(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The current action of Shakespeare’s Dog, a novel narrated in a robust simulated Elizabethan idiom by Hooker, William Shakespeare’s dog, takes place on a single day, the day Hooker and his master are forced to flee their home in Stratford-upon-Avon, pursued by Forest Regarders. Before the novel begins, Hooker has killed one of Sir Thomas Lucy’s prize deer at Chalfont Wood, near Stratford. The Regarders, in particular Black Shag, are tracking him down, intending to punish him either by crippling or by killing him. Early in the novel, Hooker learns of their intention and spends a most uncomfortable day avoiding the Regarders.

On this day as well, as Hooker relates, his master’s constant squabbling with his wife, Anne, over his obsessive wish to leave Stratford for London, where he hopes to realize his artistic dreams, comes to a head. Anne wants him to stay in Stratford and take up gainful employment. Shakespeare, however, has never behaved responsibly as husband and father. An artist oblivious to mundane problems, he locks himself in his “shuttered scribbler’s room” writing poems. He leaves domestic problems to his wife and his father, John, in whose crowded home he and his family live. Over the years, his vision of an artistic life in London has constantly receded, first because of his hasty marriage and then because of the births of his three children. He believes that he must act now and resolves to leave Stratford despite his wife’s railing.

At the end of the novel, Hooker is awakened in the middle of the night by an anxious Shakespeare household, who expect Black Shag and the Regarders to come after Hooker at any time. Hooker and...

(The entire section is 687 words.)