the taming of the shrew

Title: the taming of the shrew
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WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: THE AUTHOR AND HIS TIMES William Shakespeare's life (1564-1616) spanned the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign (1558-1603) and the first half of James I's (1603-1625). It was a very interesting time, with considerable social change and intellectual excitement and a general broadening of the horizons of the English. England had adopted a national Christianity in 1539, when Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII, established the Church of England and threw off allegiance to the Roman Catholic Pope. In 1588, as Shakespeare began to write his first plays, England defeated the great Spanish Armada in the English Channel. London was a bustling center of commerce, politics, and learning, with the Royal Court as the pivotal point. Expeditions to the New World set off almost every year, and the gold of South America was buying silks and satins from China for the English merchants and aristocracy. But, as England moved toward economic supremacy and scientific sophistication, older ideas kept their hold. Most of society still believed in a hierarchical system in which everything and everybody had a fixed place. The world was organized into a series of pyramids--the overarching pyramid had God at its apex. In the political sphere, the sovereign ruled by divine right with subjects in ranks below. In the family, the husband was the equivalent of God in the universe--the wife was to obey the husband, the children were to obey their parents in the same order, and the servants were supposed to obey all above them. Yet at the same time Elizabethans were acutely aware that the world did not always conform to this ideal order. In an era when political dissent was still expressed in religious terms, the new religious movement called Puritanism challenged aspects of the established regime. On the other hand, to neighboring Catholic countries England's defiance of the Pope was itself a kind of radical defiance of authority. And some English subjects felt that Elizabeth was not harsh enough on either Catholics or Puritans. One of these, the 2nd Earl of Essex, attempted to overthrow her in 1601. In the name of mounting a more effective defense of "order," this man committed the most extreme offense against the established order, the attempted overthrow of a monarch. Shakespeare was well aware of these tensions and ironies, and his plays express them. In The Taming of the Shrew order is re-established by teaching a wife to obey, yet that disobedient wife is often a more appealing character than the people who are shocked by her behavior. Just as England was expanding its commercial and intellectual horizons, the English language was enjoying a huge expansion of vocabulary, in part from the languages encountered by explorers and merchants. Language was a source of pleasure to the Elizabethans. English literature blossomed as poets, playwrights, translators, politicians, and literary hacks kept the printing presses turning out epic poems, political pamphlets, translations of the classics and the Bible, ballad sheets, and plays. Puns and verbal backbiting were as much a sport for servants as for their educated masters. Everyone in Shakespeare's plays--the uneducated bumpkins, clowns, gravediggers, ladies, lords, kings--plays with words. In The Taming of the Shrew wordplay becomes an important part of Katherina and Petruchio's courtship. When Shakespeare began writing, the theater had just become a popular entertainment. Plays still competed with cockfighting and bearbaiting, which were held in the theater when plays were not being presented. Companies of actors, who were often subsidized by a nobleman like the Earl of Pembroke, and even by James I, kept resident playwrights. The plays belonged to the company, which sometimes chose to make money by selling them to a publisher. The standards of production in publishing and printing operations were not high. Sheets of manuscript could get lost as they were taken from the playhouse to the printing shop by errand boys. This may have happened with the last few sheets of The Taming of the Shrew, which seems to be lacking the final scenes to match the introductory framework of the Induction. Printers botched lines and attributed speeches to the wrong characters, although the fault wasn't always theirs. They had poor copies to work from--the playwright's scrawled papers, copies used as promptbooks, or even manuscripts dictated by the actors remembering a play. Record keeping was not precise, so we know little about the actual dates of Shakespeare's plays or the details of his life. The few facts we know can be quickly recounted. Shakespeare was born in 1564, the son of a shopkeeper who made and sold leather goods in Stratford-on-Avon, in the county of Warwickshire. His father was prosperous and was at one time elected bailiff of Stratford, an office not unlike that of mayor. William was the eldest of six children and apparently was educated at the Stratford Grammar School, although no direct record of his attendance exists. He must have read widely in both ancient and contemporary literature. Consider the wealth of allusions to classical literature in his plays and the fact that he used as one of the sources for The Taming of the Shrew a play by an Italian poet, Ariosto, translated by an English court poet, George Gascoigne, around 1566. In The Taming of the Shrew some characters pepper their speech with literary allusions, while others favor Elizabethan slang. The differences in the styles of speech indicate differences in the characters. Shakespeare knew the Warwickshire countryside well, as you will see from the Induction scenes in The Taming of the Shrew, where names of the county's villages and people appear. He married a Stratford woman, Anne Hathaway, in 1582, when he was 18 and she 26. Their first child, a daughter they named Susanna, was born six months later. The couple had two other children, twins named Hamnet and Judith, two years later. Shakespeare must have gone to London before 1592 and become involved with the theater, for in that year, when he was 28 years old, he was ridiculed in a pamphlet by Robert Greene, a playwright well known for his biting insults. Greene called Shakespeare a hayseed who was conceited enough to believe that he could write better plays than university graduates like Greene. But Shakespeare's reputation was already firm enough to withstand the assault, and Greene's editor apologized in the next pamphlet. By the time of this incident Shakespeare may well have written The Taming of the Shrew. Some scholars think that it may have been his first play, composed about 1590; it appears certain that it was completed by 1592. Shakespeare became fabulously successful, and during the next 20 or so years, he wrote 36 more plays, some long poems, and a famous collection of sonnets. After James I succeeded Elizabeth I in 1603, the company for which Shakespeare wrote was officially named the King's Men, and it was assured subsidies from the royal budget. In 1611, Shakespeare retired to Stratford, where he had previously bought New Place, the second biggest house in town, with the wealth from his London successes. He died there in 1616 and is buried in the parish church. Shakespeare's plays were collected and published together seven years after his death. Some of the more popular ones had been published separately in Shakespeare's lifetime, but The Taming of the Shrew was published for the first time in the 1623 collected works. The play has been a universal favorite on the stage. Versions of it have been acted continuously since the 1660s. In 1948 a musical version written by the noted American composer Cole Porter was staged; entitled Kiss Me Kate, it was later made into a popular movie. Though the play has been popular, it has been performed with revisions more often than many of Shakespeare's other plays. Some directors have tried to exaggerate Petruchio's brutality. Others, uncomfortable with a play that seems to endorse the subordination of women, have given Katherina lines that make her motives for acquiescing more explicit and more acceptable. Those who have staged the comedy without changes have faced difficult decisions about how to make it enjoyable to audiences who might well find the treatment of Katherina too cruel to laugh at. This challenge is an important reason to keep staging The Taming of the Shrew. Each actress interpreting Katherina's lines in a new and different way has the possibility of casting fresh light on this long-lived play. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: THE PLOT Christopher Sly, a drunken tinker (utensil repairer), is thrown out of a tavern and falls asleep on the ground. A Lord and his hunting companions find him and, as a joke, put him to bed in a fine room, dress him richly, give him delicious food, and try to make him believe that he is really a lord who has been ill and lost his memory. The Lord also tells a page to dress as a woman and pretend to be Sly's wife. When Sly awakens in the Lord's bedroom, he at first refuses to believe that he is what they say he is, but gradually he begins to enjoy himself even though his "wife" will not go to bed with him. Then a company of actors arrives, and the Lord brings them into the joke by asking them to perform a play for Sly. The Taming of the Shrew, the play the actors put on for Christopher Sly, is a story of two courtships. Lucentio arrives from Pisa to study at the University of Padua. As he and his servant Tranio stand talking, they observe two suitors, young Hortensio and elderly Gremio, arguing with the father of the woman both pursue. The father is wealthy Baptista Minola. Baptista will not let anyone woo his sweet younger daughter, Bianca, until the elder sister, Katherina, is married. And Katherina is so bad-tempered that no one will approach her. While watching this meeting, Lucentio has fallen in love with Bianca. He and Tranio hit upon a plan. They change clothes. Lucentio pretends to be Cambio's tutor. The purpose of the disguise is to gain Lucentio access to the forbidden Bianca. Meanwhile, Tranio will pretend to be Lucentio. Now the play's second and main courtship begins with the arrival in Padua of Petruchio. Petruchio intends to