The Felinidian Theory

As someone who has spent most of her life interested in Shakespeare and Shakespearean biography, I’ve pursued all the off-beat theories about who wrote Shakespeare. And I have to tell you, all of them were, to my mind, nothing and I remained a convinced Staffordian.

Take for instance the Oxfordians. Some people I respect and a good number of the science fiction community are Oxfordians. Which is plain insanity born of not knowing a heck of a lot about Elizabethan times, and therefore attach overmuch importance to the fact Shakespeare spelled his name many different ways, or the fact that he’s “elusive in records.” In point of fact, for records of that era, he’s one of the people whose lives are best documented. When writing the magical Shakespeare trilogy, I made great use of a site (I’m too lazy to see if it’s still up) which tracked Shakespeare day by day by documentation, and was searchable. Also if you know history of literature, you know the earl of Oxford could not have written those plays. Okay, perhaps you don’t know it, because you are not a writer. Oxford was impaired by an excellent education. His own work shows that every step of the way. I understand, because I too had an excellent education, and it took me year, as well as a lot of work to get to where I didn’t default to it as a matter of course. It’s a subconscious habit, trained early. Oxford would have defaulted to erudition, no matter how much he tried to hide it.

Only the need to earn a living finally broke me of such habits. But of course, Oxford had no such need.

The other hypothesis for the authorship of the plays are even more outre. The most laughable is probably that Elizabeth I wrote them (she presumably knew where Scotland was, and wouldn’t make the other various ridiculous mistakes the bard did — as an hack to another, often under the pressure of deadlines, I get you, brother.) In addition there are good chances she was busy with that Queening thing.

And then there are the utterly bizarre left-field theories such as that Antonio Jose da Silva faked his death and went to England to write Shakespeare. Look, I won’t even object to the idea that at that time and place for a Jew jumping from Portugal to England might be jumping from the fire into the frying pan — depending on the year — but seriously? His plays were more like Oxford’s work, the product of an excellent education. There was so little blood on stage, and so many messengers bringing distressing news it might as well have been a way station for messengers.

So until recently, and despite the hundreds of Shakespearean biography works I remained a convinced Stratfordian. I still am in a way, as I don’t think any one person other than Good Old Will Waggstaff wrote those plays.

However, recently some evidence has come to light, after centuries of hiding and obfuscation. It is not conclusive, of course, but I daresay it is a convincing theory, and one that will probably keep Shakespearean biography students hopping for the next century or so.

The evidence in itself is not much: a blotted manuscript for Romeo and Juliet, with plentiful of cat prints upon it and a notation on the margin “Bugger me if I sample my master’s ale again. Look how I’ve stepped all over this play.”

Then there are, carved in a piece of wood believed salvaged from the tables of the Mermaid Alehouse in Cheapside, the notations “Kit Marlowe is nothing but a cat.” And “And neither is Will Shakespeare.”

There are other bits and pieces, including a pen and ink portrait of two cats, one a light colored and one a dark, sitting on the stage of the theater and labeled Fair Youth and Dark Lady. There are upon the paws of the fair cat what looks suspiciously like dark ink stains.

Then there is the recently recovered missive from Robert Greene, playwright of the time, who was known to have a strong hatred for both Shakespeare and Marlowe and which refers at some length to the Fair Youth, that mangy cat of Marlowe’s which Shakestaff inheritted, and which taught Shakespeare’s cat to write plays. And how between the two of them they made a worthless poet a noted playwright.

Based on all this, I feel confident in putting forth the idea that indeed the works of Shakespeare were written by — two — cats. Well, except the sonnets and his long-form poems of course.

Also, I think we can fairly now assume that the sonnets refer in fact to the cats, forever dethroning the various competitors for Shakespeare’s mysterious lovers. In fact the personalities and disdain and all the varying affections would long since have made us see these were cats, were we not so willfully blind.

It explains also why Shakespeare’s early plays show signs of Kit Marlowe’s style, before it was tempered by Dark Lady’s more elaborate and less sanguinary pen.

But more than that, honestly, examine the relationships and events in the plays, and you’ll find they were obviously written by cats, since cats have always had more interesting lives than humans. This also explains why no human has been able to equal Mr. Shakespeare’s brilliance.

