The prominent role of the play-within-a-play in Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth immediately draws parallels to The Real Inspector Hound. Several traits in Cahoot especially recall Hound; namely, the Inspector, but also the blurring of action within the play-within-a-play – the action of Shakespeare’s Macbeth – and in the wings – or in this case, the living room where Macbeth is being performed. Like in Hound, external action such as Easy’s nervous appearances seamlessly integrates with the action of the play –as when Stoppard slyly uses Easy to explain the presence of the mysterious 3rd Murderer who has baffled Shakespeare scholars for centuries.

The structure of the work as two separate but inseparable plays is intriguing. The common element bridging the two is Easy with his lorry, and his inadvertent transmission of Dogg. Cahoot is incomprehensible without having already seen Easy at work and understanding the nature of the language he uses. However, the two halves of the play approach Shakespeare from radically different view points. For Dogg’s students, Shakespeare is a dead language and a chore, completely meaningless. For Cahoot and cohorts, the play is an escape, full of hidden meanings and subversion.

In Dogg’s Hamlet, Dogg simply appears to be a bizarre foreign language in which all the words sound like English words. In Cahoot, however, it becomes ‘a clinical condition.’ Easy contracts it in a moment of extreme agitation in the first play and then passes it on to all the characters of the second. Even the Inspector may possibly have fallen victim, though we cannot be certain, since the sounds he makes in his last lines have appropriate meanings in both Dogg and English. The characters of Cahoot quickly learn to interpret Easy’s Dogg and use it to their advantage to continue their production without the Inspector’s approval. The Dogg Macbeth, however, prods him into furious action, indicating that the actual words they speak are irrelevant, everything depends upon the perceived intent.

One issue I ran into while reading the play, which could hopefully be answered were I to see it performed, is Cahoot’s brief episode of dog-like behavior. I could not decide from the written lines whether the character of Cahoot began to act like a dog, the character of Cahoot was actually transformed into a dog, or whether the actor playing Cahoot also portrays a dog. The inspector’s reaction – “Sit! Here, boy!” (193) and ‘Macbeth’s’remark that Cahoot “been made a non-person” (194) suggest that somehow the person Cahoot has been changed into a dog who can declaim Shakespeare – changed by the Inspector’s inhuman treatment of him.

I was extremely struck by one seemingly insignificant comment made by the oppressive Inspector in Cahoot. In the midst of a speech on all the ways he’s suppressed dissidents, he casually remarks, “between you and me and these three walls” (194 – my italics), which jars with the standard phrase ‘between these four walls.’ The most common scenario where it makes sense to imagine only three walls is in the theatre, where the ‘fourth wall’ is the intangible, invisible, imaginary barrier on the side of the stage separating the audience and the playing space. Within the context of the play, it makes no sense to speak of a room with three walls; Cahoot and company are performing in a living room, not on a theatrical stage. The Inspector’s remark instantly suggests that he is somehow aware of the fact that the living room he traverses with the other characters is part of a larger existence embedded in a theatre; somehow he knows they are all characters in a play.

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