Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: August ::
The Image of Woman
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1648  Wednesday, 20 August 2003

[1]     From:   Kathy Dent <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Aug 2003 15:33:50 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1639 The Image of Woman

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Aug 2003 09:33:23 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1639 The Image of Woman

[3]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Aug 2003 11:26:11 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1639 The Image of Woman

[4]     From:   Marcia Eppich-Harris <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Aug 2003 13:39:39 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1639 The Image of Woman

[5]     From:   Maxwell Zener <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Aug 2003 12:16:18 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1639 The Image of Woman

[6]     From:   James Doyle <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Aug 2003 11:27:07 +0100
        Subj:   The Image of Woman

[7]     From:   Carol Morley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Aug 2003 15:11:31 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1639 The Image of Woman


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kathy Dent <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 19 Aug 2003 15:33:50 +0100
Subject: 14.1639 The Image of Woman
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1639 The Image of Woman

Dear Sam.

I think this passage only applies to those women whose husbands who, for
their maintenance, are committing their bodies to painful labour both by
sea and land.  Not me, then.

Perhaps you should be asking how many of the men on the mailing list are
doing the land-and-sea painful labour thing.  Once we've established
that, we'll probably all have to give up and assume that Will is talking
about some fictitious state of affairs... And, no, I don't think
Shakespeare is 'so universal' at all.  Insofar as he was a human being
and am I one too, we have something in common, but he was of his own
time as well as being 'for all time', so not necessarily a reliable
commentator on twenty-first century issues.

(Oh, and by the way, if you read Taming of the Shrew you might think
that Katharina hasn't been set up as a very moderate or reliable
witness!)

Kathy Dent

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 19 Aug 2003 09:33:23 -0500
Subject: 14.1639 The Image of Woman
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1639 The Image of Woman

Sam Small asks about Katherina's concluding speech from *Shrew.

>We cannot prove that it is Shakespeare's voice (it is Katharina's) but
>it is seriously spoken by a serious character.  Does this resonate in
>2003?  What do the women on this list make of it?  Is the speech purely
>ironic in context?  Does it reflect a conservative mind already seeing
>the green buds of a new social woman?  Is 2003 all about the current
>similar economic performance of men and women?  If Shakespeare is so
>universal where does this passage fit in?  Could a modern author write
>such sincere material and get away with it?

I have two answers, or at least responses.

First, if K. is depicted not only as a terrible bitch, but a desperately
unhappy young woman, there is much less trouble doing the speech for a
modern audience. I believe this view is generally supported by the text,
but can also be helped by the dynamic of the two sisters and their
father. If the director and the three actors can work out some
complementary "shtick" that can promote our sense of K's isolation,
unhappiness, and need for someone to love her, then the triumph of
Petruchio is much more palatable.  Only a handful of real fanatics would
prefer to see K. as a miserable neurotic than as a happy housewife.

Second, and more complicated for the director, is to convey the fact
that this ideal makes perfect sense within a rigidly hierarchical
society, one that operates somewhat like the Marines and somewhat like
the Catholic priesthood. As it is no bad thing to be a captain (or
priest), as long as you don't piss off the colonel (bishop), so it is no
bad thing to be a nobleman's wife as long as you keep the nobleman
happy. You have, after all, total command when the nobleman is absent,
and responsibility for a great deal, including ordering the troops
around, even when he is. It is assumed that the colonel (bishop /
nobleman) needs and deserves your obedience because of his great
responsibility, but you receive the same obedience from all the
sergeants and privates. That was the ideal of husband and wife that K.
expresses in her speech.

Of course, if you modernize the play, or otherwise take it out of its
context, you lose the validity of that ideal. If, on the other hand, you
can somehow recreate the Renaissance "feel" of it, including the
intense, quasi-military attitude toward hierarchy, then I think it
presents no real problem. On the contrary, it gives us a remarkably
beautiful exposition of an ideal that, even if we (that is, people like
ourselves) fear and dislike it nevertheless had (and has) great validity
in certain contexts.