Note that not only does the Taming of the Shrew make a lot more sense, if you consider it an accounting of how cats tamed humans, but also Twelfth Night makes perfect sense: since humans of either sex look the same to cats, and humans are notoriously bad at sexing cats, a cat would presume humans just have trouble telling these things. And honestly, what is more cat like than the way the Elves in Midsummer Night’s Dream play with humans? As for Romeo and Juliet, both caterwauling beneath your beloved’s balcony and playing dead are cat’s favorites.

I will leave for someone with more time and patience — and who is not at the moment running a fever — to find the I’m sure inexhaustible supply of textual clues in the plays. For now, I’ll just leave you with a very few.

Take this quote from All’s Well, which clearly implies that cats and their owners are to some measure interchangeable “Here is a purr of fortune’s, sir, or of fortune’s cat”

Or this line from the same play: “For this description of thine honesty? A pox upon
him for me, he’s more and more a cat.”

And from As you like it, act III, scene 2:

“Let him seek out Rosalinde.
If the cat will after kind,
So be sure will Rosalinde.”

Henry IV, act III, scene 1, again posits the interchangeability of cats and humans:


Why, so it would have done at the same season, if
your mother’s cat had but kittened, though yourself
had never been born.

From Two Gentlemen of Verona, the same cat-man confusion:

my mother weeping, my father
wailing, my sister crying, our maid howling, our cat
wringing her hands, and all our house in a great
perplexity, yet did not this cruel-hearted cur shed
one tear:

Now while this hypothesis must seem far fetched, consider Will Shakespeare, waking, jug-bitten and feeling the effects of a night of drinking, to find full plays written. He probably didn’t even know that his cats wrote it. He probably assumed that the genius was in the pots of ale consumed the night before.

And while the idea of a cat handling the quill might seem far fetched, we have some indication that the cats of the time were very different and perhaps more dexterous than ours. Consider the Earl of Southampton’s cat visiting him nightly in the tower through his imprisonment there.

It’s time and more than time we cease our speciist views of the whole affair. Kit Marlowe and William Shakespeare where it pertains to the authorship of the plays were ultimately cats.

And perhaps, lords and ladies, so are you and I.

In atonement of my long years of blindness I now withdraw to finish my masterwork:

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are cats!

[Exits stage left — probably not pursued by a bear — to consume caffeine and ibuprofen, for the lack of which so far, you must thank for this post.]

140 thoughts on “The Felinidian Theory

  1. I must disagree, for the very reason you dismiss the Oxfordians: The cat in the portrait is far too well dressed.

    1. I don’t know about convincing in an absolute sense. It is, however, more convincing than any Shakespeare alternate author theory that postulates a human. And I say that as someone who is definitely NOT a cat person.

  2. My cat has sent a few text messages and one email.

    I have figured out yet the encryption, but they got sent.

  3. James Caledonia Gray, also known as the big boy with the even bigger singing voice, approves heartily of this missive. He tells me he needs a brushing, so I must go.

    (Also, don’t show this to Fiona. She’s mean.)

  4. LOL 😆

    Everybody knows that Shakespeare was the “Ghost Writer” for a Dragon. [Big Dragon Grin]

  5. Come on. It’s well known that an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters banged out the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Where the infinite number of monkeys came from is a whole other issue.

      1. What I want to know is…

        When that infinite number of monkeys was banging on an infinite number of typewriters…

        What poor schmuck got tasked with replacing the ribbons?

        1. Well that’s simple enough, you go to the infinite stockroom where there are an infinite number of typwriter ribbons (hopefully in the right sizes). You take 1/2 of them (which is itself infinity as infinity/2 = infinity) and 1/2 of the infinite stock clerks and have them install the new ribbons. So its an infinite number of poor schmucks, but the time they need to perform the task is finite. Of course this could all be solved by using infinite length ribbons.

    1. Where the infinite number of monkeys came from is a whole other issue.

      It’s easy! All you need is:

      1. A multiverse

      2. A machine that lets you squish together parts of the timeline and extract the resulting product.

        1. In most cases Mr. Houst the crap would be offended. At least it con be used as a fertilizer after denaturing/aging a bit…

        2. True, but the act of compressing all of Congress would clearly yield a situation better than prior to said compression.

