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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: October ::
Re: Shrews Behaving Badly
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1068  Saturday, 31 October 1998.

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 29 Oct 1998 11:27:58 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1060  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

[2]     From:   Krishna Dunston <
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        Date:   Thursday, 29 Oct 1998 13:07:38 -0500
        Subj:   Taming a PC Shrew

[3]     From:   Tom Berger <
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        Date:   Thursday, 29 Oct 1998 14:18 -0500
        Subj:   Re:SHK 9.1060 Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

[4]     From:   Frances K. Barasch <
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        Date:   Thursday, 29 Oct 1998 19:21:21 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1042 Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

[5]     From:   Frances K. Barasch <
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        Date:   Thursday, 29 Oct 1998 19:43:15 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1060 Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

[6]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Thursday, 29 Oct 1998 20:09:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1060 Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

[7]     From:   Jerry R. Adair <
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        Date:   Friday, 30 Oct 1998 12:37:39 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Shrews behaving badly


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Thursday, 29 Oct 1998 11:27:58 EST
Subject: 9.1060  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1060  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

>  In the highly palatable production
>  at Great Lakes Theater Festival three or four years ago the kiss after
>  "Kiss me, Kate" really sizzled, the pair exchanged knowing looks before
>  the women went off after dinner, and at the end of the dreadful speech,
>  which ended with Kate kneeling and putting her hands under Petruchio's
>  foot, he raised her, knelt to her and put his hands beneath her foot,
>  and then handed her the money before another sizzling clinch.

Oh, yes, David, to all you've said-and as Robin Hamilton (who has just
joined this SHAKSPER, and may not see this post) has suggested,
Kate/Petruchio are in many respects types of Beatrice/Benedick in a less
congenial social atmosphere-one might go as far as to say that Much Ado
is a reworking of Shrew (Dr. Hamilton's idea, also).

Happy All Hallows to all, by the way,

Carol Barton
Department of English
Averett College

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Krishna Dunston <
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Date:           Thursday, 29 Oct 1998 13:07:38 -0500
Subject:        Taming a PC Shrew

I have found the discussion on *Taming* interesting, and if it needs to
come 'round again every 6 months or so, so much the better.

Everyone's comments seem to establish that, particularly when performed,
there are a great many degrees of grey between a submissive, docile
portrayal of Kate, and one which proclaims her completely unchanged, but
willing to, "play along."  It seems to me that, either way, it gets an
audience talking about the same themes of domesticity being explored by
Shakespeare.

Recently, I have been contemplating directing a production which
investigates the violence of Kate's shrewishness. I have seen a number
of productions which explore Petrucchio and Baptista as domineering
tyrants, with Kate as a much abused, strong-willed woman trying to
establish herself.  The idea I have is germinated by the image of Kate
as uncontrollably violent, a "wild-child" who is a constant threat to
both her father and sister.  Her transformation would happen only as she
sees herself in Pertruchio's uncontrollability, and is able to accept
the fact that she is hurting others by her behavior.  Petrucchio would
succeed where her father had failed, because in the midst of trying to
"school" her - he would also genuinely fall in love with her.

I would welcome any comments on this concept - particularly if anyone is
aware of other productions which have done explorations of a dangerously
violent Kate.

Thanks in advance.  Enjoying the discussions.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Berger <
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Date:           Thursday, 29 Oct 1998 14:18 -0500
Subject: Re: Shrews Behaving Badly
Comment:        Re:SHK 9.1060 Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

However is an actress in 1998 to speak that last speech of Kate's in
SHREW and call herself a female at the century's close, he asked his
class.

Then he asked them to scan the speech of over 40 lines and see how many
of those lines are in perfect iambic pentameter.  Few indeed; if this is
the party line, why can't it be more, how you say, "regular"?  And why
are 2 of the 5 couplets in the speech rhymed after the slanting fashion?

And where is Stephen Booth when I need him, anyway?

Tom Berger, tapping his fingers.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frances K. Barasch <
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Date:           Thursday, 29 Oct 1998 19:21:21 EST
Subject: 9.1042 Re: Shrews Behaving Badly
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1042 Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

To Dale Lyles

Re Shrew production, a suggestion

If you keep some part of the Induction, especially the segment in which
Sly tries to get the boy-wife to bed, and then end the play with
dumb-show (not exactly like A Shrew, but in that spirit) in which Sly,
having seen the shrew tamed, tries to force the boy-wife to bed; the boy
might then lift his skirt, show his hose/trousers, astonish Sly, and run
off, suggesting wives cannot be tamed in "reality."   By using the Sly
framework, the audience will be reminded that Shrew IS  a
play-within-a-play  (all of it) and in that sense, not to taken as a
possible representation of "reality,"  but (perhaps) as Sly's impossible
dream.