Cheers,
don

PS: When I played a priest one time, I asked the director (a Roman
Catholic) early on what was the typical attitude of a parish priest
toward his bishop.  He said something like "awe, reverence, terror." He
was, perhaps, exaggerating a bit, but that was how we played it. It
seemed to work well.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 19 Aug 2003 11:26:11 -0400
Subject: 14.1639 The Image of Woman
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1639 The Image of Woman

Sam Small <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 > writes,

>I just happened across this passage from act 5 of The Taming of the
>Shrew - a play I'm not familiar with in detail.
>
>         I am ashamed that women are so simple
>         To offer war where they should kneel for peace;
>         Or seek for rule, supremacy and sway,
>         When they are bound to serve, love and obey.
>
>We cannot prove that it is Shakespeare's voice (it is Katharina's) but
>it is seriously spoken by a serious character.  Does this resonate in
>2003?  What do the women on this list make of it?

Sam, Sam--- where have you been?

We have talked this to death: not just what the women on the list make
of it, but what every other imaginable person from the time it was
written may have made of it.

Whole volumes have been written on the subject.  Every director and
actress who does the play has expressed an opinion.

Geralyn Horton, playwright
Newton, MA
http://www.stagepage.info/oneact/_oneact.html

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcia Eppich-Harris <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 19 Aug 2003 13:39:39 -0500
Subject: 14.1639 The Image of Woman
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1639 The Image of Woman

I, myself, have not studied Taming of the Shrew in great detail either;
however, I did have a chance to reread it this summer in a summer
Shakespeare class. (Thus, I'm still not an expert on Shrew, having spent
only one day on it.) The teacher, a cultural critic who received her PhD
from Princeton and did some work at Oxford, told us that the speech
referenced in this post was from a sermon on marriage. I don't have the
exact reference because she didn't cite it specifically. One thing that
I think is very important to the interpretation of the Taming of the
Shrew is that all of the characters in this plot are members of a play
within a play that is being put on for Sly and the characters who dupe
him and set up the play. As much as we would like to take Katharina's
speech either ironically or seriously, we have to remember that she and
all the characters around her are players in a play. No, we don't come
back to the Sly plot (depending on your edition of Shrew), but there
must be a reason for that framework that starts the play. It is because
of the Sly plot that I am convinced that Katharina's speech at the end
of Act V is meant to be ironic, especially if the speech has been
purloined from a sermon. Would Shakespeare really be so "conventional"
as to say that women should be "bound to serve, love and obey"? Who
knows? But to me, that hardly seems right... If Shakespeare didn't make
us question conventions all the time, would we still be reading him all
these centuries later? Maybe that's just me. I digress. The play within
the play -- in other words, what we think of as the main action of Shrew
-- it seems, would not be meant to be taken seriously because it is part
of a diversion for Sly, who is supposed to be tricked.

Sam Small asks:

>Could a modern author write
> such sincere material and get away with it?

I don't think that it's sincere. However, I think that there are still
some conservatives, at least here in America, (my grandparents are some
of them, and my dad is a close second) who would think that this speech
is RIGHT ON, but they would never conceive that there may be irony in
it. No offense to conservatives who might be reading, but my familial
experience with conservatives is that they little imagine that anyone
could ever feel otherwise regarding marriage.

Just my two cents,
Marcia Eppich-Harris

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Maxwell Zener <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 19 Aug 2003 12:16:18 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1639 The Image of Woman
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1639 The Image of Woman

With a speech so jarring to modern sensibilities it's worth taking the
time before letting loose with both barrels to pause and reflect not
only on the context of the speech within the text and the plot, but also
on the context within specific productions, and how the choices made
within those productions affect the dramatic impact of the speech.

That said, I have never seen a "straight" presentation of that speech --
which is to say an earnest delivery in the context of a production
presenting the "Tamin" plot in a conventional way -- that worked, that
kept the play a comedy rather than a skin-crawling degradation.

Most productions I have seen attempt to solve the problem by laying the
sarcasm on heavy ... one almost sees the "ironic quotation marks"
hovering in the air while Kate speaks.  There may of course be
exceptions, but all of the productions I've witnessed that used this
tactic came off as heavy-handed and pedantic; we the audience could all
share with the director Good and Correct Thoughts on the Empowerment of
Women, but what we *couldn't* do is enjoy an enthralling and
entertaining play.

