Monday, 20 June 2016

Stars and dog-stars?

This is the season when Gemini the Twins gives way to Cancer the Crab in the heavens.  But it was probably a terrestrial crab the Victorian star, Ellen Terry was thinking of when she wrote in her Memoirs :
"Progress on the stage is often crablike, and little  parts, big parts, and no parts at all must be accepted as 'all in a day's work'. "

Did she also have a fleeting thought for The Two Gentleman of Verona, Shakespeare's early play about love and fidelity?  In it Launce, the comic servant is upstaged by his badly-behaved mutt, Crab the dog.

Launce teaching his Dog 18th century engraving,  Henry W. Bunbury, 
© Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco

"When a man's servant shall play the cur with him, look you, it goes hard; one that I brought up of a puppy; one that I saved from drowning when three or four of his blind brothers and sisters went to it. I have taught him, even as one would say precisely, 'Thus would I teach a dog.'   I was sent to deliver him as a present to Mistress Silvia from my master, and I came no sooner into the dining-chamber but he steps me to her trencher and steals her capon's leg. O! tis a foul thing when a cur cannot keep himself in all companies."   But worse is to come:

"He thrusts me himself into the company of three or four gentleman-like dogs under the duke's table: he had not been there -- bless the mark---a pissing-while, but all the chamber smelt him.  Out with the dog!

. …Nay, I'll be sworn, I have sat in the stocks for puddings he hath stolen, …I have stood on the pillory for geese he hath killed,…. thou thinkest not of this now.  Nay, I remember the trick you served me when I took my leave of Madam Silvia: did not I bid thee still mark me and do as I do?  When didst thou see me heave up my leg and make water against a gentlewoman's farthingale?  Didst thou ever see me do such a trick?"

Two Gentlemen of Verona  Act IV, sc. 4.  

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