As a feminist, I can live with that.  Good luck, Frances K. Barasch

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frances K. Barasch <
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Date:           Thursday, 29 Oct 1998 19:43:15 EST
Subject: 9.1060 Re: Shrews Behaving Badly
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1060 Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

Am I the only one who thinks that, from the wedding scene to the end,
Kate behaves like a reasonable and proper person, while Petrucchio rages
on, beats his servant, deprives her of food, etc.  A careful read might
show that Kate wants to stay after the wedding to entertain the guests
(courteous thing to do), Petrucchio not.  Go on from there: it is Kate
who deplores the servant beating, and so on.  Once she is married, she
assumes position as proper wife. Ultimately, she must learn how to
placate her power crazy husband and learns how to manage him.  As for
public humiliation of husband (Carol Barton's idea), balance that with
Petrucchio's very public humiliation of Kate (wedding scene, etc.).
Kate is shrew in the first half; Petrucchio is the male shrew of second
half of play.  When all is done, I suspect they off to bed for first
time in this marriage.  Frances K. Barasch

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Thursday, 29 Oct 1998 20:09:00 -0500
Subject: 9.1060 Re: Shrews Behaving Badly
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1060 Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

A casual glance through Frankie Rubenstein's "A Dictionary of
Shakespeare's Sexual Puns and Their Significance" may reinforce the idea
that equality exists between Kate and Petruchio at the end.

"Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot,
And place your hands below your husband's foot;
In token of which duty, if it please,
My hand is ready, may it do him ease."

boot - "coition, the buttocks"

token - "genitals"

foot - "copulate," "bugger," "a small penis"

hand - "genitals; phallic symbol," "act of coition or masturbation"

ease - "sexual intercourse"

And  in Partridge's "Shakespeare's Bawdy," "kiss is a euphemism for
coition."

"Come on and kiss me, Kate."

Makes it kind of hard to tell who's in charge, doesn't it?

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jerry R. Adair <
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Date:           Friday, 30 Oct 1998 12:37:39 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Shrews behaving badly

It seems to me that, like a considerable number of issues in
Shakespeare, significant disagreement remains regarding what goes on in
SHREW and how to express that in performance.  Still further discord
seems to arise when relating both of these to our modern society and its
different views on the issues of male/female interaction.  I would
further pose that the views of today are quite different in and amongst
themselves, let alone in comparison to those of the late 16th/early 17th
century.  So what I am offering is, in the end, one viewpoint and I hope
it will be taken accordingly.  That having been said, having played
Petruchio (where O where have I said that before!) I intend to "pull no
punches".  I'll take on the discussion as two branches of the same tree:
interpretation of the text and performance of that interpretation
through action and business.

Regarding the issue of interpretation (modern or otherwise), what hasn't
been brought forth in the replies thus far is what I believe is at the
heart of the play: the key ingredient of passionate love that can exist
between two strong human beings.  A love that, when everything is on the
line, doesn't even *think* about issues of sex WRT who's superior or
whatever else you can manufacture.  The other person and the
relationship is what is by far more important.  In other words, a kind
of unselfish love.  This is what I brought to my performance and judging
from the comments afterwards, is what separated me from most Petruchios,
be that good, bad or indifferent.

Carol Barton <
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 > touched on this issue of equality in a
selfless love, but went astray with:

>be-because Kate *chooses to* be deferential to the man who wins her
>heart, not because she thinks she *has to,* to conform to "the rules."

I hope that by "wins her heart" you're referring to the ultimate result,
because his (Petruchio's) actions are *hardly* representative of
anything that would win a woman's affections.  What I mean by this is
that you are leaving out the *process* by which they come together and
it is that process that is the most important element.  Shakespeare
pulls out the forced marriage device from his bag of plot tricks and
uses it in full force.  Kate has *no* choice in the arrangement or in
how she relates to Petruchio as her husband.  If she could get out of it
with a snap of the fingers, the plot would be seriously weakened.  She
must have no choice in order for an audience to sympathize with her.
Soooo....what she "has to" do is stay married and Petruchio knows this.
He uses it to show her the ridiculous nature of her shrewish personality
by adopting a male version of that same personality; however his version
is stronger than hers and only when she "sees the light" - as it were -
do they form a true marital union.  From there, they have an equality
that is *implicit* in a caring, giving, selfless passionate love.  And
don't even start with "the rules" <shudder>; I had to go for a quick run
after I read that because of the ludicrous beast known as "The Rules"
that came out a few years ago that supposedly taught a woman "how to
keep her man."  I mention this because of the hypocrisy and
double-standard regard with which men are notoriously stereotyped: women
can have the same traits and as the "shrewish Kate" illustrates, that
possibility has always been there.  Unfair both in truth and
application, irrespective of the side of the sex-chromosomatic fence on
which you happen to reside.

