dogs in some of his plays.