    2. I’ll give you the Shakespeare. But as to some of this more recent stuff… maybe you used too many monkeys!

      1. Shakespeare found the manuscript and decided to take credit for it by writing it out by hand . . .

      2. But can said 16th century typewriter kern and use proportional fonts? I have a newsman here that wants to know.

          1. I have 4 currant bushes in my yard planted in order of red black red black, just so that when people ask me what type of currants I have, I can say “alternating”.

            1. I so want to do that now.

              I also don’t want my wife to kill me for having done it.

              Tough decision.

              1. What is she, a fanatic Edisonist? Everybody else knows alternating currants are more versatile, with lower losses in distribution.

  6. So, Shakespeare is to playwrights what the Turk is to Chess Players: just a costume for a capable individual of other form to wear while demonstrating supreme capability in the chosen field. Interesting…

    (The Turk was a chess-playing automaton that toured much of Europe and North America for over half a century. It defeated most of its opponents. However in practice there was always a tame chess master hidden underneath the mechanism who actually played the games.)

    1. Argle bargle and a gasoline gargle.
      WP(DE) is doing it to me againsky.
      This, hopefully, will include the followup which I have attempted top make multiple (n>3) times now, though sans this preface:

      Kemal Turk?

    2. Alright, I’ve attempt n>4 time now, including once with a MUCH longer preamble.

      Let’s see is THIS get though, with the mangling.

      K/e/m/a/l T/u/r/k?

      1. No, it isn’t a specific person with the surname ‘Turk’, but a supposed automaton known as ‘The Turk’.

      1. Also tried. Also vanished. As if he never existed.

        BTW, anyone else get banned from commenting on City Journal? I now have that honor, for reasons unknown.

      1. I don’t know about thumbs. But the two kittens are pull things out of drawers. Easy sliding drawers they open and get what they want. They remember where they found things.

        Once they have their shiny new toy. It gets carted over to someone’s shoe, where they drop it, and proceed to dig it out. Repeat. Now what have they discovered? A big bowl to drop things in … and leave them there, because the toy is now soaking wet. Yep. Put. Down. The. Lids. People!

        Good thing kittens, even almost grown ones, are so adorable.

          1. New kitty shenanigans. I go out to garage to get a case of soda, storage on a shelf. Under said shelf is the containers where kitty litter is stored, lidded, but not sealed (because the last time I got bagged litter, they decided the noise the bags made were *fun*). One of the lids is open and no longer contained fresh clean kitty litter. One of the two adolescents figured it out how to pry the lid open. Sigh. Not like they don’t have access to one of 3 boxes, that are in the house, when they are playing in the garage. If they are in the garage, the door into the house is closed just enough to keep the dog from going into the garage (prevents her from grabbing their *toys*). I took an older box we weren’t using, now they have one in the garage too.

      1. I feel safe saying this here: I’m certain they already have opposable thumbs, but like Little Ida’s Flowers, only come out and use them at night.

    1. >> “especially if it is true that some cats have developed opposable thumbs.”

      I’ve never had one myself, but they apparently exist. A singer/anarchist named Leslie Fish is even breeding them to make them more intelligent. I’m disappointed she didn’t succeed last year, as I had “polydactyl cats achieve sapience” on my 2020 bingo card and came this close to winning.

      …And now that I think of it, who did win 2020 bingo, anyway?

      1. Drunk or trolling. We all know that cats consider humans to be three things: past staff, current staff, and future staff.