Regarding performing the play in front of a modern audience, like at
least one other has mentioned, I certainly don't agree with Stevie
Simkin's only-two-approaches viewpoint.  That certainly isn't
Shakespeare's way.  
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  poignantly asks:

>How have others experienced the dynamic between those two in
>production?  Can it be consistently played so that it is not groaningly
>unbelievable to a contemporary audience?

to which several SHAKSPERians have written some brilliant replies.
However, for the whole brevity thing, I think I can sum them up by
saying that they all fall short of a true realization of the text
because they dismiss the whole "taming process" by labeling it as court
entertainment or by attempting to diminish its effect by expressing it
through a specific genre of theatrical performance like farce or
commedia del arte.  These approaches, like the whole play-within-a-play
presentation form are meant to have a certain kind of distancing effect
on a modern audience.  This effect softens the blow to our 20th century
ears and somehow makes the whole ordeal more palatable to our "more
sophisticated" tastes.  Personally, though you can make strong cases for
these types of approaches to the text, I don't think that they are what
Shakespeare meant.  Other responses have advocated the playing of
certain bits as "tongue-in-cheek" with perhaps a wink in the eye as if
to say "this isn't real: you know it Petruchio, and the audience does
too.  It's just a game we're playing." Another example of a way to
soften the blow and submit to the demands of being "PC."

No, no, no, a thousand times no.  You have to play it straight and to
the fullest extent for it to work.  Kate comes to Petruchio not as
conspirators in some kind of ruse to win some monetary wager that will
quickly pass and in the end mean nothing.  She comes because her husband
asked for her; just the same as he would have done for her: out of the
true caring and devotion of their love.  Something that is blind to
issues of sex and domination, but instead just exists, pure and simple.
That is, she doesn't even think about it when given the information;
rather, she just rises and goes to him.  The focus is not on appearances
or on herself but instead on the other person in the relationship.  He
feels and behaves the same way.  It is *THIS* type of passionate,
devoted, caring love that I feel is at the *heart* of SHREW and is
something that you're all missing.

In the final scene of our performance for example, this was demonstrated
by several things, not the least of which was something as simple as
Kate's entrance: reverent, elegant, lady-like (which brought forth a
wringing contrast to her behavior at the beginning of the play).  When I
asked her to remove her cap, I spoke in a tone of voice that was very
different to that which I had been using to talk to everyone else.  A
voice that exuded care (and no, this wasn't some game, but was spoken
from the heart; the *only* way I could talk to my Kate).  She then took
it off freely, without hesitation.  As she began her speech, I picked up
the cap off of the floor and held onto it as I watched and listened to
her.  Then came the moment that she demonstrated the will and conviction
to self sacrifice for another person: as she began to kneel at my feet,
I lept up and took her by the hand.  All that anyone needed to see was
that she would have done that humiliating act freely; the actual doing
of it was unnecessary.  I raised her hand, she rose along with me and we
enjoyed a long stare into each other's eyes.  So long that one could
hardly stand it.  The feeling was so *enormous* that during the pause,
we often times would get a brief round of applause from the audience, it
was that thick.  I then placed the cap back on her head and we did the
kiss thing...

One other note I'd like to leave you with: remember that Kate and
Petruchio's final triumph isn't the money from the wager or the union of
two well-to-do households or anything else.  No.  It is palpably the
discovery of that true, caring, self-sacrificing, devoted, passionate
love that they have with each other; something that everyone else in the
play can only hope for, but that they will never attain.  To that end,
as I left and said

"'Twas I won the wager, though you hit the white,
  And being a winner..."

I tossed the money bags back to Luke and Hort to drive home the
message...just so there was no doubt.

On reflection now, I'm not sure just how much *we* succumbed to this
modern beast of "PC", but I *do* know that whatever we did, it was
certainly a great deal less than that which others advocate when taking
on the show and for that bit of daring as it were, I am proud.  More
importantly though was the fact that at no time did we bow to the
demands placed on us by our times; instead, our choices sprung from this
notion of "true love" - the type that when people see it, they stare
with open mouths and utter "I wanna be in love *like* *that*!" And this
I think makes all the difference.

Take care all, and thanks to Stevie for starting a great discussion; ya
gotta *love* the title, dontcha?

***jra
 

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