Tom Stoppard Dogg's... & Cahoot's... Essays and Criticism
by Tom Stoppard

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The Inspector's Inability to Learn Dogg in Stoppard's Play

(Drama for Students)

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In Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth, most of the characters who do not speak Dogg at the beginning have picked it up by the end, just by listening to others speak it. This mirrors the audience's experience as they learn Dogg along with the characters. However, there is one major character who does not understand Dogg—the inspector. In her 1999 chapter on Stoppard' s political plays in Twayne 's English Authors Series Online, Susan Rusinko noted of the inspector that ‘‘Without realizing it he has picked up some Dogg, thus illustrating the ... earlier comment that one doesn't learn Dogg, but only catches it.’’ Why is the inspector able to catch the Dogg language enough to repeat it but not understand it? Two of the inspector's characteristics prevent him from being able to ultimately understand Dogg—his confusion over how his own language works and his desire for normalcy.

When the inspector arrives at the hostess's apartment partway through Cahoot's Macbeth, it is instantly apparent that he is a little confused, as Stoppard notes in the stage directions: "He seems surprised to find himself where he is.’’ The inspector asks if he is at one of two different theaters and is surprised when he finds out it is neither theater. Says the inspector, ‘‘I'm utterly nonplussed. I must have got my wires crossed somewhere.’’ As the play continues, the audience gets a view of how utterly confused this individual is. In fact, it is ironic that at one point in the play, the inspector, threatening the hostess with potential legal action, tells her that "Words can be your friend or your enemy, depending on who's throwing the book, so watch your language.’’ In Cahoot's Macbeth, words become the friend of the actors and the enemy of the inspector.

The inspector is a likely target to dupe through the use of words, because he does not have a good command of English as it is. He is constantly offering contradictory words or phrases in the same sentence and, on certain occasions, seems to search for the meaning even as he says them. For example, after the inspector has started examining the audience, he warns the hostess that"If there isn' t a catch I'll put you up as a heroine of the revolution. I mean, the counter-revolution. No, I tell a lie, I mean the normalization—Yes, I know.’’ Revolution and counter-revolution are contradictory terms, and normalization is another word for the type of censorship that Czechoslovakia imposed on its citizens in the 1970s. So, he could not very well arrest the hostess for being a heroine of the conformity that he is trying to enforce. In statements like these, the inspector shows himself to be something of a confused person when it comes to using and understanding words. Another example is when he congratulates one of the actors on the performance, saying, ‘‘Stunning! Incredible! Absolutely fair to middling.’’ The first two are legitimate compliments, while the last statement can be viewed as an insult and definitely does not belong with the other two.

Still, it seems as if the inspector tries to flaunt his linguistic knowledge—or lack thereof. He often mixes foreign language fragments in with his statements, and they do not always make sense or belong in the sentence. For example, after he says that his initial assessment of Macbeth is good, he soon says that he was lying, because he is following the creed "when in Rome parlezvous as the natives do.'' This statement mixes Rome as a location, the French phrase parlez vous, and the word "natives," which implies Native Americans or some other form of tribal culture. In another instance, at the end of the play, after he gives a cue to Roger, the man running the tape recorder, the inspector is ready to try to arrest everybody. At this point he incorporates a couple of foreign languages along with English: ‘‘Right—that's it (To ceiling.) Roger! (To the audience .) Put your hands on your heads. Put your— placay manos—per capita......

(The entire section is 5,144 words.)