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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: November ::
Re: Shrews Behaving Badly
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1091  Thursday, 5 November 1998.

[1]     From:   Jean Peterson <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Nov 1998 11:54:21 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1080  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

[2]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 04 Nov 1998 13:44:49 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1087  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

[3]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 04 Nov 1998 14:26:04 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1080  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

[4]     From:   John E. Perry <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 04 Nov 1998 23:27:36 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1087  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

[5]     From:   Richard Dutton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 5 Nov 1998 10:35:00 -0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 9.1087  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jean Peterson <
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Nov 1998 11:54:21 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 9.1080  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1080  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

I do have to wonder precisely what play the recent contributors on
*Shrew* have been reading.  Now John Perry finds "no textual support" in
the play for the beating of Grumio by Petruchio. I for one don't find it
easy to dismiss the textual indicators in 1.2., that, if "read
honestly," do, um, seem to indicate that the verbal and physical humor
of the scene relies on Grumio's misunderstanding of the word "knock",
and his consequent "knocking" by Petruchio as a result. (Then there's
the F1 stage direction, which Sean Lawrence points out). Wisecracking?
Well, there's Grumio's "Help, masters, help, my master is mad" (line
18)--not particularly wise nor cracking; and Petruchio's words to
Hortensio "come you to part the fray?" do, may I hesitantly suggest,
offer some indication of what kind of interaction Hortensio has
interrupted. But even if we dismiss all that-maybe "fray" really means
"tea party"?--I'd like to know what Mr. Perry makes of the beginning of
Act IV, which begins with a cold, weary, and mud-spattered Grumio
lamenting, "Was ever man so beaten?" and continues with an extended
description of how he has had the crap beaten out of him by Petruchio
all the way home from the wedding.

If we want to get intertextual, we could look at *A Comedy of Errors*, a
play written within just a few years of *Shrew*, in which both
masters-even the one who is generally perceived as the "nicer" of the
two, Mr. Syracuse-hammer their servants, apparently as a matter of
course; and *Two Gentlemen of Verona* in which Valentine is apparently
in the habit of responding to minor irritations by beating up his
servant Speed.  It would seem that the casual manner in which
servant-beating is offered up as occasion for hilarity in these early
plays indicates yet another marker of the differences between "early
modern" comic formulas and contemporary liberal-humanist sensibilities.
(Frances Barasch could probably tell us a great deal more about the
influence of the commedia del arte tradition on this recurrent comic
business; the tradition of comic cruelty, of course, goes back to
Aristophanes).

The one comfort I can find in John Perry's misreading is that it offers
a kind of parity; if readers insist on reading into the formulaic
brutalization and enforced submission of a woman to patriarchal
authority a narrative of mutual and sublime romantic love, then they
might as well read the equally formulaic abuse of a servant as manly
camaraderie.  What is very strange is the biographical turn that a
number of recent postings have taken.  I had once joked that persons who
feel compelled to salvage this play as a great love story  seem to
behave as if their own personal lives and romantic choices were somehow
at stake; the last week or so has certainly borne this out (in language
not so far from the recent Baptist directive for wives to "submit
gracefully" to their husbands).  If Kate and Petruchio are your romantic
ideal, you are welcome to them; I'd prefer a better paradigm.

Jean Peterson

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Wednesday, 04 Nov 1998 13:44:49 -0500
Subject: 9.1087  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1087  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

I would like to elaborate on my observations that the play is most
easily analysed as an Italianate farce within the frame of the Sly motif
by recalling a textual comment I made some time ago (without anyone
sitting up and taking notice).

In I.ii, Petruchio enters with Grunio, whom he knocks about rather
roughly.  Grumio cries out "Help, masters, help!  My master is mad." Or,
at least, that's what he has said since the Theobald edition.  The
Folios and prior editors have "Help, mistress, help!" (substantially).
Theobald evidently emended "mistress" to "masters" because there are no
female characters on stage.  Or are there?

