The Taming of the Shrew (William Shakespeare)

51rKJu4sGELOf a somewhat higher order than the Veronese play, but still kind of difficult to fully process… some of that difficulty boils down to matters of textual history (i.e. how it does or doesn’t relate to another play called The Taming of *a* Shrew) which I’m not particularly concerned with, and some of it is to do with the “induction” business, the framework with Christopher Sly whereby the rest of the play technically becomes a play-within-a-play; much of it, however, is to do with the play’s overall theme as expressed in its title… i.e. the “romantic” “adventures” of Petruccio, who marries Katherina, a ghastly, froward creature whose father has insisted must marry before he will permit his other, milder daughter to do the same. So Petruccio seems to kind of take one for the team, in a way, since his marrying Katherina thereby makes Bianca available to her various suitors (and opens up the play’s other main plot); but he’s quite happy to do so, as he thinks bringing her under control will be fun and easy. This, of course, is where the play poses difficulties for your modern reader in this supposedly more enlightened era… you know, to what extent is, well, misogyny written into the fabric of the thing and how do we react to that now, particularly Kate’s big speech about wifely duty at the end. And this, apparently, is a matter which the induction is seen as complicating, cos if you do accept that framework, the rest of the play is kind of distanced as a result, and if you don’t you’ve then got the question of whether or not Katherina’s end speech is sincere or ironic. I really don’t know where I land, cos I didn’t feel the play actually gave me that much to work with; I was surprised by just how little of the story is actually taken up with the “taming”, and most of that just seems to be Petruccio being a wilfully contrary dick. Does the knowledge that female parts in English drama of that age were played by men make it harder to think about? I don’t know.

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