I have had the privilege of seeing two productions that in my opinion
came off well.  The first stressed the role of avarice in the play; the
setting was shifted to Las Vegas, the most common props were coin
purses, the focus of the courtships on everyone's part was money, etc.
The context of the speech is, after all, a bet which Petruchio wins
because of Kate's speech.  Not only that, but Petruchio both initiates
the bet and talks the others into increasing the stakes five-fold.  In
this particular production some clever staging revealed that it was a
classic "bar bet;" Kate was in on it the whole time and splits the take
with Petruchio.  This allowed the actress to deliver the lines
"straight" and earnestly, but the dramatic effect was that of a marriage
of true minds, not domination.  Probably not the original staging at the
Globe, but one that fit the play brilliantly without need for rewrites
or deadly "quotation marks."

The other solution which I've seen work was a production that greatly
increased the play-within-a-play element.  Christopher Fry was onstage
the entire time, and lines were added (I cannot recall whether they were
directorial invention, taken from Shakespeare's source material or a
mixture of both) that expanded his role, giving him a scene at the end
and a violent interruption in the middle.

On top of that, the "Taming" play was presented by a traveling
vaudeville troupe, and rather than play it "straight," each scene was a
separate lazzi which reinforced the dramatic action of the scene but
didn't necessarily bear any relation to a Naturalistic staging.  For
example, the scene in which Gremio and Tranio compete for Baptista's
favor was a tap dance competition.

In that production the "Taming" plot had so many alienation techniques
piled upon it that the audience's emotions weren't invested in it, just
in the comedy.

Of course there are probably scores, if not hundreds of ways to
contextualize "Taming of the Shrew" in 2003 so that the play works
dramatically.  I just wanted to share two I've seen.

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Doyle <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 20 Aug 2003 11:27:07 +0100
Subject:        The Image of Woman

In response to Sam Small's comment on this, and at the risk of boring
anyone who read my comments on this on HLAS, I recently directed Shrew
(February 2003), so spent a lot of time thinking and working on this
passage.

I have always found the play as a whole extremely funny, but have had
difficulty with the ending, as every treatment I have seen of it has
failed to ring true for me.  There seem to have been two major schools
of thought on the ending - either Katherine sincerely has come to
believe this is the correct way for marriage to work, or she has ceased
to be the butt of Petruchio's humour and joined him in winding everyone
else up.  Both of these caused me problems of belief.

In our production, we treated the relationship between Petruchio and
Katherine as one that is abusive - well-meant by Petruchio, but abusive
none the less.  By the end of the play, Katherine has come to realise
that she - like many abused spouses - has nowhere to run to, and has to
make this speech because it is what she knows Petruchio wants her to
say.  We blocked the staging so that, although she was addressing the
lines apparently to Bianca and the widow, her line of sight was actually
to Petruchio on the other side of the stage to her, and behind them.
During rehearsal I told the actress playing Katherine that the one
thought in her mind throughout, as she looked at Petruchio, was 'is this
right?  Is this what you want?'

As a cast, we found this, and the progressive deprivation and
manipulation that precedes it, a coherent and logical structure for
developing characterisations during rehearsal.

The audience found it powerful and moving - a friend of mine who is very
traditionalist in his view of how Shakespeare should be produced told me
it was the best Shrew he'd seen, and several reviewers mentioned the
emotional impact of the ending done this way; and a social worker, who
knew nothing about the play prior to the performance, told a cast that
there were several key signifiers used to identify spousal abuse present
in the text (not just our staging of it!), including the sun/moon scene,
which apparently corresponds very closely to a classic abuse scenario
taught to health workers.

I can't prove that this is what Shakespeare meant in writing it.  All I
can say is that it worked.

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Morley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 20 Aug 2003 15:11:31 +0000
Subject: 14.1639 The Image of Woman
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1639 The Image of Woman

Dear Sam,

You've hit on THE speech to make us strong women ponder in our new
millennium. It would work for me (as a director) if Kate focused her
challenge, further into the speech, about putting her hand beneath his
ONLY if an actress made it clear it was her brand-new wedding ring going
under the boot, with all that would imply. But I'm sure the concensus
will rule that in early modern/ contemporary sociopathic readings,
Petruccio was doing the deranged bint a huge favour with behavioural
modification therapy- fine, so long as they can be seen to fall
apocalyptically in love with eachother at the same time.

Best,
Carol

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.