Lest we forget, the page dressed like a lady is sitting with Sly in the
gallery.  (By the way, does anyone know how the play would have been
staged originally, as it was written before the Globe was built-would
there have been a gallery aloft?)  I think it would be screamingly funny
if Grumio addressed his plea for help to the lady in the balcony, much
as a modern clown (say at the Bankside Globe) might select an
appropriate person in the yard or a front row to tease.

This reading also reminds the audience that what they are seeing is a
divertissement, similar in purpose to "The Nine Worthies" in LLL and
"Pyramis and Thisbe" in MND.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Wednesday, 04 Nov 1998 14:26:04 -0500
Subject: 9.1080  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1080  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

> Note that there is not the least textual support for violence
> actually occurring here; in fact, consider carefully the wisecracking
> attitude of Grumio.

John Perry should observe that *He wrings him [Grumio] by the ears* is a
Folio stage direction; Stephen Greenblatt, the Norton editor, adds
*Grumio kneels* in order to account for Hortensio's "Rise, Grumio, rise"
a few lines later.  If you can use this action to control a mule, horse,
or bullock it will work with a man.  Many, perhaps most productions add
a few cuffs and kicks as well.  Grumio complains of being beaten on the
road from Padua at the beginning of 4.1; the complaint is repeated in
the speech to Curtis 60 lines later.  There is much evidence for
physical abuse by masters of servants in earlier Elizabethan plays (it
is my sense that it got less popular after the reopening of the
theaters), including several occasions in *Err*--thwacking of
(presumably) padded jackets with staves and so on; the custom was
warranted by classical, commedia, and morality play traditions.  As late
as *Lr* we find the old king striking Oswald for insolence (1.4.70 or
so) and a few lines later threatening the Fool with the whip (1.4.97);
Goneril is angry about this but only because O. is her servant, not
Lear's. Caliban reports on the various physical punishments administered
to him by Prospero, who also threatens Ariel with the physical
punishment of confinement in a cloven tree-the threat works.  Early
modern English masters were legally licensed to beat their servants for
disobedience; my notes on this are elsewhere, but I seem to remember a
couple of cases where masters whose servants died as a result of such
punishment escaped conviction when tried for manslaughter on grounds
that they were only doing what their role as master required.

Corporally,
David Evett

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John E. Perry <
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Date:           Wednesday, 04 Nov 1998 23:27:36 -0500
Subject: 9.1087  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1087  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

> > ...Note that there is not the least textual support for violence
> > actually occurring here;
>
> My facsimile of the F1 text reads "He rings him by the ears" ...

Oops!

You get enthusiastic, it's 2AM, you neglect to take another look at your
book..

Enough excuses.  You make a dumb mistake.  Sorry.

Still...

John Perry

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[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Dutton <
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Date:           Thursday, 5 Nov 1998 10:35:00 -0000
Subject: 9.1087  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly
Comment:        RE: SHK 9.1087  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

I want to second Drew Whitehead's suggestion that people look at 'The
Woman's Prize' as an 'answer' to 'The Shrew'. Gary Taylor is shortly
bringing out a new edition of this intriguing piece. In the next issue
of 'The Ben Jonson Journal' I have a piece on Sir Henry Herbert's
refusal to allow the King's Men to revive it in 1633 without submitting
it for re-licensing (he stopped a performance at half a day's notice) --
a reversal of his previous policy. It seems fairly clear to me that the
play as Fletcher wrote it was pretty aggressively anti-Catholic, and
when you couple that with the fact that Petruccio's domineering second
wife is called Maria, you have a piece that in the 1630s spoke all too
clearly to Henrietta Maria's influence at court, and more generally
Laudian reforms to the Church of England. It seems possible that the
religious dimension of Fletcher's play might be read back (on the other
side of the sectarian divide) into the Shakespearean original.

Richard Dutton
 

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