Sunday, November 15, 2015

Berowne's 294

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "S" is for "shrewish")

No quiz this week.  Instead I got to thinking about the enigmatic play we dealt with a couple of weeks ago: “The Taming of the Shrew.”

It’s strange that a work like this has been performed so often in our time; the feminist revolution of the past century or so would seem to have rendered portions of the play – shall we say, faulty? – for today.  But there have been plenty of staged productions, as well as Broadway musicals and major motion pictures (“Kiss Me Kate,” for example).  Somehow modern audiences seem to enjoy it.

Here’s the story.  Kate is angry.  She has quite a bit to be angry about.  She’s the eldest daughter, but she feels she has always been treated as second-rate while her younger sister, Bianca – who is regarded as more beautiful as well as “nicer” – receives attention and admiration from everyone.  So Kate has become sharp-tongued and quick-tempered and has been known to throw stuff about during a tantrum.
As we mentioned earlier, the father, Baptista, had the problem all fathers of that era had: he must find suitable husbands for his daughters.  He felt that it was important that Kate, the eldest, be married first, So Baptista’s rule was, no one could court (or marry) Bianca until Kate was married.

That’s the situation when our hero, Petruchio, arrives in town, openly planning to get married.

Well, Kate is available, but locals warn him that the girl is impossible.  However Petruchio, who can be as loud, boisterous and eccentric as Baptista’s oldest daughter, disregards everyone who warns him of her shrewishness.

When he goes to Baptista’s house to meet Kate, they have a tremendous duel of words. Katherine insults Petruchio repeatedly, but he tells her that he is going to marry her whether she agrees or not.  Hearing this claim, Kate is strangely silent, so the wedding is set.

One gets the feeling that deep down, Katherine rather likes the idea of marrying this brash young man.

Petruchio does all kinds of wild stuff to prove he’s the boss.  He shows up at the wedding under the alfluence of inkohol while wearing outlandish clothes, and he plays tricks on his new wife.  Today’s audiences tend to feel a bit uncomfortable during all this; it is clearly abusive behavior.

But it’s the final sequence that is the hardest to take.  Petruchio has succeeded in taming the shrew.  His wife has changed greatly; she has become passive and submissive.  When he orders her to drop what she’s doing and come to him, she practically grovels when she replies:

“What is’t your honour will command wherein your lady and your humble wife may show her duty and make known her love?”

Petruchio replies: “Kiss me, Kate, since thou art become so prudent, kind and dutiful a wife.”

So we are left with a question.  Is the play titled “The Taming of the Shrew” an indication of what William Shakespeare thought an ideal wife should be to have a good marriage?  Or is the play actually his attack on the hypocrisy of the customs and values of his time?

Your opinion?


Aisling Literary Services said...

I was in this play once in community theatre. Actually, it wasn't Shakespeare's 'Kate' but 'Kiss Me, Kate' - LOLOL. Bianca had a barrel chested voice, sultry and pub like, she could be every man's sexy dream. Kate was more neurotic, highly strung, shall we say. The modern rendition was cuter but also cornier. Still, musical comedy was always fun to play in. Cheers, Berowne!

brudberg said...

I would guess that dear Will probably left both options open. I think we are wrong to think that women should be subdued all the time... there is a tone of irony in those words I think. I have more problem with Ophelia I think...

Sheilagh Lee said...

I think it's attack on the hypocrisy of the customs and practices of his time. He's saying that they should be themselves.

Theresa Milstein said...

Ugh. So dated now. It's got its place in history.

Helen said...

It would be lovely if Will had been attacking hypocrisy .. but I doubt it.

Powell River Books said...

Thanks for the visit today and taking the time to comment. I haven't read Shakespeare since high school and didn't like it much then. I think it may be possible to "tame" someone on the outside, but on the inside they may be getting angry and it could come out in unexpected ways. - Margy

carol l mckenna said...

I prefer it be an 'attack' of the mores of the times ~ Being somewhat of an egalitarian ~ look to relationship to be more 'interdependent' than the historical subservient ways ~

Could also be 'taming of the shrew' in all of us ~ the not so delightful side.

Happy Week to you,
artmusedog and carol

Unknown said...

i can not form an opinion, don't know enough about it long ago ..that i read ore heard of it

Nice entry for this weeks theme though.

Have a nice abc-day/- week
♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (abc.-w-team)

Roger Owen Green said...

I think it reflected the period, neither approving nor rejecting, but showing the way it was.

Leslie: said...

It would be nice to think that Will was attacking the customs and practises of his time. However, I believe he is just reflecting the customs and practises and giving men a good way of "taming" their wives to their will in a comical way. Sorry, but the idea of "women's lib" was a long way off.

abcw team

Deepa said...

Am an not sure if she is a dutiful wife or he is a Male Chauvinist or is i slavery. Engaging read though

Trubes said...

I think I mentioned on your quiz about 'he Taming of the Shrew, how I loved the film starring Richard Burton as Petruchio and and Elizabeth Taylor as Katherina

Whilst appreciating The Bard's efforts in putting women in their place,
through Katherina, he is clearly demonstrating that women control men by appearing to obey them!
A loving battle of the sexes and who better to play the protagonists,
than Burton and Taylor.
I believe they put up a large sum of money into the production of the movie a took an agreed percentage of the box office takings.
No wonder Taylor was dripping in diamonds, Clearly Burton didn't tame her!

Best wishes,
ABCW team.

Jae Rose said...

My opinion - no shrew should be tamed..particularly in an age when marriage is optional...well..kind of...speaking as a shrew i am quite happy with my contrariness! Thank you Berowne - and quiz to fail at..much as i try and love them

Reader Wil said...

Shakespeare secretly wanted to be like Petruchio. His wife was eight years older than William, moreover she was pregnant before the wedding. So she must have been a bit bossy.William was more in London than in Stratford after the birth of the twins.

I don't think their marriage was a happy one. A happy marriage needs a bit of exchanging of opinions every now and then, followed by making it all right.
Thank you anyway for the post.
Wil,ABCW Team.

Berowne said...

Thanks, Reader Wil, you really know your William Shakespeare. Wil knows Will. :-)

Obsessivemom said...

I think he was simply mirroring society and the expected norm from women of that time. I would of course like to think he was being satirical but I very much doubt it was so.
BeatAboutThe Book

EG CameraGirl said...

Shakespeare was a deep thinker so I tend to think he was ahead of his time. I'm not sure he would have been swayed by his own marriage, which MAAY have been an unhappy one.

Amber said...

I would like to think it was an attack on hypocrisy but I honestly don't know.


Linda Bob Grifins Korbetis Hall said...


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