find a rich wife. As soon as his friend Hortensio hears this news, he realizes that he may have found a husband for Katherina. Though he tells Petruchio what a shrew Katherina is, that problem doesn't phase Petruchio a bit. He believes he can deal with any woman's temper. Because Petruchio's marrying Katherina will free Bianca, Hortensio, Gremio, and Tranio (dressed as Lucentio) tell Petruchio they will help pay the expenses of his courtship. When the entire party arrives at Baptista's house, Petruchio immediately offers himself as a suitor to Katherina and presents Hortensio, now dressed as the tutor Litio, to teach the girls music. Gremio presents Lucentio, dressed as Cambio, to teach Bianca literature. And Tranio, dressed as Lucentio, presents himself as the third suitor to Bianca. As soon as the others have gone, Petruchio and Baptista agree on a large dowry to be paid Petruchio for marrying Katherina. But Baptista thinks that the wedding will never occur because Petruchio will not be able to stomach Katherina nor will he be able to win her love. When Petruchio and Katherina meet, the sparks of battle fly. The two are clearly a match for each other. Petruchio flatters Katherina, but she fights his every word. He nonetheless maintains that he is delighted with her and that they will be married the next Sunday. When the others return, Petruchio falsely reports that she has agreed to the wedding and that she acts shrewish only when other people are around. With Katherina promised, the rivalry over Bianca comes to a head. Baptista auctions off his younger daughter to Tranio/Lucentio, who offers a higher price than does old Gremio. Unfortunately, Tranio has promised the fortune of Lucentio's father--Vincentio--without Vincentio's consent. Baptista insists that Vincentio must agree to the bargain in person. So, though one problem--the marriage of Katherina--is solved, another one--how to find a "pretend" father who will consent to Lucentio's marriage--has been created. And Petruchio has still not tamed Katherina. Petruchio keeps everyone in suspense on the wedding day by arriving late. Worse, he is dressed in outlandish rags and rides a worn-out horse. At the wedding, Petruchio humiliates Katherina by behaving even worse than she does. After the ceremony, he insists on leaving at once for his own house and will not wait to eat the wedding dinner. When Katherina does not want to leave immediately, he declares that he "will be master of what is mine own." The "taming" continues at Petruchio's house. He tells us that he will weary Katherina and keep her without food until she accepts his mastery. So, protesting that things aren't good enough for her, Petruchio throws the food off the table, tosses sheets and pillows off the bed, and shouts and quarrels all night. When a tailor and a haberdasher (accessory maker) come next day to show the bride new clothes, Petruchio sends everything back, shouting that the clothes are poorly made. Meanwhile, Tranio (still disguised as "Lucentio") continues the excellent job he's doing for his master. He makes a pact with Hortensio that neither of them should marry Bianca, since she clearly prefers the schoolmaster "Cambio" (the real Lucentio). Hortensio decides to marry a widow who has loved him for some time. Shortly thereafter, the "father" Tranio has been seeking for Lucentio turns up in the shape of a newly arrived scholar, the Pedant (a Merchant in some editions of the play). Tranio deceives the Pedant into pretending to be Vincentio. He introduces the Pedant to Baptista, who agrees to let Bianca marry Lucentio--but of course he means Tranio, who has been impersonating him. Cambio is sent to tell Bianca what has happened. But instead, he arranges to be secretly married to her at once, just in case the plot is revealed. Petruchio has decided to bring Katherina back to her father's house. He has told her directly that she must not argue with him any more. To test her, Petruchio on the way praises the sun but calls it the moon, and then, being contradicted by Katherina, orders the whole party to return to his house. She capitulates, saying that it can be sun or moon just as he wishes. The taming has worked--she is obedient and compliant. To prove it, Petruchio orders her to greet a traveler on the road as a young girl, although the person is an old man. She does so at once. Then Petruchio corrects her and tells her to make good her mistake, and she does so. The old man is surprised and a little uneasy at these apparently crazy people, but he decides to travel with them to Padua. He is Vincentio, the real father of Lucentio. The stage is now set for a confrontation between the real and the pretended Vincentio. It happens in front of Lucentio's house. Lucentio's servants pretend not to know Vincentio, and the uproar is so great that Vincentio is about to be arrested, when in come Lucentio and Bianca, just married. Lucentio kneels to ask his father's forgiveness. The story ends at a wedding feast for Petruchio, Lucentio, and Hortensio and their three new wives, Katherina, Bianca, and the Widow. Petruchio proposes a gamble that the other two grooms readily accept. The husband whose wife comes immediately when summoned will win the pot. Bianca and the Widow refuse to come; Katherina arrives at once. At Petruchio's orders she goes back to get the two other women and then speaks to all assembled about the duty of women to men. Katherina and Petruchio depart in triumph, leaving Lucentio and Hortensio astonished and less than pleased with their own wives. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: PETRUCHIO Masculine confidence and strength characterize Petruchio. He never voices any doubt that he can tame Katherina. But beyond these basics, readers often disagree about Petruchio. Is he greedy, authoritarian, crude, and cruel? Almost his first words are that he wants a wealthy wife. And he picks his mate, sight unseen, simply on the basis of what he has been told about her father's money. He also wants to be "master of what is mine own"--to take his rightful place as male and husband in the Elizabethan scheme of things, where a man is head of the household and a wife must obey her husband. But is it necessary for him to bring Katherina to a state of total submission? At the end of the play, he is not satisfied with having her come out at his bidding. He asks her to stamp upon her new hat in full view of the other guests. You may wonder whether this additional demand is not unnecessary humiliation. You may also want to question Petruchio's methods. He seems to enjoy starving his wife and depriving her of sleep and doesn't try gentler methods of winning her love. On the other hand, Petruchio seems genuinely attracted to Katherina precisely because of her independence and feistiness. Had docility and wealth been his only goals, he could have joined in the competition for Bianca. And his crude language, full of the often bawdy slang of the Elizabethan period, may seem a refreshing change from the romantic cliches with which Lucentio woos Bianca. Much of your opinion of Petruchio will depend on your interpretation of the taming. Some readers feel that, in "taming" Katherina, Petruchio is simply exercising brute masculine power. Others note that he never uses violence against Katherina. Some even see him as a firm "educator" bringing out the best in Katherina. What is your opinion? Is Petruchio psychologically astute, because he realizes after his first rough encounter with Katherina that her true nature isn't shrewish? Petruchio uses the metaphor of taming a hawk to explain his strategy. The training, which results in a mutual trust between man and bird, requires immense energy, patience, and dedication from the tamer. Petruchio puts the same kind of energy and patience into "taming" Katherina. If she is exhausted, he is much more so but never shows it. When she does not eat, neither does he. He is ready to go back to the beginning of the process at any time she shows signs of backsliding. He never loses his temper with her and always insists on his love for her. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: KATHERINA Shakespeare does not explain Katherina's dreadful temper and unrestrained rebelliousness. He gives some clues, but none are unambiguous. It's obvious that Katherina's father, Baptista Minola, hasn't treated her as well as he treats Bianca, her younger sister. On the other hand, is her "shrewishness" a cause or a result of this favoritism? Katherina is obviously a highly intelligent woman whose gifts have no outlet in the domestic company of the household. Note how Katherina keeps up with Petruchio pun for pun and insult for insult in their first meeting. Perhaps her fury is simply the result of having no outlet for her feisty wit. Katherina's development in the play is an important psychological puzzle you must solve. Is she really tamed by Petruchio? Or does she figure out his game and decide it's best to play it? Or does she recognize her own excessive behavior in his and decide to change of her own free will? And finally should we, as modern readers, want her to be tamed? Perhaps her initial independence is a virtue. Katherina reacts without thinking to the first part of the "taming." She's preoccupied with her own physical distress and frustration. But when Petruchio addresses her directly, she may finally understand his strategy. "Look what I speak, or do, or think to do, / You are still crossing it," he says. In a subsequent scene, she yields. Perhaps she is just exhausted, starved for sleep and food, denied new clothes. On the other hand, she may have come to see Petruchio's actions as a game, one she can enjoy playing. Note how enthusiastically she responds when he insists on calling old Vincentio a young maid. Or could it be that she loves Petruchio and really wants to change? Look at her first meeting with Petruchio, when for the first time in her life a man speaks kindly to her. She seems moved by Petruchio's praise. When it looks as if he will jilt her on her wedding day, she weeps and wishes she had never seen him. Is this grief a sign of having fallen in love? Katherina's final speech is very unpalatable to modern sentiments and contains the most submissive words she speaks in the play. But note how even this speech is subject to interpretation, especially in performance. In some performances the actress speaks listlessly as if completely beaten down. In others she speaks with tongue in cheek as if she is only joking. Your understanding of this final speech should be consistent with your interpretation of Katherina's motives throughout the taming. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: BIANCA In contrast to Katherina, Bianca is the sweet and submissive daughter. Her name means "white" in Italian, a color the Elizabethans would have associated with purity, beauty, and other such desirable feminine qualities. But Bianca may remind you of some people you know: You're attracted to them for their good looks and their apparently sweet natures, but they later behave in ways that don't match your first impressions. Watch what Bianca does and consider whether her actions match her words. She tells Katherina while they are fighting that she well knows her duty to her elders. But she is perfectly capable of asserting her own will, as she does when giving orders to the disguised Hortensio and Lucentio. She manipulates her suitors so as to encourage Lucentio and discourage Hortensio. And Bianca has no scruples about the deception being practiced on her father, nor any objections to a secret marriage with Lucentio. Bianca gets what she wants, even while she appears to comply with authority's commands. But she may have the potential to become a "shrew" herself. Note her behavior at the marriage banquet. First she indulges in some bawdy banter usually more characteristic of her sister. Then she disobeys her new husband. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LUCENTIO Lucentio is a young man whose wealthy father has sent him to Padua for a university education. He is attended by two servants and has enough money to rent fine living quarters. But he's susceptible to romantic impulse. As soon as he sees Bianca, university studies are totally forgotten. He is immediately full of one subject only and starts making plans to marry the object of his passion. Lucentio may not be so much a fully developed human being as a stock character used to contrast with Petruchio and to advance the plot. Note that Lucentio isn't remarkable for his intelligence. His servant Tranio does all the intriguing for him. The other servant, Biondello, arranges the elopement but has some difficulty making Lucentio understand that he should hurry off and marry Bianca. You can think of Lucentio as a typical romanticist, a university youth insulated from trouble by a rich, indulgent father and two clever servants. On the other hand, his seeming denseness may simply have been a method of letting the servants explain the complicated plot to the audience. Incidentally, the name of the character Lucentio "changes" into Cambio, which means "change" in Italian. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: TRANIO Tranio, a stock character derived from Roman comedy, is a servant who seems superior to his master. He's a realist, as you can see from his first speech to Lucentio. He doesn't believe for a moment in Lucentio's devotion to learning and is proved right when Bianca enters. Lucentio's dependence on Tranio is almost complete: "Counsel me, Tranio, for I know thou canst; / Assist me, Tranio, for I know thou wilt." You can be pretty sure that Lucentio would never end up married to Bianca without Tranio's quick wits and energy. Tranio handles the bidding for Bianca, manipulates Hortensio into marrying the Widow, and convinces the Pedant to portray Vincentio. Note also how Tranio takes so well to being disguised as his master. He is the son of a tradesman ("a sailmaker in Bergamo") but can refer to Ovid and Aristotle apparently from firsthand knowledge. And Tranio speaks in verse (a sign of superior thought and station in Shakespeare), whereas the other servants speak in prose. In fact, he seems quite at home giving orders to these other, more clownish, servants. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: HORTENSIO Hortensio's friendship with Petruchio provides the latter with the opportunity to visit Padua and to woo Katherina, and so is a link between the two plots. He is first presented as one of Bianca's wooers, but there is something halfhearted about his suit throughout, despite his disguise as the music master Litio (sometimes spelled Licio). He is not even present when Bianca is auctioned off by her father. He quite readily makes a pact with Tranio/Lucentio according to which neither of them will marry Bianca. Hortensio has even less individuality than the play's other stock characters. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: GREMIO Gremio is called a "pantaloon" in the first stage direction. A pantaloon was a stock character in Italian comedy, the old fool wearing baggy pants who feebly pursues a young girl and makes himself look silly in his expressions of love. Gremio probably looks old, and he does behave sometimes foolishly, but he isn't a clown. Nonetheless, there is no sympathy for the old lover in The Taming of the Shrew. The audience is obviously expected to approve the mating of the young people and to laugh at Gremio's aspirations. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: BAPTISTA Baptista was probably more admired in Elizabethan times than he would be now. He is a wealthy businessman who shows little feeling for his daughters. He makes no attempt to understand Katherina, and he auctions off Bianca to the highest bidder. He arranges that, should Lucentio default on his promise to produce his father, Bianca must then marry old Gremio. But Elizabethans may have seen him as a good father. Remember that he is assuring his daughters' economic future in a society where they had virtually no opportunity to make a living. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: THE WIDOW The Widow who marries Hortensio has a tiny part and no name, but she makes an impression in a few words. She insults Petruchio (and Katherina) when they are feasting together after the three marriages: "He that is giddy thinks the world turns round." In other words, because he married a shrew, he thinks everyone else has done the same. She continues to be so ungracious that Petruchio asks Katherina to address her speech on women's duty first to her. The Widow is a reminder of Katherina's former self, contrasted with Katherina so that you can see how much Katherina has changed. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: THE SERVANTS GRUMIO, BIONDELLO, CURTIS These three servants and the others in Petruchio's household are, unlike Tranio, illiterate and clownish. Elizabethans loved comic serving men in their plays. These fellows depend on their native wits to survive and to please the often ridiculous whims of their masters. They are full of puns and dirty jokes, frustrating their masters because they take everything literally, though they nonetheless obey and help their masters. Comic serving men are always complaining about the cold or being tired or being hungry. They are also a source of deflating comment on the action. High-flown rhetoric is punctured at once when a servant tells the truth: Biondello tells us that the Pedant doesn't look a bit like Vincentio. The servants are sometimes the voice of ordinary humanity in a world of pretense. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: THE PEDANT, VINCENTIO, AND OTHERS Both the Pedant and Vincentio are only plot conveniences meant to advance the story. (In some editions of the play, the Pedant is called a Merchant.) Other incidental characters include the tailor and the haberdasher, the servants at Petruchio's house, and the officer who comes to arrest Vincentio. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: CHRISTOPHER SLY Sly is a drunken tinker (utensil repairer), who is perfectly content with his lot in life and doesn't want to be transformed into a lord. He gives his autobiography when he wakes in the Lord's bedchamber: He was born in a Warwickshire village (where an aunt of Shakespeare lived), his father was a peddler, and he himself gets his living where he can. He prefers common diluted ale to sack, a Spanish wine favored by aristocrats. He is widely known in the countryside and probably speaks with a Warwickshire accent. The fun comes when he begins to believe what the Lord and his servants are telling him. Then Sly speaks in verse, leaving behind his rough prose, and tries to behave as he thinks a lord behaves. Sly's crudeness is exaggerated to contrast with the refinement of the Lord and his surroundings. Sly provides some interesting parallels to Katherina. Like her, he is a rougher character than the more polished but less lively people around him. Like her, he has a trick played on him. And like her, he is at least partly transformed into what other people want him to be. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: THE LORD The Lord appears as absolute monarch of his small domain, using Sly for his own and the audience's amusement and commanding everyone in his employ to play his game. He wants to put Sly in a totally alien environment in order to laugh at his awkwardness: I long to hear him call the drunken husband, And how my men will stay themselves from laughter When they do homage to this simple peasant. (Ind., i, 131-33) The Lord, as fits his station and education, has some fine speeches with more references to Greek and Roman literature than appear anywhere else in the play, since there are no other noblemen in the play. Other characters in the Induction include the page Bartholomew, who is dressed as a woman to tease Sly and to evoke some ribald laughter; traveling players who come to act The Taming of the Shrew; the Lord's servants, who cooperate creatively with the Lord's joke on Sly; his huntsmen, who find Sly as they return from the field with the Lord; and the Hostess of the inn, who throws Sly out for breaking glasses. