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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: July ::
Re: Shrew Matrimony Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0628  Wednesday, 8 July 1998.

[1]     From:   Tanya Gough <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 7 Jul 1998 10:47:28 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Taming

[2]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 7 Jul 1998 17:58:25 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 9.0627 Q: Shrew

[3]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 07 Jul 1998 13:36:49 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0627  Q: Shrew

[4]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 08 Jul 1998 01:19:54 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0627  Q: Shrew


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tanya Gough <
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Date:           Tuesday, 7 Jul 1998 10:47:28 -0400
Subject:        Re: Taming

Dear Jad,

The Renaissance wedding was actually comprised of three parts: the
banns, which placed the future marriage into the public sphere, the
ceremony, which solidifies the bond in the eyes of God, and the
consummation, which reinforces the bond between the two individuals.
Couples are forever missing out on one or more aspects of the "accepted"
marriage tradition, and your sister is right to note that there is
definitely something *wrong* with Petrucho and Kate.  A wedding accepted
by the public and the church, but not by both individuals is clearly a
farce, much as Romeo and Juliet, who have mutual consent and religious
approval, become tragic figures when they are unable to reconcile their
bond in society.

Whether, and how, Kate and Petruchio consummate their marriage may be a
directorial choice.  I'd like to think that Petruchio is a boor, but not
such an animal that he would stoop to rape.  Yet the opportunity
certainly is there.  When he keeps her "up all night" on their wedding
night, does he force himself on her or is he just throwing pillows
around?  In keeping with the "happy ending" version, most modern
productions gloss over that part and imply that they get together,
consentually, at the end.  Has anyone ever done a version of Shrew where
Petruchio literally beats, rapes and starves Kate into submission?  I
have heard of a feminist version where Kate delivers her final "duties
of the wife" speech with such sincerity that all at the table recoiled
in horror at the transformation.

But to get back to Jad's question, the implications of *not*
consummating the marriage would have reinforced the unnatural bond
between them, largely to comic effect I should think.

Tanya

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Tuesday, 7 Jul 1998 17:58:25 +0100
Subject: Q: Shrew
Comment:        SHK 9.0627 Q: Shrew

To the best of my knowledge, it was not axiomatic that marriage was
followed by consummation, particularly in the case of very young brides
/ grooms in 'marriages of convenience' situations. Now how young is I
presume is open to question. Juliet (approx. 14 at projected marriage
time) clearly does expect consummation. So, interesting problem?

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Tuesday, 07 Jul 1998 13:36:49 -0400
Subject: 9.0627  Q: Shrew
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0627  Q: Shrew

In response to Jad Juwaik's query about Shrew: the consensus among
critics is, indeed, that the marriage has not yet been consummated at
the end of the play, but will be soon ("Come, Kate, we'll to bed"),
along with those of Lucentio and Bianca and Hortensio and the Widow.  To
be sure, one way to construe Petruchio's statements at the end of 4.1
about not having let Katherine sleep is that he has kept her awake by
strenuous and repeated insistence on his conjugal rights.  But the
accompanying talk about throwing the bedclothes about and how he will
"rail and brawl" does not sound very sexy.

David Evett

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 08 Jul 1998 01:19:54 -0700
Subject: 9.0627  Q: Shrew
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0627  Q: Shrew

Shrew seems to play rather fast and loose with a lot of doctrines of
matrimony at the time.  The homily on the subject decries the fact that
many husbands are

...farre behinde the wisedome of this man [i.e., Socrates, famously
patient with his wife], my counsell is, that first and before all
things, a man doe his best endeuour to get him a good wife, endued with
all honestie and vertue: But if it so chaunce that he is deceiued, that
hee hath chosen such a wife as is neither good nor tolerable, then let
the husband follow this Philosopher, and let him instruct his wife in
euery condition, and neuer lay these matters to sight.

[On-line at
http://utl2.library.utoronto.ca/utel/ret/homilies/bk2hom18.html
]

If we take the homily as indicative of received doctrine on the matter,
Petruchio is doing the opposite of what he ought.

An interesting essay in EMLS addresses some of Petruchio's shortcomings
as a spouse, not only from our twentieth-century standpoint, but also
from an Elizabethan standpoint:

    http://www.humanities.ualberta.ca/emls/04-1/heanshak.html

The upshot of all this is, it seems, that a large number of current
doctrines about matrimony just don't seem to apply to the world of the
play.  One might say that it's a carnivalesque world, one turned on its
head:  the marriage chamber is the scene of discord not of concord, and
of deferral rather than consummation.

Cheers,
Sean.
 

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