You have to tread carefully when you start naming cats after Shakespearean characters.
One minute, you’ve got Puck and Touchstone and Sir Toby Belch and all is comedic happiness. But venture off into King Lear or Macbeth territory, and next thing you know, some English major will scream, “Why would you name cats after people in a play where EVERYONE DIES?!?”
We should have known better than to go all Hamletty. Fortunately, Tabby’s Place trumps tragedy.
Why would we name a cat Ophelia? As you may recall, the littlest, loveliest cat from our trap-neuter-return project at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women bore a most tragic name.
I assure you we didn’t have a Serious Staff Meeting in which we sat and agreed, “Yes, we want this cat to be inspired by a woman who loses her mind, her man and her mortal coil all in the course of a few short scenes.”
Nor did we concur, “Well, since Shakespeare’s Ophelia had eyelashes that turned inward and needed surgical intervention, it only makes sense to name this cat for her.”
In other words…we didn’t overthink really think about it. I believe the process was something like, “Cat need name. Ophelia pretty. Cat pretty. Good name. Me like. Ophelia heap strong.”
But when we recently returned to the prison and caught Ophelia’s brother, our naming was without excuse.
Some sage humans among us attempted to save the brother from the inevitable. “Let’s name him Monty,” they said. “It could be short for Montague,” they said. “That sounds Shakespearean,” they said.
Leave it to the cranky word-nerds among us – whose names may or may not rhyme with Zonathan and Flangela – to be Shakespearean sticklers. “Nooooooo,” they bellowed, with all the righteous indignation of the Bard. “Montague is from Romeo and Juliet, not Hamlet,” they said. “Besides, Shakespeare’s Ophelia has a brother, too, and he has a name…Laertes.”
Ah, yes, Laertes. If ever you were looking for a tragic, tortured cat name, this would be the one. If you happen to be in 11th grade and reading Hamlet right now, I advise you to look away (that is, spoiler alert). Laertes dies. He dies a horrible, terrible death that follows other terrible deaths (including those of Ophelia and the old guy stabbed through the drapes – but I digress). And then…the play ends.
But despite a name freighted with tragedy, Laertes‘ own drama is pure comedy – in the ancient sense of the term. If memory serves me, “tragedy” used to mean, more or less, “really sad serious stuff.” “Comedy,” on the other hand, didn’t mean “funny-ha-ha-co-starring-Zach-Gallifinakis,” so much as “pleasant and positive and cheery around the edges.”
Not that Mr. Gallifinakis wouldn’t be a good choice to play Laertes – because our gentle guy’s tale has been a rollicking good time. (And he’s a tad rotund.)
Like our untragic Ophelia, Laertes was captured/rescued as part of the prison TNR project. Cats aren’t known for looking like their blood kin (a calico can have all tabby babies, for instance), but in this case we knew instantly that we had Ophelia’s brother. Like ‘Pheelya herself, Laertes was sleek, jet-black…and squinting.
Whatever genes gave Ophelia her petite beauty and sweet spirit had also lent her one of the weirder conditions in Tabby’s Place’s history of Believe It Or Not! conditions (allergy to humans, anyone?). Literally called eyelidogenesis, Ophelia’s malady meant the top portion of her eyelid didn’t form. The hairs on top of her eyes, therefore, kept…well, rubbing it in, making her itchy, squinty, runny and uncomfortable. Nasty little hairs.
But don’t you worry; where a true tragedy would have ended there (“and she lived itchily ever after”), this is Tabby’s Place, and we avenged Ophelia on those hairs with cryogenesis. If you think that sounds like what happened to Walt Disney or your popsicles, you’re close – it’s a freezing process, and it zapped those nasty little hairs right off.
Well, wouldn’t you know: like brother, like sister, right down to the nasty little hairs.
Fortunately, Laertes’ eyelid-hairs have since joined the frozen chosen, and our boy is no longer painfully blinky.
He’s also no longer unspoken for. That’s right, we have a full-on untragedy here: Laertes has a home.
There’s one more final recheck with Dr. Freeze (the outstanding ophthalmologist) before Laertes leaves Elsinore Tabby’s Place forever. But, at this point, it’s all over but the applause. Forever applause.
Take that, tragedy.