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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: November ::
Problem Shrews
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0753  Tuesday, 6 November 2007

[1] 	From:	Lysbeth Benkert-Rasmussen <
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	Date:	Thursday, 1 Nov 2007 14:39:22 -0500
	Subj:	RE: SHK 18.0743 Problem Shrews

[2] 	From:	Jack Heller <
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	Date:	Saturday, 3 Nov 2007 15:53:20 -0400 (EDT)
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0743 Problem Shrews


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Lysbeth Benkert-Rasmussen <
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Date:		Thursday, 1 Nov 2007 14:39:22 -0500
Subject: 18.0743 Problem Shrews
Comment:	RE: SHK 18.0743 Problem Shrews

Anna Kamaralli begins her post by saying, "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-fulfillment. 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."

I am hoping that my post did not imply that I see Kate as the bitch who 
gets what she deserves.  This is not what I meant to say.

Based on the interactions we see between Kate, her sister and her father 
at the start of the play, Katherine is characterized as someone who 
deeply mistrusts and is contemptuous of her hypocritical sister, the men 
who fawn over her, and her father (who she seems to think is 
deliberately blind to how Bianca manipulates him). The lines even in 
this short scene indicate a complexly imagined character.

These emotions necessarily color her interactions with all men 
(Petruccio included).  She is, at this point in the play, incapable of 
entering into an equal partnership in a marriage-you cannot have a 
partnership if you cannot trust.  All of this is fully supported by the 
text.

I would argue that Petruccio is equally unable to enter into a fully 
equal partnership when he first meets Kate.  He is emotionally immature. 
  However, there is evidence that he is more bluster than bite-no 
servant deliberately teases his master into a brawl in the middle of the 
street unless he has known his master for a long time and trusts him not 
to fire him. Petruccio's main problem is that he can be manipulated by 
others-his servant for one, but also his "friend" who somehow manages to 
back him into proposing to Kate (in what seems to be a sixteenth-century 
version of "I dare you-no, I double dare you-no, I triple dog dare 
you!"). Again, as I read these interactions, I do not see flat 
characters; they are believable representations.  I, myself, have 
watched some men do some very stupid things just because they started 
bragging and didn't know how to back themselves out.  Yes, it's 
immature.  That's the point-Petruccio is immature.

A good production will show how the two characters learn about what it 
means to work in a partnership, to trust one another.  I think that's 
what the San Francisco production did, and did it just as successfully 
as it portrayed the more farcical aspects of the comedy.

Even as I will argue for these complex characters, however, I will still 
maintain that because Katherine threw the first punch (she both insults 
him and slaps him at the start of their first scene together, while he 
resolutely refuses to return her insults), that the audience's 
sympathies can be more easily engaged for Petruccio.  The director, 
however, still has to make sure that the viewers never have to worry 
about her safety.  If there is violence, it has to be "cartoon 
violence." Otherwise, it's just not funny.

I think you can do them both -- have your farce and your characters, too.

Lysbeth

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Jack Heller <
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Date:		Saturday, 3 Nov 2007 15:53:20 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 18.0743 Problem Shrews
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0743 Problem Shrews

Perhaps one approach to the Shrew question is to note the number of 
plays generated on the subject, some clearly in direct response to 
Shakespeare's play Shakespeare's play itself motivated in part for the 
anonymous TAMING OF A SHREW. (I haven't yet been persuaded that A SHREW 
is an early Shakespeare version of THE SHREW.) So what plays would I 
examine together?

These at least:
TAMING OF A SHREW, anonymous
TAMING OF THE SHREW, Shakespeare
THE TAMER TAMED, John Fletcher (and Beaumont?)
EPICOENE OR THE SILENT WOMAN, Ben Jonson
THE ROARING GIRL, Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton

Jack Heller
Huntington University

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