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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: September ::
Re: Christopher Sly
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0957.  Thursday, 25 September 1997.

[1]     From:   Imtiaz Habib <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Sep 97 13:27:06 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0953  Christopher Sly

[2]     From:   Kristen L. Olson <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Sep 1997 13:53:12 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Christopher Sly

[3]     From:   Lauren Bergquist <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Sep 1997 14:58:16 -0400
        Subj:   Christopher Sly

[4]     From:   Joseph "Chepe" Lockett <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Sep 1997 20:27:35 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0953  Christopher Sly

[5]     From:   Ed Peschko <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Sep 1997 03:33:38 -0600 (MDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0953  Christopher Sly


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Imtiaz Habib <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Sep 97 13:27:06 EDT
Subject: 8.0953  Christopher Sly
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0953  Christopher Sly

Do you think it could have something to do with the way that Elizabethan
drama inevitably implicates "art" in the perceptions of "life" itself?
Do you think, as in the case of Chaucer's famous "incompleteness" in the
Canterbury Tales, the fact that Sly and co's watching of the Taming of
the Shrew is never completed so to speak, could have something to do
with the performativity  of life itself?  A good question, and one that
I just finished discussing in one of the upper div Shakespeare classes
that I teach.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kristen L. Olson <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Sep 1997 13:53:12 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Christopher Sly

Julia Spriggs wonders what becomes of Christopher Sly, the character for
whom _The Taming of the Shrew_ is allegedly performed, the central
question being: should we wonder what becomes of a "play-within-a-play"
if we're never shown the audience again at its conclusion?  While in
most "present" editions of the play  Sly disappears after the opening,
reference source I quickly checked notes his fuller presence in quarto
editions of _Shrew_: "Although Sly's story ends abruptly after 1.1 in
the oldest edition of _The Taming of the Shrew_, in the First Folio of
1623 it is complete in _The Taming of A Shrew_, believed to be a Bad
Quarto version...containing Sh's original rendition of Sly's adventure:
in three further interludes, Sly remarks on the play, eating and
drinking all the while.  In a fifth episode, he has fallen asleep, and
the LORD [from Act I] orders him returned to the spot [outside the
tavern] where he had been found.  In a 23 line epilogue...Sly is
discovered by the tavern owner who warns him that Sly's wife will be
angry that he's stayed out all night.  Sly replies that he need not fear
his wife for he has had a dream that has taught him how to deal with
her."  (Charles Boyce)

It's not so much that Shakespeare was "sloppy", as your teacher
suggested, it's probably more accurate to say that the entire procedure
of theatre production and the eventual print appearance of dramatic
texts was not structured or regulated in the way that we might imagine
it to have been.  There were likely to be many incarnations of a
particular play, and comparing different versions can be a very
intriguing exercise...or career.  Anyway, for an interesting overview of
the process I'd recommend Peter Blayney's _The First Folio of
Shakespeare_ (Folger Library Publications, 1991), if you can get your
hands on it.  Possibly more readily available is the section of the
Into. to the _Riverside Shakespeare_ on " Shakespeare's Text".  (See
also in this edition Anne Barton's reference to Folio/Quarto versions of
Sly in her Intro. to the play.)  Each "version" of the play, however,
provides you with a compelling set of questions.  For instance, the
premise that the play itself is a "joke" played on Sly raises an
interesting set of problems; if Sly considers it a "dream"-you might
compare the Bad Quarto epilogue to Puck's lines at the close of _A
Midsummer Night's Dream_--what problems or possibilities does that
raise?  What sense of irony might Sly's pronouncement of his new
competence produce?  Comparing the differences (and/or similarities)
suggested by each version (questions like how is a joke different from
or similar to a dream?  On whom is the audience's attention focused and
what are the consequent effects?) might give you interesting things to
think about.  It sounds to me like you're onto a really good paper topic
here...depending on whose class you're in this year.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lauren Bergquist <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Sep 1997 14:58:16 -0400
Subject:        Christopher Sly

In response to Julia Sprigg's <
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 > query regarding the
purpose of the induction (the Christopher Sly episode) in The Taming of
the Shrew,  I quote from Stanley Wells book,Shakespeare  A Life in Drama
(W.W. Norton & Company, 1995):

