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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: September ::
Re: Bianca as Shrew
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No.734. Wednesday, 14 September 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Elizabeth Y. Zeria <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Sep 94 10:56:20 EDT
        Subj:   Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
(2)     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Sep 94 18:35:00 BST
        Subj:   SHK 5.0730 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
(3)     From:   Diana Henderson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Sep 1994 13:49 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0730  Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
(4)     From:   Tom Loughlin <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Sep 1994 16:10:51 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0730 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
(5)     From:   Norman J. Myers <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Sep 1994 16:20:40 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0730  Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
(6)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Sep 1994 19:57:24 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0730  Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Elizabeth Y. Zeria <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Sep 94 10:56:20 EDT
Subject:        Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
Bernice Kliman writes that:
 
...Bianca isn't ANYTHING until actors and directors decide HOW she will be
portrayed? Intonation, body language and all the rest do count.  I am
suggesting merely that the tired idea of Bianca as shrew might be usefully
rethought for an interesting production of the play.
 
Good point.  But my own judgement of Bianca as more true a shrew than her
sister Kate was made prior to viewing any performance of the play, based on the
spoken lines she is given in the script as contrasted to the actions assigned
her therein.  Bianca speaks gentle consideration, and acts selfish
manipulation.  She may not sound or seem the shrew without, but she has a
shrew's intent within.  Kate, on the other hand, suits action to word, word to
deed (until taught to do otherwise by Petruchio) -- therefore acting the shrew
without, but perhaps for purposes of remaining true to the heart within.
 
I have yet to see a performance of the play which has been able to interpret
Bianca any differently (or which has led me to any different interpretation at
any rate).  Whether Bianca is played with apparent malice, or with unerring
sweetness, the inherent manipulative selfishness (essence of a shrew?) shines
through. So, tired idea though it may be, I am inclined still to think it is an
essential idea in the play which only rewriting can remove. Certainly such
rewriting and restaging might be done, and quite interestingly.  And, I remain
open to the possibilities that my own interpretation is my own.
 
Liz Zeria
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Sep 94 18:35:00 BST
Subject: Re: Bianca as Shrew
Comment:        SHK 5.0730 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
I think all this debate about whether Bianca is a shrew or not is something
of a red herring.  Surely what she does is to UNDERMINE patriarchal authority
and the result is a disclosure of some of the ways in which the feminine
subverts the established order.  Kate is coerced (she's threatened with
violence, starved, deprived of clothing, and all by a Petruchio who
deliberately counter-identifies with her shrewishness as part of a male
strategy). Bianca accepts the authority of her father on the surface, but
undermines it, and also later her husband's authority in refusing to come
when she is called.  I suppose we could say that patriarchy creates Bianca
(as opposed to Kate's refusal to accept its limitations) but it also
constructs a point of resistance, and that Bianca exemplifies.  The real
problem of the play, it seems to me is the extent of Kate's "knowing", or
otherwise, acceptance of her ideological position.
 
Cheers,
John Drakakis
University of Stirling
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Diana Henderson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Sep 1994 13:49 EDT
Subject: 5.0730  Re: Bianca as Shrew
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0730  Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
As Bernice Kliman observes, it would be nice if we could see Bianca played
in ways other than as the "real" shrew (frequently with the implication that
if one kind of woman isn't the shrew, the other must be).  The ACT production
handles this fairly well; Bianca even gets some claps and chuckles for her
matter-of-fact response to Lucentio's wagering upon her honor ("the more
fool you...").  And the 1929 movie, which basically silences Bianca, has
Kate winking at her after the final speech (a sisterly underground, early
on).  Maybe Garrick's "Catherine and Petruchio," in which Kate rejects
her married sister's attempts to keep her from submitting, provides another
source in the acting tradition for the final vilification of Bianca.  On a
related note, it seems that "shrew" nowawdays (at least on SHAKSPER) has a very
loose meaning (basically any behavior the label-user finds unpleasant). Lynda
Boose's discussion of the slipperiness of this and other words, shifting from
class to gender insults during Shakespeare's time, provides an Elizabethan
corrolate --am I right in thinking that those who now use the term see it less
as a gender than an ethical insult? [That of course raises all sorts of
questions about the separateness and stability of those categories that
I'll avoid by signing off.]  Diana H.
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Loughlin <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Sep 1994 16:10:51 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0730 Re: Bianca as Shrew
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0730 Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
I'd just like to thank Bernice for reminding the members of the list that
Bianca is nothing until an actor makes her something.  It's so interesting to
me, as an actor, to note that scholars, when they do their mental and
intellectual "thing," are actually doing basically the same thing an actor
does; that is, they are trying to dissect the character's motivations and
actions and consequently turning them into "real people", so to speak.  The
difference is that we try to make that come alive on the stage in real time
before real people; scholars seem to actualize only at the level of the
scholarly paper.  Bianca can be anything any actor wants to make her.  You may
disagree with the results, but she is certainly not one "thing" nor one
"person."
 
I find nothing in the text in the words of Bianca's mouth, nor in her actions,
which are indicitive of shrewishness.  Spoiled, maybe, which would explain her
actions in the final scene.  In fact, she openly confesses to her father her
deception, which doesn't appear to be the actions of a shrew.  And if she is
played as a shrew, where is the comparison/contrast effect?  WS is careful in
comparison/contrasts in language structure; why not in character presentation?
The fact that Bianca is often played as a shrew has much more to do with actor
temperment.  Actors like attention, and playing Bianca as a shrew simply
garners the actor more attention in what would otherwise appear to the actor as
a dull role.  I think that says more about the state of acting than WS'
creation of character.
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Norman J. Myers <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Sep 1994 16:20:40 -0400
Subject: 5.0730  Re: Bianca as Shrew
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0730  Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
>Is it worthwhile to remind B.G. that Bianca isn't ANYTHING until actors and
>directors decide HOW she will be portrayed? Intonation, body language and all
>the rest do count.  I am suggesting merely that the tired idea of Bianca as
>shrew might be usefully rethought for an interesting production of the play.
>
>Bernice W. Kliman
 
It's refreshing to see someone acknowledge that Shakespeare wrote PLAYS for
ACTORS.  Thanks.
 
Norman Myers
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Sep 1994 19:57:24 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0730  Re: Bianca as Shrew
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0730  Re: Bianca as Shrew
 
Bernice Kliman addresses a question without a question mark to everyone but
B.G. She claims that Bianca isn't anything until actors and directors decide
how she is to be portrayed. From my point of view, this claim leaves out a
major element in the process: the script or, if you will, the playtext. Until
the character is embodied on stage, Bianca exists as words on a page, and these
words quite often suggest actions and attitudes. Liz Zeria (who should respond
more often!) gets this right.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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