Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth

Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth are two plays by Tom Stoppard, written to be performed together. This was not the first time that Stoppard had made use of Shakespearian texts in his own plays or even the first time he had used Hamlet although the context is far different from that of his earlier Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Stoppard would return to the theme of artistic dissent against the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in Rock 'n' Roll.

Dogg's Hamlet

In Dogg's Hamlet we find the actors speaking a language called Dogg, which consists of ordinary English words but with meanings completely different from the ones we assign them. Three schoolchildren are rehearsing a performance of Hamlet in English, which is to them a foreign language. Dogg's Hamlet was initially inspired by a scenario proposed by philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein in his work Philosophical Investigations. In this scenario, which plays out in the play, a worker builds a platform using differently shaped pieces of wood. As the worker calls "plank!" "slab!" "block!" "cube!" the appropriately shaped pieces of wood are tossed over by a co-worker. An observer might assume that the words name the objects, but Wittenstein suggests another interpretation: that the co-worker already knows what pieces to toss and in what order, but that the words are rather signals that the first worker is ready for the next piece. Wittgenstein also suggests a scenario in which one worker understands the words to mean the shapes of the wood and the other understands the words as the signification of readiness, in other words: The two workers speak different languages without being aware of this fact.

The performance of "Hamlet" is a highly edited version that was performed as The Dogg's Troupe 15 Minute Hamlet.

Cahoot's Macbeth

Cahoot's Macbeth is usually performed with Dogg's Hamlet, and shows a shortened performance of Macbeth carried out under the eyes of a secret police officer who suspects the actors of subversion against the state. The piece is dedicated to the playwright Pavel Kohout whom Stoppard had met in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1977. Because Kohout and some fellow actors had been barred from working in the theatre by the communist government due to their involvement with Charter 77, he had developed an adaption of Macbeth to be performed in living rooms.

Links between the two plays

The character of "Easy" appears in both plays. He arrives in Dogg's Hamlet to deliver the planks, slabs, blocks, and cubes necessary to build the platform, but is the only character who speaks normal English instead of Dogg, and as such no other character can understand him. When he appears in the living room audience in Cahoot's Macbeth the reverse is true: he is the only character who speaks Dogg on a stage full of normal-English speakers, and once again completely baffles characters (as the homeowner puts it, "At the moment we're not sure if it's a language or a clinical condition") until several of them, most notably Cahoot, are revealed to also speak Dogg. However, while Cahoot and others can switch between Dogg and English at will, Easy speaks Dogg exclusively until the closing line of the play.


In 2005 the plays were adapted into a film by Joey Zimmerman. The shooting location was the Knightsbridge Theatre, the same theatre which put on a production of Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth in 2000.

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