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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: November ::
Problem Shrews
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0743  Thursday, 1 November 2007

[1] 	From:	Carol Barton <
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	Date:	Tuesday, 30 Oct 2007 18:31:26 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0731 Problem Shrews

[2] 	From:	Anna Kamaralli <
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	Date:	Wednesday, 31 Oct 2007 21:46:21 +0000 (GMT)
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0731 Problem Shrews


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Carol Barton <
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Date:		Tuesday, 30 Oct 2007 18:31:26 -0400
Subject: 18.0731 Problem Shrews
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0731 Problem Shrews

I can't think of a single instance of Shakespearean reinforcement of an 
obnoxious status quo--particularly when that status quo denigrates women 
(I'm sure that most readers will have as little difficulty as I in 
coming up with comedies as well as tragedies that illustrate this point, 
so I will not enumerate the many examples here). I never said or implied 
that (either) Kate or Petruchio lived happily ever after because she 
learned to accept her place (with her hand beneath her husband's foot). 
On the contrary: I don't believe she *ever* accepts that as her place, 
and neither do I think that her final speech has any credibility for her 
*or* for  Petruchio--any more than either of them believes that the sun 
is the moon (and vice versa). The point is that, no matter what they 
profess, *neither do any of the others*: those who married "docile" 
women have learned that their wives are anything but, as the last scene 
demonstrates, and though Petruchio has seemingly made the worst bargain 
of the lot, he has made the best match. They have come to the dinner 
expecting to ridicule him for his imprudence, but it is he who has the 
last laugh. As he himself has learned in private, the "shrew" makes a 
far better friend than she does an enemy, and once she decides to ally 
her strengths with his as his equal, they are an indomitable pair. The 
hyperbole of her "submissive female" pose mocks the foolishness of the 
men who believe (as Petruchio did) that they can dominate their 
wives--and the duplicity of the passive-aggressive females who are no 
less strong-willed than Kate, but conceal their autonomy until after the 
wedding.

I agree with Larry Weiss that the Sly frame is integrally tied to the 
outcome of the main plot, and believe that to read the play as an 
exercise in abuse (a la _The Winter's Tale_) is misguided. Comedies have 
happy endings--and an ending that sees Kate--the heroine, if the play 
has any at all--as beaten and abused into abject submission fails to 
resolve its central conflict in a positive way.

The implicit question is "how do you tame a shrew?" The answer--as 
ladies of literature going back to Dame Alisoun know only too well--is 
"you love her, and accept her as your peer."

Best to all,
Carol Barton

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Anna Kamaralli <
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Date:		Wednesday, 31 Oct 2007 21:46:21 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 18.0731 Problem Shrews
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0731 Problem Shrews

I think Donald Bloom's analysis has got us all the way back to square 
one. People who think it's the height of comedy to watch an "obnoxious 
bitch" get "what she deserves" have never had a problem with the play in 
the first place. The problem arises for those who hope that the play 
might have more to offer than castration anxiety-propelled 
wish-fulfilment. Shakespeare's plays are almost always sympathetic to 
being read in a way that supports the status quo, or in a way that 
subverts it. If _Shrew_ can only make sense when read as supporting the 
status quo, then it is well below par as an example of this writer's work.

All that playing Petruchio as an awfully nice chap does is tell us how 
the guys who have all the power like to see themselves. The audience 
members having a good time watching this version are only those who are 
comfortable with the idea of a man controlling how much a woman sleeps, 
what she eats, wears and says. It is an ancient strategy for a person 
from the group holding the power to comfort any niggling guilt by 
assuring themselves that the person who has no rights is happier when 
they know their place, and a better person for it; that the oppression 
is "of great benefit" to the oppressed. On the evidence of his other 
plays, Shakespeare seems considerably more sophisticated than this.

Regards,
Anna

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