58: Hindrances

A dappled cat, sitting upright.Nero and I have offered parts to sundrie kitlings. 

We told them they need only do as they are bid, and not be affrighted should we feign to kill them because all is in play.

“Which is,” I sayt, “why what we do is called a play.”

A few gave us the look direct.  That is, eye to eye.  This was not insolencie: they have yet to learn behaviour.

When a kit looks at me in this wise I lay a paw upon its head so it knows to look away.  But I believe Nero may not have been as kind.  Some blabbed to their mothers.

So now we are visited by fool queen cats seeking assurances that their little darlings will not be harmed.

They hinder our work.

Then my sister sent word that she’d brought forth her kits (of which two remain for her to rear).  Our performance must be delayed until leaf fall, when they kits will be of an age to accompany her.

“Accompany you? Where?” I arrkst.

“When I step forth as Ghost, they’ll be maggots.  And when I step forth as Queen, they’ll be my maids.”

Then she sayt (can you credit it?) that I must come oft to her barn to instruct her in her speeches.

“And do you require owt else of me, your ladyship?” arrkst I, sarcastical.

“A fish or two from our Earl’s kitchen would be welcome, your Gibship.”

I believe I spake too soon when I sayt a play would be easy work for a poet.

Linkin brought better newes to me and Nero.

The Mad Cat has spoken at the Cats’ Field against our doings.  He arrkst Linkin to lead him thither, saying he’d forgot the way.

But he preached most mighty.  He told how his ears never have been clean since he chanced to hear us talk of our bloodie play.  And, in turning players, we have made of ourselves painted sepulchres and double-dealing ambodexters.

Some called that they hoped to see our play, for they might learn something thereby.

Reprint of the Title page of the 1583 edition of the Anatomie of Abuses by Philip Stubbes,“Learn something?” cried the Mad Cat.  “True, so you shall.  If you will learn falsehood and deceit, if you will learn to swear and blaspheme both heaven and earth, if you will learn to kill, steal, rob, and rove, if you will learn to practise idleness, to sing lewd songs, to scoff and mock, to flatter and smooth, then see a play.

“If you will learn gluttony and envy, to become proud, hawtie, and arrogant, and to commit all kind of sin and mischief, these good examples will be painted before your eyes.”

All listened most respective.

“Repent!” called the Mad Cat.  “The dreadful day is nigh.”

One arrkst Linkin, “When comes this dreadful day?”

Linkin, not wishing to be pressed for informations, sayt, “You will be warned when our play is readie,” and made haste to lead the Mad Cat away.

We marvelled that the Mad Cat could preach so well against us, but no longer know his way to our Field or home after.

Linkin sayt, “He ever was crack-brained, and now he’s old to boot.  Whene’er he loses hisself his mistress near runs mad, calling, “Sugar, Sugar,” and fearing he’s met with some misfortune.”

Sugar.  I’ve known the Mad Cat all this time, but I never knew what his mistress calls him.

I saw Nero counting on his claws, so I arrkst Linkin, “How many winters has our mad friend seen?”

Linkin sayt he did not rightly know, but he believed fifteen or sixteen.

“A great age,” sayt Nero, but continued counting.  I arrkst him why.

He sayt, “I think our play has all of what he preached against, saving a lewd song.”

But I am out of paper, so will set down the remains of our play when I have more.

Two fierce dogs and a wild-eyed cat are raiding a pantry. One dog has a joint of meat, and the other a string of sausages. The cat is waiting its chance to grab something.
A Pantry, by Frans Snyders (1579-1657).  This thieving crew has seen too many plays.

Toutparmoi - Note from the Editor

The name Sugar probably refers to the Mad Cat’s being in a sack when his mistress saved him; a little joke on her part.  Elizabethans were so fond of drinking sack (dry white wine) sweetened with sugar that “sack and sugar” was a common term.  A bit like our “rum and Coke”.

His mistress’s readings from Philip Stubbes’ Anatomie of Abuses must have made a great impression on the Mad Cat.  However, we have Linkin’s word that her lawyer son (Linkin’s master) went to plays, and bought play books.  The Mad Cat’s mistress probably did too.  Perhaps her readings from Stubbes were meant as a warning to her servants that they shouldn’t let plays influence their own behaviour?