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: SETTING Shakespeare set The Taming of the Shrew in Padua, a town in northern Italy near Venice, but several mistakes indicate that he didn't know much about the real Padua or Italy, and the food, clothing, and customs referred to in the play are almost all of Elizabethan England. Geography and cartography (map-making) were only beginning to be developed in Shakespeare's time. Place and time were not depicted realistically on stage, and costumes were contemporary Elizabethan regardless of the setting. The Italian setting of The Taming is thus important in only one respect. Shakespeare's comedies, especially his early ones like The Taming of the Shrew, were influenced by a tradition of Italian and classical Roman farce and comedy. Like many of the stock characters, the setting derives from those models. But into this conventional locale, Shakespeare brings the richness of Elizabethan language and the originality of his own mind. You should note two other points about the setting. After marrying Katherina, Petruchio takes her away with him to a country house outside the city of Padua. It is in this new locale, as well as on the journey there and back, that Katherina undergoes her transformation. Observe also how quickly Lucentio abandons his scholarly duties and falls hopelessly in love when he is away from his usual milieu, Pisa. In his later plays Shakespeare often uses either a voyage or a new location (especially a rural location away from the ordered city scene) as an impetus for character change. Secondly, because The Taming of the Shrew begins as a play performed for Christopher Sly, you might want to argue that it is all set in Warwickshire, a location that Shakespeare depicts with a detailed accuracy absent in his portrayal of Italy. Moreover, if the Induction is indeed to be taken as an integral part of the play, then the setting of the main action may even be a dream. Sly, who falls asleep under the alehouse wall, may only be dreaming that he has been taken into the comfort and luxury of a lord's house (not an unlikely dream for someone asleep on the cold, damp ground!) and then that the lord has entertained him with a play. If this were the case, we should expect a final scene where Sly wakes up and tells us it was a dream. Such a scene makes so much sense that The Taming of the Shrew is sometimes performed with it added on. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: THEMES The following are major themes of The Taming of the Shrew. 1. THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES The Katherina-Petruchio plot is about domination in man-woman relationships. Who's going to be boss? It's one of the oldest themes in the world. Katherina is having her own way at the beginning of the play, and no one is comfortable, not even Katherina herself. Petruchio seems to re-establish the natural order of the times, with men ruling women for everyone's good. You must make up your mind whether in fact Petruchio will dominate their marriage, or whether Katherina has simply found a subtler method of getting her own way, or whether a partnership with no domination will ensue. You may also want to ask whether you applaud Katherina's final conversion if you believe she has been converted. Don't feel that you have to defend the conversion simply because Shakespeare wrote it. Even before the feminism of our own day, many readers found this play offensive. Do you? You'll also want to look at the attitude of Bianca as she progresses through the play. Is her scorn for Katherina's statement of submission at the end justified by her prior behavior? What is her strategy in the battle between men and women, especially in regard to Lucentio and her father? The play has two speeches describing the correct behavior of a wife, the first in the Induction where the Lord instructs his page how to impersonate Sly's wife and the second in the last scene by Katherina. How do they compare? Do you think Shakespeare's own attitude is reflected in either? or in both? 2. THE ELIZABETHAN SENSE OF ORDER The Elizabethans believed that the world was ordered in a series of hierarchies, beginning with God at the top of the highest one and continuing down in a series of nested pyramids. For example, the monarch was the highest point of the political hierarchy. He or she was supposed to be like God to nobles and common subjects alike. Similarly, a man was supposed to be the master of his own household. He expected obedience and submission from his inferiors--his wife, children, and servants. On the other hand, the Elizabethans knew that their world did not always conform to their ideal. And they were sometimes troubled by conflicting ideals. For example, what are a wife's obligations to a husband who neglects his own duties? The Taming of the Shrew plays on the idea of order reversals. In the Induction, the Lord deliberately upsets the order by making Christopher Sly a lord for comic purposes. Would the world be more orderly if a disruptive fellow like Sly were transformed, or is it more "orderly" to let him be himself? Petruchio forcibly re-establishes the order of man-woman relationships as he tames Katherina. You'll want to look also at the other reversals in the relationship of servant to master and of student to teacher. In Katherina's final speech, all the elements are brought together as she explicitly compares a properly ordered household to a harmoniously governed kingdom. But Bianca and the Widow indicate that they don't accept her advice, and Lucentio suggests doubts about its sincerity. 3. EDUCATION People learn in The Taming of the Shrew. Some of the learning is willing, and some is forced on people who don't want to learn. In the Induction, Sly is educated into the refined manners of the aristocracy although he hasn't expressed any desire to know them. Like the rest of the play, this comic scene raises an important question about education. When does education liberate and when does it coerce? When it coerces, can that coercion be justified by the need for social order? Bianca is tutored by Hortensio/Litio and by Lucentio/Cambio, himself a student, but she doesn't learn what they formally profess to teach. She learns instead that Lucentio loves her. And further, she learns how to deceive her father. Katherina is the most conspicuous object of education in the play. She learns what to do to please Petruchio, her father, and her sister. Maybe she learns that freedom is not absolute and must be exercised within social restraints. Is there a sense in which she is freer at the end of the play than when at first she insisted on her own will? Her education may also include a knowledge of her true self as well as of the ways to be true to others. On the other hand, many audiences have liked Kate best before her "education" and find her change upsetting. Where there is education there must be teachers as well as students. Petruchio seems the perfect teacher: he has a clear plan and self-confidence. What other attributes of the good teacher do you see in Petruchio? Are there any techniques he uses that you wouldn't? Petruchio is not a scholar and provides a strong contrast to the two supposed schoolmasters (Lucentio/Cambio and Hortensio/Litio), who mimic the ineffective ways of formal scholars. At the end of the play, Petruchio has the satisfaction of seeing his own student become an excellent teacher in her turn. Look at other characters to see how the theme of education is handled in the play. What does Baptista learn? Hortensio? Gremio? 4. TAMING AND ANIMAL IMAGERY The title of the play is doubly metaphorical: "taming" is a word used of wild animals and is here applied to a woman; a "shrew" is a tiny mouselike animal with a quite undeserved reputation as venomous and ferocious. You might want to make notes on the number of times in the play people are compared to animals. Sometimes the relationship of tamer to animal is a key male-female image. Hortensio can't "break" Katherina to the lute, referring to the breaking of a horse. Both Bianca and Katherina are called "haggards": hawks caught in maturity and therefore needing to be mastered. Petruchio's strategy with Katherina is explicitly modeled on the "manning" or taming of a haggard. Are women ever referred to as animals other than ones to be tamed? Are males ever referred to as animals? In what kind of relationships, if not as tamer versus tamed? How do you feel about relationships between people being described as relationships between humans and animals? 5. MARRIAGE CUSTOMS Every character who marries or has anything to do with arranging a marriage in The Taming of the Shrew has a different attitude to marriage. Lucentio is a romantic who falls in love at first sight and thinks that such romantic love is a basis for marriage. Petruchio says that he wants to marry for money. Hortensio seeks comfort, not beauty. Baptista thinks of marriage as a business proposition: What does he have to give to get rid of Katherina and how well will Bianca be supported? Christopher Sly in the Induction is told that he has a wife, and his one thought is to get her into bed with him. Considering this range of attitudes, is it possible to conclude how Shakespeare felt? Which character, if any, seems to speak for the author? Which character is most genuinely "romantic"? Lucentio uses the language of romantic courtship, but is he wooing a real woman or an idealized image of one? 6. ILLUSION AND REALITY In one sense, The Taming of the Shrew is like a series of mirrors within mirrors, reflecting illusions. If Christopher Sly is dreaming, then the main play is an illusion. Some of this play's characters--the Pedant, Lucentio, Hortensio--disguise themselves, so there is even more illusion. The unveiling of reality is a subtheme in the main play. Some see Katherina's nature as revealed rather than changed--she was always brilliant and admirable, but her qualities were hidden under her shrewishness. Bianca, on the other hand, reveals willfulness and deceit under her mildness. Tranio reveals qualities that make him more effective than Lucentio. Is he really more of a master than a servant? THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: STYLE As in Shakespeare's other plays, and indeed in much of the drama of his time, most of the dialogue is in verse. The specific form of verse that Shakespeare used most often is called iambic pentameter. In iambic pentameter, each line has ten syllables and the second, fourth, sixth, eighth, and tenth syllables are the accented ones (the ones on which stress is put when speaking). Once you become used to iambic pentameter and to Elizabethan English, you should find Shakespeare's style in The Taming of the Shrew fairly straightforward. There aren't many examples of the Shakespearean grand style in The Taming of the Shrew. The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare's earliest plays (some scholars think it may be his first). It's