  7. Brows Held High had a wonderful takedown of the Oxfordian ideas, by applying the same logic anti-Straffordians use to the movie “Independence Day.”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3uYipLshD4 at 10:18

    We have a text called “Independence Day.” It is the story of an American president, an IT expert specializing in satellite technology, and an Air Force fighter pilot who hail from America’s three most powerful cities: political capital Washington, financial capital New York, and cultural capital Los Angeles. Cities that are destroyed when an invading alien force booms them until there is no more anything. Working together, the president, the engineer, and the pilot successfully destroy the aliens in a multi-pronged attack on their forces. Since everything about this work’s creator “RoLAND EmMERich” has been lost to the ages, we can only speculate about his nature through the work itself.
    The focus is on America. We only see American cities get destroyed, and it relies heavily on reductive stereotyping to illustrate the rest of the world. And the ideological basis of the film is the lore surrounding the American holiday of Independence Day. Therefore, the director must be an American who has never been outside of the country.
    The writer has access to some very high levels of governments. Otherwise, how could he have known about Area 51, let alone the inner workings of American government. We can surmise that the author was in the Air Force, since both its highest paid role and the fictional president himself are fighter pilots, and it is their skills that defeat the enemy. We can also guess that for a time, he worked in telecommunications, for here, he shows his familiarity with the subject to a great extent.
    Politically, the director must be a Republican, since the film was made during the Clinton administration and he clearly wanted to make his president a war veteran, unlike the draft-dodging Clinton. He’s also clearly Jewish and quite possibly, a little homophobic. And he married a stripper, with whom he had a son and a daughter and naturally, a beloved dog. Also, he was a Mac user.
    In conclusion, I demand that this Jewish American tech-saavy Air Force general come forward with his two kids and stripper wife and a dog and his MacBook Pro and tell us why Roland Emmerich’s name is on his work!

    1. One every so minor flaw in your logic. The fighter pilot was a MARINE, not Air Force. And it is well known that Marine pilots (and Marines in general) are smarter, more skilled and sexier than Airmen of any sort.

  8. I’m pretty certain the professor who teaches Shakespeare at my former employer would find this analysis and conclusion absolutely acceptable. She shares her domicile with two to three cats at any given time.

  9. Thanks Sarah for the amusement. I was going to point out that this whole “Who wrote Shakespeare” nonsense started with a joke more than a hundred years after his death, but now I see clearly how the canon was written by cats. Particularly love your explication of the gender confusion farces. Makes perfect sense now.

    1. A joke?

      A JOKE!?

      Let me guess – next you’re going to insist that there’s not really any debate over who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb!?

      1. I suspect the author of “Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant” is buried in that tomb.

      2. Yep, a joke. Here’s the story. The first documented expression of doubt about Shakespeare’s authorship came in 1760, in a farce entitled High Life Below Stairs in which a Miss Kitty poses the question: “Who wrote Shakespeare?” The Duke responds “Ben Jonson.” Lady Bab then cries; “Oh, no! Shakespeare was written by one Mr. Finis, for I saw his name at the end of the book.”

        Actually, as you can see, at about the same level as Grant’s tomb, so you’re right on the mark.

        1. I recall watching a History Channel show with a bit of film/videotape “proving” UFOs of E-T orgin exist.
          TWENTY YEARS earlier I had seen the *same* footage… used as an example in image enhancement.
          That UFO was only from beyond earth if Cessna has been manufacturing off-planet.

  10. My cats would love this–if I dared to explain it all to them, which I don’t, because they’re already full enough of themselves and inclined to bully us badly as it is. If they got ahold of this theory, they would be truly insufferable. Still, Sarah, I think it’s fantastic!

    1. I wonder if they’re already reading over your shoulder. Or using the mirror around the corner of the door trick. No telling what they’ll do if they think you’re holding out on them.

  11. Nobody’s buried in Grant’s Tomb.
    People are buried in graves, and entombed in tombs. 😉

  12. At this point, barring massive proof, I’m willing to hold the following possible two contradictory theories in my head simultaneously-

    1-Will and Phil (Shakespeare and Marlowe) did a lot of collaborative work together and as long as they got paid, they weren’t too concerned who got the credit. And, if one was behind, the other got work done.
    2-Queen Elizabeth and William knew each other somehow, and she wrote some of the plays as either pro-Tudor propaganda or “I’ve had a shitty couple of weeks, let’s write and have Will stage a proper rollicking farce that will make me laugh from my secret box where I can see the show unfold!”

    The second makes for some very interesting plot ideas, with William perhaps being one of John Dee’s field agents and them knowing each other that way.

