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Plague like Cats

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Soft Instruments of Sharp Justice in William Baldwin’s Beware the Cat

image of Explorations in Renaissance Culture

Although many scholars have acknowledged the dark thread interwoven into William Baldwin’s playful narrative Beware the Cat, they have largely ignored the role of plague in heightening the work’s sense of impending danger. Baldwin intensifies our sense of peril by including at every level of his narrative references to plague. In Beware the Cat, contagious disease symbolically melds with other kinds of divine punishment. These include bestial transformations, farcical exposure, and painful afflictions, especially the startling appearances of and painful biting, scratching, strangling, and suffocation by cats. All are ways that God punishes his creatures for their abominations. Baldwin’s emphasis on plague as God’s vengeance for sin becomes one of the cats’ most significant meanings and a key to our understanding of the protagonist Gregory Streamer’s strange quest.

Affiliations: 1: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi


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