Tom Stoppard Dogg's... & Cahoot's... Summary

Tom Stoppard


(Drama for Students)

Dogg's Hamlet and Cahoot's Macbeth are two one-act plays by Tom Stoppard, which are often performed together as Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth. First published together in England in 1979, the two plays were inspired by separate sources. Dogg's Hamlet is an expanded version of two earlier, similar plays. The play is based on a section of the philosophical investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein, who explored how people use language to communicate. The play introduces an alternate language, called Dogg, which uses English words that have different meanings in Dogg. This inconsistency leads to confusion on the part of the play's characters, who try to communicate in their respective languages, English and Dogg. By the end of this first play, the English-speaking character, Easy, is speaking Dogg.

Cahoot's Macbeth, which is more political in nature, was dedicated to a Czechoslovakian playwright, Pavel Kohout. Because censorship in his country prevented public theatrical productions, Kohout wrote an abbreviated version of Shakespeare's Macbeth, which he performed in people's living rooms. Stoppard's play features a similar living-room theatre production of Macbeth, which gets broken up by an inspector, who threatens to arrest the actors and audience members for breaking the censorship rules. However, Easy, the English-speaking character from the first play, arrives and teaches the actors Dogg. When the inspector comes back a second time and catches them speaking entirely in Dogg, he cannot arrest them because he does not understand what they are saying. Both plays are united in their use of a common invented language, but they also explore how manipulations of language—a characteristic technique of Stoppard' s drama—can be used in various political and nonpolitical ways. A current copy of Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth can be found in The Real Inspector Hound and Other Plays, which was published by Grove Press in 1998.

Dogg's Hamlet

(Drama for Students)

Dogg's Hamlet begins on an empty stage when Baker, a schoolboy, says, "Here," asking another boy to throw him a football. However, since he says it in "Dogg," a language that uses English words with unconventional meanings, what he really says is "Brick.'' From this point on, most of the characters in Dogg's Hamlet speak Dogg, which, to anybody who does not know it, sounds like gibberish. For the reader, Stoppard initially provides translations from Dogg to English in brackets, but audience members have no such aid and must learn Dogg as the play goes on. Baker joins Abel on the stage, and together they test the microphone, which is dead. Charlie and Abel fight over the football, and Dogg, the headmaster, arrives and takes it from them, hitting Abel in the process.

They make idle conversation with Dogg, who tells them that a lorry, or truck, is about to arrive. Dogg leaves, and the three boys eat their lunches, then Abel and Baker start rehearsing their lines for Hamlet, the school play they are acting in later that day. The play is in English, and the boys say their lines tonelessly, as if they are speaking a foreign language they do not quite understand. The lorry-driver, Easy, arrives with the materials needed to build the stage for the school play. He speaks in English, and the boys are confused. Baker tries to communicate by reciting one of the English lines from Hamlet, but it does not work. Dogg enters, and Easy wishes him a good afternoon, which is an insult in Dogg. Dogg threatens Easy, who is now very confused. Dogg looks at Easy's...

(The entire section is 648 words.)

Cahoot's Macbeth

(Drama for Students)

Cahoot's Macbeth takes place in a living room across town, although when the play starts, there is such little light on the stage that the audience does not know this. Unlike the previous play, this play starts out in English, with several actors acting out an abbreviated performance of Shakespeare's Macbeth. As in the earlier play, the lines are borrowed directly from Shakespeare's play. At a certain point in the play, a police siren is heard in the background, followed by a knocking noise at the door. These disturbances are incorporated into the dialogue of the play. The hostess goes offstage and lets a police inspector in to what is now an empty living room. He is surprised to find that the hostess is hosting a play in the living room of her home and references the audience—the audience who is watching Stoppard's play. Landovsky, the actor playing Macbeth, comes back into the room. The actors and the inspector talk about how public acting has been censored, and the inspector takes a seat in the audience, intending to watch the rest of the Macbeth production. The actors are wary, however, because they do not want to be arrested by the inspector for breaking censorship laws, which forbid acting.

The inspector tells them that they had better continue their acting for his pleasure and that if he does not like it, he is going to arrest them. The nervous actors reluctantly finish acting out the interrupted scene from their abbreviated version of Macbeth, and the inspector is not impressed, saying that the police do not like Shakespeare. The inspector says that the police would rather have people say that there is no freedom outright, instead of acting it out in cryptic plays. One of the actors, Cahoot, a banned writer, suddenly falls to his hands and knees and acts like a dog. The inspector asks...

(The entire section is 749 words.)