      1. That is what They want you to think.

        Kit Marlowe was also a noir detective, and Phillip, as Phillip’s books were written in the original Klingon, traveled back in time and got William started as a playwright.

      2. “Marlowe and Marlowe.”
        “Sounds like we should be writing plays and solving mysteries.”
        “Or both at the same time? Neither pays well, and if we do, we might actually make a decent salary.”

    1. Connie Willis did a nice one about Marlowe and Shakespeare. Rather dramatic — like a play.

  13. For some reason this reminds me of the “it’s all folk crafts!” idiocy, in which any popular craft, spread and developed because there was a *market* for it, becomes enshrined as something holy and folksy. Like “Fair Isle” knitting, which I’m particular fond of, but which was adopted by most of the knitters because people would buy it. Then one hundred years later, it’s all “tradition!”. Sure.

    I guess my point is that historical revisionism shows up in all kinds of ways, and usually happens because of the appeal to somebody-or-another’s emotions.

    1. A hundred years is a respectable amount of time. . . traditions didn’t have to arrive when we crawled from the primordial ooze.

  14. Hoo boy…

    In response to Biden calling Putin a killer during an “interview” with Stephanoupolous(sp?), Putin apparently just now challenged Biden to a live debate.

    Biden will decline, of course. Presidents don’t get into live public debates with foreign leaders even when they don’t have dementia. But it’s still an amusing thought.

    And Putin will get to strut a bit if Biden’s team doesn’t carefully handle how they refuse.

  15. I always found the debates about who was the “real” Shakespeare tiresome I’m afraid. They all seem to come down to academics not being able to accept that someone who hadn’t received an elite education could be a genius. Since the average cat is smarter than the usual academic, and I say this as a non cat person, perhaps a cat being Shakespeare is an improvement. beats the hell out of politics anyway … and of academic lit crit.

    1. Me, too – actually. What wouldn’t have prevented a creative writer, under pressure to come up with something grand to please the audience … from sidling up to various experts in various low dives in London?
      Yeah, I’m not German, male, a 19th century Texas Ranger, a lady volunteer for the Fred Harvey corporation or a WWII Army nurse … but I CAN IMAGINE ALL THOSE CHARACTERS!
      http://www.celiahayes.com/archives/970

      1. Yeah, I’m not German, male, a 19th century Texas Ranger, a lady volunteer for the Fred Harvey corporation or a WWII Army nurse … but I CAN IMAGINE ALL THOSE CHARACTERS!

        Sorry, Miss Celia, but under the current paradigm of permitted publishing that is no longer allowed.

    2. Well, the nice thing about the “Hitler wrote Shakespeare’s plays” school is that it is no crazier than the worst of academia, and the average person can see that it is not correct.

      (Winston Churchill wrote Tom Swift and Babylon 5; the suppressed ‘Tom Swift and His Electric Bleachers’ would have won the Cold War for us in 1959, except New York Publishing’s censorship.)

      1. Crap, Bob, now you’ve started me pondering the ways of in which some of the original Tom Swift novels could have easily taken the steampunk route.

        Come to think on it, there is a certain steampunk component to the Skylark novels …
        ~

        1. Tom Swift was basically a sedate light dieselpunk for kids.

          If you have any ideas inspired by Skylark, all I can do is demand that you write them.

  16. If you get the chance, watch the British comedy series, “Upstart Crow” – the Bard himself, his family, Robert Greene, Christopher Marlowe, Elizabeth I – they’re all in it. The more you know about Shakespeare and 16th century England the funnier the series is, because you’ll understand all the jokes and the asides, including running gags about Marlowe writing all the plays and the questions surrounding his death. Unfortunately, I don’t think the DVDs are available in North American format yet, but if you’ve got a universal DVD player (I get videos from family and friends in Germany so I invested in one a few years ago), you can get the full series from the UK. Definitely worth it.

      1. Here’s a short clip to whet your appetite:

        It looks to me that some (all?) episodes are watchable on YouTube. Maybe? I’m not very savvy with things cyber – thats why having physical DVDs is my default – but maybe looking around on the web will score you at least a few of the programs. I will tell you that the “Macbeth” episode was just brilliant.