a characteristic of Shakespeare's earlier style to include many rhymed couplets. They usually occur as the last two lines of a scene, where they serve to clinch the action with a rhyme. Look at the ends of the scenes and you'll find the couplets, although sometimes they're a bit strained: Here's the end of Act IV, Scene i, with Petruchio speaking: He that knows better how to tame a shrew, Now let him speak--'tis charity to show. (lines 204-05) You can also find rhymes within the scenes, especially in lines that alternate between characters: PETRUCHIO: O pardon me, Signor Gremio, I would fain be doing. GREMIO: I doubt it not, sir, but you will curse your wooing. (Act II, Scene i, lines 74-75) Rhymes and puns exemplify the Elizabethan delight in language. The characters show pleasure simply in speaking words. Look at Biondello's description of Petruchio's rags and horse as he arrives for his wedding (Act III, Scene ii)--a heaping up of images for comic effect. Look also at Biondello's and Grumio's wordplay with their masters when they deliver messages. Especially in Shakespeare's early plays you sometimes wonder whether a message will ever be delivered straight without a punning contest first. The Taming of the Shrew sometimes uses style to differentiate types of characters. In general, characters lower in the social order speak prose and aristocrats speak poetry. Note that Christopher Sly changes from prose to verse when he begins to think he is a lord. Prose is sometimes used for ordinary transactions, while matters of feeling and intellect are usually expressed in verse. Part of the difference between Petruchio's and Lucentio's manners of wooing is also a matter of style. Note how Lucentio uses Greek and Roman references to describe Bianca. What do you think of this kind of language or of his references to "coral lips" and breath of "perfume"? Compare this high-blown language to Petruchio's use of animal imagery and sexual puns. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: POINT OF VIEW A play is not like a novel--it is never told from only one or two characters' points of view as a novel may be. Its point of view is everybody's in turn. That is why it is effective to act out a play with other people instead of reading it alone; it highlights the alternative points of view of different characters. When you analyze a play, you use some of the same skills as when you are trying to understand the people around you. You find out their motivations by listening and observing. In this sense, watching a play is more "natural" than reading a novel, because the story and ideas aren't filtered through a single narrator or character--you have to work out the perspective of the play by following the differing perspectives of several characters. It is often difficult to know where Shakespeare's own sympathies lie. Can you find Shakespeare's view of marriage, for example, in this play? Is it the view of one character? A combination of two? More? What are the different points of view on Katherina? For example, if you want to contrast Petruchio's view of Katherina with her father's, your first evidence might be those speeches in Acts II and III where Petruchio praises Katherina, while Baptista describes her behavior as so bad that Petruchio won't want to marry her. Does Petruchio ever change his initial view of Katherina? THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: SOURCES Shakespeare didn't totally invent the plots of his plays. He adapted them from stories he read, historical accounts, folklore, poems, and other plays. In The Taming of the Shrew, you must account for three plots: the Sly framework, the Katherina-Petruchio taming plot, and the Bianco-Lucentio wooing plot. Some scholars have believed that Shakespeare adapted an old play. However, the more current view is that The Taming of the Shrew was written as early as 1590 or so, and is a source for The Taming of a Shrew, published in 1594, rather than the other way around. Although no one knows for sure, people now generally believe that A Shrew was a poorly memorized version of The Shrew. The Sly framework has its origins in folklore. There are numerous stories with similar incidents and patterns. The story is found throughout Europe and even in the Arabian Nights. It's basically the same in all versions: A man of the lower class is found by an aristocrat and treated like a lord, so that he thinks he has been dreaming. By Shakespeare's time, the story was popular in ballads and folk poetry, so that it would have been recognized as a familiar tale by Shakespeare's audience. And for many of the details of the Sly story, Shakespeare probably turned to his own youthful experience in rural Warwickshire. The Katherina-Petruchio plot also is familiar in folklore as the wife-taming story. Most versions are much more brutal than Shakespeare's: often the husband kills an animal, wraps the wife in its hide, and beats her. Again there are ballads on the theme, and it appears frequently in classical and medieval literature. However, Shakespeare gives Petruchio and Katherina broader psychological dimensions than do the earlier versions of the story. Though the Bianca-Lucentio plot has forerunners in much of Roman and Italian comedy, it also has a specific written source, a play called Supposes. Supposes was translated by George Gascoigne in 1566 from the Italian original by Ludovico Ariosto, a sixteenth-century Italian poet famous for the epic Orlando Furioso. Some of Supposes corresponds exactly to the Bianca-Lucentio plot; for example, the exchange of clothes between master and servant, and the use of a casual traveler as the lover's father. The name "Petruchio" comes from the source-play, but it's the name of a servant, not a major character. Finding sources gives you the feeling you know a little about Shakespeare's way of writing his plays. But it says nothing about the real genius of Shakespeare--his ability to combine language, plot, and characterization to form a complete picture not only of his own world but of the world of human concerns for all ages. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: FORM AND STRUCTURE The Taming of the Shrew has an Induction introducing a setting and characters that disappear after Act I, Scene v. Perhaps the main play--the one that gives the work its title--was intended to be embedded within another play, some of whose pages were lost. But, if so, we have only one piece of bread and the filling, not the complete sandwich. Do you think that the framework as it stands is defective? Do you see connections between the Induction and the rest of the play? The Lord gives a servant instructions on how his page is to behave when playing Sly's wife. Think of Katherina's speech at the end of Act V, defining wifely duty. Some readers also point to common themes of illusion and reality (the deception practiced on Sly and the deceptions used to court Bianca) and of character conversion, as both Katherina and Sly are transformed from rough diamonds to polished gems. Still others suggest that by making the main story a play within the play Shakespeare was telling us to see it as an entertainment and not as the last word on its subject matter. Now consider the form and structure of the two main plots. As in a television situation comedy of our own day, two or more situations alternate until they intermesh. And elements in each plot help resolve the dilemmas of the other. In The Taming of the Shrew parallel scenes, each showing the arrival of a young man in Padua, initiate each plot. Then the scenes alternate until they cross at the point where Katherina and Petruchio meet Vincentio. It helps to look at a schematic diagram: BIANCA-LUCENTIO PLOT KATHERINA-PETRUCHIO PLOT Act I, Scene i: Lucentio falls in love and changes roles with Tranio. Act I, Scene ii: Petruchio agrees to woo Katherina. Act II, Scene i: Three suitors want to marry Bianca. Act II, Scene i: Petruchio arranges with Baptista to marry Katherina. Act II, Scene i: Baptista auctions off Bianca to Tranio. Act III, Scene i: Hortensio and Lucentio, disguised as schoolmasters, woo Bianca. Act III, Scene ii: Katherina and Petruchio are married and depart for Petruchio's house. Act IV, Scene i: The taming begins. Act IV, Scene ii: Hortensio and Tranio withdraw their suits; a pretend father is found for Lucentio. Act IV, Scene iii: The taming continues. Act IV, Scene iv: Baptista is convinced by the false Vincentio, and Lucentio goes to marry Bianca. Act IV, Scene v: Katherina gives in to Petruchio; they meet the real Vincentio on the road to Padua. Act V, Scene i: The two Vincentios meet and the deceptions are revealed. Act V, Scene ii: The characters of both plots get together; Katherina tells what she has learned to the two ladies from the Bianca plot, and Petruchio wins his bet from their husbands. See how each plot offers relief from and acts as a foil to (contrasts with) the other. For instance, the Petruchio-Katherina marriage is a noisy farce, whereas the Bianca-Lucentio marriage is so quiet it's hardly noticed (although both marriages take place offstage). The two scenes in which Baptista arranges for his daughters' financial futures form another parallel, though opposite, pair: Petruchio is promised a dowry by Baptista to wed Katherina, but Lucentio has to outbid Gremio to win Bianca. Part of Shakespeare's originality lies in the intimate way he weaves together material from two such different sources. The main play is organized in the five-act structure of ancient Roman drama. The first act introduces the two plots; the second intensifies the complications; the third contains some climactic action--in this case, the marriage of Petruchio and Katherina; the fourth reintroduces an element foreshadowed in the earlier part of the play (a father for Vincentio); and the fifth resolves everything. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: ELIZABETHAN ENGLISH All languages change. Differences in pronunciation and word choice are apparent even between parents and their children. If language differences can appear in one generation, it is only to be expected that the English used by Shakespeare four hundred years ago will diverge markedly from the English used today. The following information on Shakespeare's language will help a modern reader to a fuller understanding of The Taming of the Shrew. