Master Will and His Dog

By Claudia Kawczynska, September 2016, Updated November 2017

William Shakespeare, who died 400 years ago this year, was no slouch when it came to mentioning dogs in his work. In fact, adding up the various canine-isms—dog, cur, hound—gives a total of well over 250 appearances. He also was the first writer to use the compound noun “watchdog.” However, Master Will didn’t seem to feel kindly about dogs. More often than not, references were used to bury a character, not praise one. Let’s see how up you are on his works.

Cry “Havoc,” and let slip the dogs of war. —Julius Caesar

The cat will mew and dog will have his day. —Hamlet

The little dogs and all, Tray, Blanch, and Sweetheart, see, they bark at me. —King Lear


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Bulldogs are adorable, with faces like toads that have been sat on. —A Midsummer Night’s Dream

My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind, So flewed, so sanded; and their heads are hung With ears that sweep away the morning dew. —A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I had rather be a dog, and bay the moon, Than such a Roman. —Julius Caesar

I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me. —Much Ado About Nothing

I am the dog: no, the dog is himself, and I am the dog— Oh! the dog is me, and I am myself; ay, so, so. —The Two Gentlemen

of Verona Thou callest me a dog before thou hast cause. But since I am a dog, beware my fangs. —The Merchant of Venice When night dogs run, all sorts of deer are chas’d. —The Merry Wives of Windsor

Talks as familiarly of roaring lions as maids of thirteen do of puppy dogs. —King John