  17. Next you’re going to tell us kitsune are behind kabuki theater…

    (Real kabuki, not TSA and Covidiocy performative theater, no self respecting kitsune would have anything to do with those; now that Coyote fellow has a low enough sense of humor for those.)

    1. Akshully, the Koreans and the Chinese say that fox spirits love security kabuki.

      1. Given what I know about Korean fox spirits, I wouldn’t trust a kumiho any further than I could throw her.

        (unlike kitsune and kyubi, kumiho are *always* malicious)

          1. Rom-com K-Dramas aside..

            I understand that they’re still tricky and capable of all manner of mischief like their Chinese and Japanese cousins. I don’t know if they’re always out and out ax murderers, though that’s possible (though a Kumiho wouldn’t need an ax). But the important thing is that any interaction with them *always* ends horrifically if she gets her way. A Kitsune or Kyubi can be good or bad (though they always likes mischief). A Kumiho views Daji as a role model. And her goal is always to eat the hearts of 100 humans.

  18. Ask any beatnik* and you will be advised that Shakespeare was one cool cat.

    As the above scene demonstrates, this is indubitably the thought of a cat.

    *time machine not provided; some things you will have to work out yourself.
    ~

  19. Not creative writing, but here are some scripts that may be of use to those of you with a Linux environment. They’re designed to dump slow highly compressed archive.org textbooks (which I find to be very slow to load and cumbersome to page through) to a pile of images. They can then rebind that pile of images into a new pdf that (while less compressed) loads pages much faster and can be flipped through.

    https://www.amssolarempire.com/Blog/?p=712

  20. That was absolutely delightful.

    And it’s significantly more sane than the ones about Shakespeare being some combination of Kit Marlow, John Dee, and woo.

    (I actually like the more modest version of the Oxfordian theory, where they only try to take credit for the poems. It’s not entirely convincing, but at least it’s fairly plausible. Besides, forbidden lovers posting public notes of affection using the name of a famous publicity hound is all romantical and crap. Not to mention the dry humor aspect.)

  21. You have never really read or seen Shakespeare until you experience it in the original Klingon 🙂 :

  22. Scene: the Court of Cats, shortly before midnight. A large tom of indeterminate ancestry lounges upon a large sofa cushion, an empty tin of sardines at his right paw. A smaller cat, of impeccable Siamese ancestry, faces him. The tom speaks: “Brilliant insight, for a human!”
    The Siamese: “This human has been offered the opportunity to companion a number of Your courtiers, Sire. We have found her to be an excellent supporter of Your, ahem, more eccentric liegecats”
    The King of the Cats: “Quite so, quite so. But will this insight cause us any trouble?”
    The Siamese: “I doubt it, Sire. It will be read by a circle of friends and acquaintances, most of whom have exhibited signs of loyalty to Your people for many years. Other humans will consider it a jest.”
    The King: “Good, good. We must give her a sign of Our appreciation. Send her a dead mouse, to be left on the front doorstep, or whatever location is appropriate.”
    The Siamese: “It will be done, Most Pui.ssant Meowjesty.”

    Yes, I had to do it.

    1. They knew once I was no longer in the keeping of Duke Greebo of the flashing claws, I’d go off the reservation.
      They probably need to send a replacement.

  23. OK, whatever you’ve been drinking, smoking, injecting, or otherwise imbibing, I want some.

    The Cats Theory is wonderfully zany, but you’ve lead off with a wonderful bit of insight that deserves an essay in its own right: “Okay, perhaps you don’t know it, because you are not a writer. Oxford was impaired by an excellent education.” This completely explains why most academics give excruciatingly awful presentations at conferences, as though they were literally talking to themselves as the audience.

    1. … most academics give excruciatingly awful presentations at conferences, as though they were literally talking to themselves as the audience.

      They feel compelled to demonstrate what their parents have bought for them and, lacking the intellect to simplify the complex, they invert the benefits of higher education to complexify the simple.

      Rare is the public intellectual (although Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and Victor Davis Hanson come to mind) who can resist the compulsion to demonstrate erudition in the most unsubtle manner possible.
      ~

  24. If you haven’t already, you need to read the biography of Shakespeare by Bill Bryson.

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