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: MOBILITY OF WORD CLASSES Adjectives, nouns, and verbs were less rigidly confined to particular classes in Shakespeare's day. Adjectives were frequently used as adverbs: ...You are marvellous [i.e., marvellously] forward. (II, i, 73) or as nouns: But in a few [i.e., a few words], (I, ii, 51) Nouns could occur as verbs: Shall sweet Bianca practise how to bride it? (III, ii, 249) and pronouns could function as nouns: I'll bring mine action on the proudest he [i.e., person] (III, ii, 232) THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: CHANGES IN WORD MEANING The meanings of words undergo changes, a process that can be illustrated by the fact that nice originally meant ignorant, then wanton, and, more recently, pleasing. Many words in Shakespeare still exist today but their primary meanings have changed. The change may be small, as in the case of modesty meaning moderation: It will be pastime passing excellent, If it be husbanded with modesty. (Ind., i, 66-67) or more fundamental, so that embossed (Ind., i, 15) meant exhausted, cunning (Ind., i, 90) meant skill, prodigy (III, ii, 94) meant omen, idle humour (Ind., ii, 13) meant foolish fancy, and grateful meant acceptable in Neighbor, this is a gift very grateful,... (II, i, 76) THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: VOCABULARY LOSS Words not only change their meanings but are frequently discarded from the language. In the past, leman meant sweetheart, sooth meant truth, and rayed meant dirtied. The following words used in The Taming of the Shrew are no longer common in English, but their meanings can usually be gauged from the contexts in which they occur. FEEZE OR PHEEZE (Ind., i, 1): beat, flog THIRD-BOROUGH (Ind., i, 9): constable, sheriff BELIKE (Ind., i, 73): probably HAPLY (Ind., i, 134): perhaps BESTRAUGHT (Ind., ii, 26): mad, deranged WELKIN (Ind., ii, 46): heavens, sky FAY (Ind., ii, 82): faith PLASH (I, i, 23): puddle, pool I WIS (I, i, 62): certainly MEW (I, i, 87): confine AN(D) (I, i, 128): if AGLET-BABY (I, ii, 78): doll STEAD (I, ii, 264): help, assist GAWDS (II, i, 3): toys, baubles HILDING (II, i, 26): contemptible woman MEACOCK (II, i, 306): tame, lacking spirit ARGOSY (II, i, 367): merchant ship GALLIASSES (II, i, 371): heavy-duty ship RUDESBY (III, ii, 10): ruffian CHAPELESS (III, ii, 45): without a cover for the point of a sword GLANDERS (III, ii, 48): disease of horses LAMPASS (III, ii, 49): disease of horses WINDGALLS (III, ii, 50): boils (on a horse's leg) SPAVINS (III, ii, 51): leg joints BOTS (III, ii, 53): type of worm COZEN (III, ii, 166): cheat BEMOILED (IV, i, 67): covered in dirt JOLTHEADS (IV, i, 153): blockheads AFFIED (IV, iv, 49): betrothed LIST (IV, v, 7): please COPATAIN HAT (V, i, 59): high-crowned hat THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: VERBS Shakespearean verb forms differ from modern usage in three main ways: 1. Questions and negatives could be formed without using do/did, as when the servant asks, How fares my noble lord? (Ind., ii, 101) or Bianca wonders, Where left we last? (III, i, 26) or Gremio insists, Now I fear thee not: (II, i, 392) Shakespeare had the option of using the following forms (a) and (b), whereas contemporary usage permits only the (a) forms: (a) (b) Is the king going? Goes the king? Did the king go? Went the king? You do not look well. You look not well. You did not look well. You looked not well. 2. A number of past participles and past tense forms are used that would be ungrammatical today. For example, devote for devoted: Or so devote to Aristotle's checks (I, i, 32) 3. Archaic verb forms sometimes occur with thou and he/she/it: Well mayst thou woo, and happy be thy speed! Be be thou armed for some unhappy words. (II, i, 138-39) and: He hath some meaning in his mad attire. (III, ii, 122) THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: PRONOUNS Shakespeare and his contemporaries had one extra pronoun, thou, which was used in addressing one's equal familiarly or a social inferior. You was obligatory if more than one person was addressed: What! would you make me mad? (Ind., ii, 17) But it was also used to indicate respect, as when the servants pretend to show respect for Sly: Will 't please your mightiness to wash your hands? O, how we joy to see your wit restored! O, that once more you knew but what you are! (Ind., ii, 77-79) A person in authority used thou to a child or a subordinate but was addressed you in return. Katherina stresses her position of authority by using thou to Bianca, whereas Bianca uses you to Katherina: BIANCA: Or what you will command me will I do, So well I know my duty to my elders. KATHERINA: Of all thy suitors here I charge thee tell Whom thou lov'st best. See thou dissemble not. (II, i, 6-9) But if thou was used inappropriately, it could cause grave offense. Here, Petruchio deliberately annoys Katherina by his overfamiliar use of thou: For, by this light whereby I see thy beauty, Thy beauty that doth make me like thee well, Thou must be married to no man but me, (II, i, 266-68) THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: PREPOSITIONS Prepositions were less standardized in Elizabethan English than they are today, and so you find several uses in The Taming of the Shrew that would have to be modified in contemporary speech. Among these are of for during in But did I never speak of all that time? (Ind., 11, 83) for instead of in in I am arrived for fruitful Lombardy (I, i, 3) with for to in For I have more to commune [communicate] with Bianca. (I, i, 101) in for up in And while I pause, serve in your harmony. (III, i, 14) and to for of in But say, what to thine old news? (III, ii, 40) THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: MULTIPLE NEGATIVES Contemporary English permits only one negative per statement and regards such utterances as "I haven't none" as nonstandard. Shakespeare often used two or more negatives for emphasis, as when Sly insists: ...for I have no more doublets than backs, no more stockings than legs, nor no more shoes than feet; (Ind., ii, 8-10) or the servant assures Sly: Why, sir, you know no house, nor no such maid, Nor no such men as you have reckoned up. (Ind., ii, 92-93) THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: THE GLOBE THEATRE One of the most famous theaters of all time is the Globe Theatre. It was one of several Shakespeare worked in during his career and many of the greatest plays of English literature were performed there. Built in 1599 for L600 just across the River Thames from London, it burned down in 1613 when a spark from one of the cannons in a battle scene in Shakespeare's Henry VIII set fire to the thatched roof. The theater was quickly rebuilt and survived until 1644. No one knows exactly what the Globe looked like but some scholarly detective work has given us a pretty good idea. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., has a full-scale re-creation of the Globe. When it was built, the Globe was the latest thing in theater design. It was a three-story octagon, with covered galleries surrounding an open yard some 50 feet across. Three sides of the octagon were devoted to the stage and backstage areas. The main stage was a raised platform that jutted into the center of the yard or pit. Behind the stage was the tiring house--the backstage area where the actors dressed and waited for their cues. It was flanked by two doors and contained an inner stage with a curtain used when the script called for a scene to be discovered. (Some scholars think the inner stage was actually a tent or pavilion that could be moved about the stage.) Above the inner stage was the upper stage, a curtained balcony that could serve as the battlements in Hamlet or for the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet. Most of the action of the play took place on the main and upper stages. The third story held the musicians' gallery and machinery for sound effects and pyrotechnics. Above all was a turret from which a flag was flown to announce, "Performance today." A roof (the shadow) covered much of the stage and not only protected the players from sudden showers but also contained machinery needed for some special effects. More machinery was under the stage, where several trap doors permitted the sudden appearance in a play of ghosts and allowed actors to leap into rivers or graves, as the script required. For a penny (a day's wages for an apprentice), you could stand with the "groundlings" in the yard to watch the play; another penny would buy you a seat in the upper galleries, and a third would get you a cushioned seat in the lower gallery--the best seats in the house. The audience would be a mixed crowd--sedate scholars, gallant courtiers, and respectable merchants and their families in the galleries; rowdy apprentices and young men looking for excitement in the yard; and pickpockets and prostitutes taking advantage of the crowds to ply their trades. And crowds there would be--the Globe could probably hold 2000 to 3000 people, and even an ordinary performance would attract a crowd of 1200. The play you came to see would be performed in broad daylight during the warmer months. In colder weather, Shakespeare's troupe appeared indoors at Court or in one of London's private theaters. There was no scenery as we know it but there are indications that the Elizabethans used simple set pieces such as trees, bowers, or battle tents to indicate location. Any props needed were readied in the tiring house by the book keeper (we'd call him the stage manager) and carried on and off by actors. If time or location were important, the characters usually said something about it. Trumpet flourishes told the audience an important character was about to enter, rather like a modern spotlight, and a scene ended when all the characters left the stage. (Bodies of dead characters were carried off stage.) Little attention was paid to historical accuracy in plays such as Julius Caesar or Macbeth and actors wore contemporary clothing. One major difference from the modern theater was that all female parts were played by young boys; Elizabethan custom did not permit women to act. If the scenery was minimal, the performance made up for it in costumes and spectacle. English actors were famous throughout Europe for their skill as dancers and performances ended with a dance (or jig). Blood, in the form of animal blood or red paint, was lavished