"Nevertheless the Sly episodes are thematically very relevant to this
story of a man, Petruccio, who uses imagination, words, and action to
transform a woman, Kate, from a shrew to an obedient and loving wife. To
omit them is to strip the play of an important, and humanizing,
dimension." (page 47)

Petruccio employs various techniques (words, game, action, costume) to
create a new reality and role for Kate; through his innovations, she is
transformed from wench to wife.  Similarly, the Lord in the induction
uses game (role-playing), words, action, and costumes to transform
Christopher Sly, a mere tinker, into a Lord.  Imagination can create
(and maybe overcome) reality, and perhaps that is why the induction
melts into the play-within-a-play, never to reappear.

 Hope this helps!

Also, notice how Wells spells "Petruccio"-I guess, therefore, the "cc"
would be pronounced as "ch" (like in "church").  This is in response to
another question that has been posted recently.

 Lauren Bergquist

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph "Chepe" Lockett <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Sep 1997 20:27:35 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 8.0953  Christopher Sly
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0953  Christopher Sly

Regarding Julia Spriggs' question about the purpose of the Induction in
SHREW, I'm quite fond of (my former professor) Dr. J. Dennis Huston's
thoughts in "Enter the Hero: the Power of Play in THE TAMING OF THE
SHREW," collected in his 1981 book _Shakespeare's_Comedies_of_Play
(Columbia U.  Press).  He sees the Induction as setting up the drama as
an essential practice of play-making (in several senses of the word).
"Although the Induction may be incomplete, it is not incoherent, since
its themes foreshadow those of the main play.  Many of its
concerns-uncertain and imposed identity, change of dress, violence, war
between the sexes, and an insistent focus, in Anne Righter's phrase, on
the idea of the play- reappear in the Bianca and shrew-taming plots."
(p. 64)

On the more practical "why does Sly disappear?" thread, I've often heard
it supposed that it's to set up a small timebomb in the heads of the
audience, so that on their way home they suddenly realize that the plot
they've just seen completed wasn't the whole of it, rekindling interest
and discussions of what it all meant (as we see here).  Others think
SHREW is just a sloppy play, and point out assorted textual cruxes and
so forth.  For what it's worth, the only production I've ever been
involved in (as Grumio, some ten years ago), while using some of
Huston's ideas about the Petruchio-Kate relationship as one of "learning
to play", also incorporated several of the passages from the
contemporaneous and much-debated THE TAMING OF _A_ SHREW.  Audiences
seemed to like it, but critics were divided.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Peschko <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 25 Sep 1997 03:33:38 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: 8.0953  Christopher Sly
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0953  Christopher Sly

> comment.  Indeed, I don't believe she's ever read The Taming of the
> Shrew.  She's the type of person who derives all her ideas from Cliff
> Notes.  She didn't care for me so much as I would argue with her
> constantly on my own interpretations, like when we were reading The
> Iliad.  And she also didn't seem so pleased when we were to read Great
> Expectations I came up to her and told her I had already read that
> several years ago.  "Then read A Tale of Two Cities!"  She was even
> considerably more displeased when I told her that I had already read
> that as well.  But I digress....  I asked my English teacher of this

how about Martin Chuzzlewit ?

> year, and he said that he felt it was to keep the reader, or spectator
> more or less interested.  And I can see his point because this
> particular play has always intrigued me.  I'm wondering, is there anyone
> else with any other theories why Shakespeare may have done this?

I saw a production once at Stratford upon Avon, where it must have
bugged the director some - because he had the Lord drug Christopher
Sly's drink, have him fall unconscious, and then have Sly marvel at the
vividness of his 'dream' (Now I know how to tame a shrew... he says
about his wife).

It kind of bothers me too, but I don't know why Shakespeare did it. Kind
of like playing

do re mi fa sol la ti

on a keyboard. You just have to hit 'do'.

Ed

(PS: ironically, Taming of the Shrew reminds me of 'Godel Escher Bach'
by Douglas R. Hofstader. In the above respect, that is. His two
characters - Achilles and the Tortoise, are given a 'pushing potion' and
a 'popping potion' which let them slip in (push) and out (pop) of
paintings. In that particular essay I think they ended up popping more
than they pushed, and causing all sorts of problems. Interesting book.)
 

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