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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: March ::
Re: Shrew
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0241  Monday, 23 March 1998.

[1]     From:   David Skeele <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 18 Mar 1998 16:26:54 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0231  Re: Shrew

[2]     From:   John Perry <
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        Date:   Sat, 21 Mar 1998 22:17:13 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0231  Re: Shrew


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Skeele <
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Date:           Wednesday, 18 Mar 1998 16:26:54 -0500
Subject: 9.0231  Re: Shrew
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0231  Re: Shrew

I appreciate the great time and thought J. Kenneth Campbell put into his
defense of Petruchio, and I apologize that I cannot fully respond to it
at the moment: I am one of those (GASP!) "interpreters of the 'text'"
(whatever those quotation marks around 'text' signify), and I am
presently fully absorbed in mounting a production of OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD
(and also I am still a little blinded by the roseate glow coming off of
Mr. Campbell's glasses).

I would like to contest at least one point you make, however: that once
the play is viewed in its totality, "all of the pieces fall into
place."  This is a Modernist commonplace to which I intermittently
subscribe (I am one of those Knightian maniacs, for instance, who
believes that all of PERICLES can be made to fit sensibly together), but
when it comes to SHREW, I don't see the pieces falling together that
well at all.  Like you, I find much about Petruchio in the early
portions of the play to be captivating (no pun intended) and
charming-his verbal wit, his bravado, his ingenuity-and I am fully
prepared to buy the plausibility of your interpretation where it
concerns these portions (I rather like the idea of him "punishing"
Baptista by taking his money).

For me, however, all of this jolliness is completely contradicted by the
scenes after the wedding.  I described a dark production I had seen as
"chilling," but even more chilling is your description of what Petruchio
does to Kate as "protection": an equation that only confirms the notion
that this play might perpetuate misogynistic ideas.  Surely there are
hordes of wife-abusers out there who would be comforted by knowing that
in keeping their wives prisoners in their homes and keeping them dressed
in rags, they are really only, for instance, "protecting them from those
who would make them a slave to fashion."  With protection like that, who
needs danger?

Another point: I have seen many strange defenses of ones ideas on this
list, but never one so bizarre as your implication (via A.L. Rowse) that
any of those who dare to "interpret the text" are neither "Christian,
pagan nor men."  Does that make everyone on the list save you a Hindu or
Muslim woman?  The secondary implication, of course, is that your own
Promise-Keepin' account of the play does NOT count as interpretation of
the text, and I sincerely hope that there is no one left, in 1998, that
actually believes in their own power to discern absolute, unmediated
meaning in a text.

Finally, a request: please put in those little > marks next to the
quotes which belong to other people: newcomers to this thread, not
recognizing those quotes, were no doubt baffled by your apparent
rhetorical turnabouts.  Do this for me and I'll agree to never again
begin a post with an atrocious run-on sentence like the one I start with
here.

P.S. I look forward to the responses of some of the non-men on the list.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Perry <
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Date:           Sat, 21 Mar 1998 22:17:13 -0500
Subject: 9.0231  Re: Shrew
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0231  Re: Shrew

> If we are to believe that this is comedy and a love story as I believe
> it is then what is love but surrender of self for the protection of the
> union.

Well.

It's really nice to see that there exist people, who, with me, read this
play without poisoning it with latter-day ideology.  A few subscribers
sent me private notes of qualified agreement when I addressed this
problem some time ago, and I appreciated it; but the real pleasure is
seeing others buck the tide publicly.

I'd like to point out, though, that Kate at the beginning is not just
sad-she's completely out of control.  She's a beautiful, brilliant woman
caught in a world that despises brilliant women, neglected by her
father, treated with surreptitious disdain by her sister, holding firmly
to her spoiled childhood.  This, of course, makes her a violent, even
dangerously disturbed adult.

Petruchio is a brilliant but cynical man out to do what he can in a
world that simply seems unworthy of him-until he meets Kate privately
for the first time.  The scintillating wordplay on both sides shows that
they were made for each other; and I firmly believe this is where both
fall in love, though only Petruchio is willing to admit it to himself.

I've never been able to understand how people could ignore Petruchio's
progression from cynical greed to respect to dedicated honor to love.
I've never been able to understand how people could ignore Kate's
progression from constant, insane rage to confused probing to tentative
submission to cooperation-and even love.  I've never been able to
understand how people could ignore Petruchio's continual explanations of
exactly what he was doing, why he was doing it, and how he was going to
do it-and his continual wonder at how well it was all going to turn out.

Of course, as one frustrated professor on this list pointed out a few
years ago, younger students who don't have the benefit of latter-day
ideology to color all they see invariably notice that "he's starving
himself with her!" and have to be told that it doesn't matter: he's a
villain.

John Perry

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