about in the tragedies; ghosts made sudden appearances amidst swirling fog; thunder was simulated by rolling a cannon ball along the wooden floor of the turret or by rattling a metal sheet. The costumes were gorgeous--and expensive! One "robe of estate" alone cost L19, a year's wages for a skilled workman of the time. But the costumes were a large part of the spectacle that the audience came to see, and they had to look impressive in broad daylight, with the audience right up close. You've learned some of the conventions of the Globe Theatre, a theater much simpler than many of ours but nevertheless offering Shakespeare a wide range of possibilities for staging his plays. Now let's see how specific parts of The Taming of the Shrew might have been presented at the Globe. Those who wanted a really close-up view of a play--and who wanted to be seen as well--could get a seat right on stage. The stage of the Globe may have been slightly wedge-shaped, wider at the rear, so well-dressed young gentlemen could sit on stage without interfering with the view for the rest of the audience. This arrangement was probably specially adapted to The Taming of the Shrew, so that the characters of the Induction, the drunken Sly and "wife," could sit on stage and watch the play within the play. Street scenes were popular in Elizabethan plays partly because the stage worked so well for them. The doors at the sides of the inner stage served as the doors of different houses. You can see how this would work in The Taming of the Shrew: In Act I, Scene ii, one of the doors is Hortensio's house; in Act V, Scene i, the other door is Lucentio's house, and the second story balcony is where the Pedant sticks his head out. The inner stage might serve for indoor scenes with only a few characters, like the first scene in Act III, with Lucentio, Hortensio, and Bianca. Larger scenes, even if set indoors, would have to take place on the main stage to accommodate all the characters. Any necessary props or furniture would be carried in, just as the servants carry in the banquet for the final scene of this play. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: INDUCTION, SCENE I You expect the first scene of a play to give you an idea of what the play is going to be about. However, the Induction to The Taming of the Shrew tells you nothing at all about Katherina and Petruchio or Bianca and Lucentio, but begins with a tinker, or mender of household utensils, named Christopher Sly. When you first meet Christopher Sly, he is quarreling drunkenly with the owner of an inn where he's broken some glasses. His first speech, "I'll feeze you, in faith," is just like our saying, "I'll fix you for this." But he doesn't seem likely to carry out his threat, because he falls asleep on the ground as soon as the woman has gone to fetch the "third-borough," the Warwickshire equivalent of a sheriff. An unnamed lord on his way home from hunting enters with his dogs and servants. Catching sight of Sly asleep on the ground, he decides to play a joke on him. The servants will put Sly to bed in the Lord's best bedroom, dress him richly, and generally treat him like a lord. You may think it's rather a cruel joke. Clearly the Lord and his servants will laugh at Sly's confusion and clumsy manners when they try to convince him he is really a lord who has been ill and slept for a long time. Do you think that this kind of humor is better appreciated in a society that accepts strict class distinctions? As in the taming plot later, you may find the actions of certain characters cruel. But note also the ways in which Sly holds his own. Already you are presented with the question of whether people are better off remaining true to themselves or allowing themselves to be transformed into socially more desirable people. A traveling company of actors comes in, and the Lord takes them into his confidence. They obviously will play The Taming of the Shrew for us as well as for Sly. NOTE: TRAVELING PLAYERS Companies of actors still go on the road with a play that may have begun its run on Broadway in New York City. In Shakespeare's time, companies left London in the summer and traveled around England presenting their plays in the courtyards of inns and in the great halls of country manor houses. (They also went on the road when the plague, which struck frequently in Elizabethan times, closed the theaters in London.) Here the Lord is welcoming a company of traveling players to his manor. You probably know of a similar scene in Shakespeare's Hamlet, in which Hamlet welcomes the players. The Lord would give the players food and shelter as well as a fee for their performance. Shakespeare's own company was probably welcomed by many such a Lord. The Lord decides to extend the joke by having a page dress as a woman and pretend to be Sly's "lady" wife. In the Lord's speech, there is one clear reference to the subject of The Taming of the Shrew: the Lord describes how a lady should behave, "With soft low tongue and lowly courtesy," asking humbly how she may show her love to her husband. (As you know, the main play is about a woman's learning to please her husband by behaving obediently and humbly.) NOTE: THE PUZZLE OF THE FRAMEWORK As the play exists today, the Induction has no obvious relationship to the main story. Scholars have tried to explain why the framework is incomplete--perhaps the last part of the manuscript was lost before the play was printed, so the closing scene was omitted; or perhaps it was a tradition for the actors to improvise the ending of the framework; or perhaps Shakespeare just found the Sly story inconvenient and dropped it. There is another play, entitled The Taming of a Shrew, published in London in 1594, which has a complete framework. At the end, Christopher Sly awakens on the ground outside the alehouse, where he has been taken by the Lord's servants, who have dressed him in his own clothes again. He tells the man who wakens him that he has had a marvelous dream, the best in his life. He has learned how to tame a shrew and so he knows how to deal with his own wife. Remember, though, that Shakespeare may also have deliberately chosen to begin with an Induction but not to end with one. As you read further, consider whether you see connections between the Induction and the rest of the play. Note also that Shakespeare sets the Induction in Warwickshire where he grew up. Perhaps the play was first performed at a lord's manor in Warwickshire, so the local people would enjoy jokes at the expense of people they knew. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: INDUCTION, SCENE II The stage directions tell you how the framework was supposed to enclose the play physically. It says, "Enter aloft," meaning that Sly and the Lord would be seated above the main action, on the balcony at the back of the stage. In some performances, the characters remain there throughout the play, silently commenting on the action through facial expressions and gestures. Sly has awakened and wants more drink. But he doesn't want the aristocratic sack (Spanish wine), just weak ale. He vigorously rejects the idea that he is anyone but Christopher Sly and gives you his credentials with references. He mentions Marian Hacket, probably a real person who would be recognized with applause or catcalls from the audience. But the Lord and his servants begin to work on Sly in poetic speeches, offering him the upper-class delights of music, riding, hunting, painting, all with liberal references to Greek and Roman mythology to give the general impression of refinement. It works so well that the next time Sly speaks, he adopts the blank, or unrhymed, verse of the aristocratic household. Amid the feigned rejoicing at the recovery of his wits, the servants tell Sly how he really behaved and pretend that he was a lord out of his wits. Sly wonders which of his lives is real and which illusion. Distinguishing reality from illusion will be important in the main play, too. The fun heightens when the page dressed as Sly's wife approaches. Sly has to be told how to address her, but he soon gets right to the point: "Madam, undress you and come now to bed." The page gets out of a difficult spot very ingeniously by insisting that Sly needs to rest after his illness. The doctor's advice that entertainment will benefit Sly's condition is invoked as a reason for the play, which the actors are now ready to present on the stage below. Sly shows how unsophisticated he is by not understanding what kind of play he is to see, but he's quite content to do as he thinks lords do and watch it. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 1-47 Lucentio and his servant Tranio have arrived in Padua (famous for its university). In his first speech, Lucentio tells you that he intends to study philosophy, with the blessing of his rich father Vincentio. One of a playwright's most difficult problems in the first scene is telling the audience what they need to know without making one character tell another character what both already know. What do you think of the way Lucentio's first speech does this? Does Shakespeare solve the problem gracefully? In his first speech, Tranio advises his master not to spend all his time in hard study, but to enjoy himself as well. He speaks a famous line: "No profit grows where is no pleasure ta'en." Then Lucentio and Tranio are interrupted by the entrance of the family of Baptista Minola, by Hortensio, and by Gremio, the "pantaloon." Lucentio and Tranio retreat to the side of the stage, where they stand and watch the action. NOTE: GREMIO, A PANTALOON A pantaloon was a stock figure of fun in the Italian popular theater, the commedia dell'arte. When an actor appeared wearing baggy pants, walking with an exaggerated hobble to indicate old age, carrying a stick, and bumping into things, the audience knew they could expect some fun at the expense of old men trying to get the attention and affection of young girls. Even when Shakespeare uses stock characters, he usually gives them a little depth, so they aren't quite what the audience expects. What do you think of Gremio? Is he a silly old clown? Or does he develop into something else during the play? THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 48-104 Baptista's first speech presents the main premise on which the rest of the play depends: He tells Hortensio and Gremio that Bianca, his younger daughter, can't be married until Katherina, his older daughter, has a husband. Gremio answers in the punning style you find so often in Shakespeare's comedies. When Baptista suggests that he "court" Katherina, he offers to "cart" her instead. NOTE: SHAKESPEARE'S PUNS Elizabethans loved playing with words, especially in the form of puns (the humorous use of the same or similar-sounding words with different meanings). We tend to think of puns as a simple form of humor and may groan when we hear one. Sometimes of course they are marvelously creative and show you similarities between words you hadn't thought of before. Shakespeare's puns occasionally use older forms of words you won't immediately recognize. Follow the explanations in your text to fully appreciate these wordplays that so delighted Elizabethan audiences. And notice the characters that are most creative in the use of puns. What does such ability tell you about them? Katherina demonstrates why she has a reputation as a shrew. She isn't thinking of marriage, she says, but if she were, her husband would be beaten with a stool, scratched until his face bled, and made a fool of. Hortensio and Gremio will have none of her. Meanwhile, still off to the side and unobserved by the others, Lucentio is falling in love with Bianca. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 105-46 After sending his daughters home and just before departing himself, Baptista tells Hortensio and Gremio that he's looking for tutors in music and literature for Bianca. When Gremio and Hortensio think they are alone, they commiserate with each other. As they see it, there's only one way out of the problem: they must find a husband for Katherina. They agree to work together until they can set Bianca free. NOTE: PROSE AND POETRY You will have noticed that some speeches are in prose and some in poetry. In general, Shakespeare uses poetry--unrhymed, or blank verse--to express emotions and thoughts; it is usually assigned to people high on the social scale. Prose is for ordinary information and for servants, workers, and craftsmen. Comedies contain a lot of prose. You have already seen Christopher Sly in the Induction moving from prose to poetry as he comes to believe he is indeed a lord. In this first scene of Act I, Hortensio and Gremio speak in prose as they discuss the problem of finding a husband for Katherina; then Lucentio moves to the most elevated poetic style to express his love for Bianca. The richness of the language, though, does not necessarily depend on whether it is prose or poetry. Can you find any examples of prose dialogue that you especially like? Some of the poetry may be deliberately empty, a comment on the character speaking it. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 147-247 As Hortensio and Gremio leave, Lucentio bursts out: "Tranio, I burn, I pine, I perish, Tranio." You will soon notice that there is no more talk of Lucentio's studying philosophy--he is about to begin a different kind of education. The object is to get access to Bianca. Lucentio will become one of the schoolmasters that Baptista wants to hire. But then who will impersonate Lucentio? It is decided that Tranio will impersonate his master, while Lucentio assumes the name Cambio (a name that has the significant meaning of "change" in Italian). Tranio remarks that he had promised Lucentio's father, Vincentio, that he would be serviceable to his son, "although," he adds humorously, "I think 'twas in another sense." Their plan is confirmed with Biondello, Lucentio's other servant, who enters at this point. They tell him they must change places to protect Lucentio while he escapes after having killed a man. It's an effective deception to keep Biondello quiet. Then Tranio, dressed as Lucentio, goes off to seek out Hortensio and Gremio in order to join them as a suitor to Bianca, while Lucentio/Cambio goes to get himself recommended as a schoolmaster. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 248-52 These are the last few lines written for the characters in the Induction. They are sitting on the balcony watching the action from above, and apparently Sly is not paying attention. He doesn't seem interested in the play. His last words express his wish for it to be over. You learn nothing more about him, because all the Induction characters disappear from the text at this point. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 1-19 At the beginning of Scene I you met Lucentio and his servant. Now you meet Petruchio and his servant Grumio, also newly arrived in Padua. Note the contrast in the relationships. Where Tranio acted as a mentor to Lucentio and can behave enough like him to impersonate him, Grumio is a clown. The first exchange shows his misunderstanding a common usage. Petruchio asks him to "knock," meaning "knock on Hortensio's door," but Grumio thinks his master wants him to "knock" (hit) someone. Grumio misunderstands and won't hit his master for fear of being hit in return. The exchange of words ends with Petruchio pulling Grumio's ears. Hortensio enters in the middle of the quarrel. NOTE: SHAKESPEARE'S COMIC SERVANTS Grumio is a fine example of the comic servants you find in Shakespeare's plays--not only in the comedies, but also in the tragedies, where they provide contrast to the main action. Shakespeare's servants are completely at their masters' mercy and try to please them all the time. They worry about getting meals and being paid, and they often have a robustly realistic attitude to the follies of their masters, even while faithfully carrying out (or trying to carry out) their orders. In The Taming of the Shrew, there are at least three comic serving men, Grumio, Biondello, and later Curtis, another of Petruchio's servants. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 20-138 Hortensio greets his old friend Petruchio, and Petruchio explains his presence in Padua. Contrast Petruchio's explanation with Lucentio's explanation in Scene I. Unlike Lucentio, Petruchio is speaking to someone who really doesn't know the reasons for his visit, and his speech doesn't sound artificial. Petruchio wants to marry a rich wife. He has no romantic illusions: He comes to "wive and thrive." For him, wealth and happiness are an equation. Some readers think that Petruchio's declaration shows him to be more honest than the other suitors. Do you think they are all after money? One may also question Petruchio's words. Couldn't he find an easier route to money than wooing Katherina? NOTE: LOVE AND MARRIAGE Differing attitudes to love and marriage run throughout The Taming of the Shrew. You saw Lucentio's intense romantic passion for Bianca. Petruchio has a completely different attitude. Is marrying for money any less acceptable than marrying for love? Is it more or less likely to lead to a successful marriage? Look at what happens in the play for some unexpected light on these questions. Hortensio has a suggestion for Petruchio: he knows a match for him--Katherina. Of course he sees the advantage to himself as well. If Petruchio marries Katherina, Hortensio may get Bianca. Petruchio decides to go at once to the Minola household, since Petruchio's father and Baptista Minola were acquainted. Grumio assures Hortensio that Petruchio is a match for any bad-tempered person--we know from the quarrel at the beginning of the scene that he's speaking from experience. Hortensio sees how he can use Petruchio's visit to Baptista to help his case with Bianca. Petruchio will introduce Hortensio disguised as a music teacher. Grumio remarks sarcastically on the deceptions the two young men are plotting to undermine an old man's authority. NOTE: YOUTH VS. AGE Old men in authority don't fare well in The Taming of the Shrew. The young people conspire against them, as Grumio says here: "See, to beguile the old folks, how the young folks lay their heads together." What's more, the young people are successful. The theme of vigorous youth in love pitted against old age that wants to frustrate them derives from Italian theater conventions, which were familiar to Shakespeare and his audience. How does the triumph of youth in this play fit into the theme of natural order and its reversals? Can it be justified using order as a reason or is it a reversal? THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 139-61 At this point Gremio and Lucentio enter, with Lucentio disguised as Cambio, the schoolmaster. Hortensio explains to Grumio and Petruchio that Gremio is his rival for Bianca. Gremio meanwhile is instructing the "schoolmaster" Cambio on how to plead his case to Bianca. Gremio thinks Cambio will be acting on his behalf. You've already seen quite a few deceptions and transformations. Sly is tricked into becoming a lord. Lucentio becomes Cambio and Tranio becomes Lucentio to trick Baptista, Gremio, and Hortensio. These are the first of many deceptions and transformations that occur throughout the play. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 162-216 Gremio tells Hortensio that he has a schoolmaster (Cambio) for Bianca. Not to be outdone, Hortensio announces that he too has a teacher, a musician, for Bianca, without of course mentioning that he means himself. Hortensio introduces Petruchio as a young man who can do them both good by courting and hopefully marrying Katherina, if her father offers a large enough dowry. Gremio is skeptical: "But will you woo this wild-cat?" Petruchio answers with a magnificently boastful speech about the noises he has endured in his life as a hunter of wild beasts, as a sailor, and as a soldier. What is a "woman's tongue" compared to these? The speech also gives us an indication that Petruchio is not a romantic young student like Lucentio but has seen the world. (The role of Petruchio is usually assigned to a mature, even middle-aged actor, rather than to a young romantic lead.) Gremio and Hortensio agree to help pay Petruchio's expenses, because they think they will benefit from his courtship of Katherina. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 217-80 Everyone on the stage intends to go to Baptista's house. Now another pair enters, asking directions to get there. They are Tranio, disguised as his master Lucentio, and Biondello. Gremio and Hortensio are immediately suspicious and challenge Tranio/Lucentio's right to visit their "choice love." Tranio acts the part of the gentleman so well that Lucentio/Cambio praises him (with no one else hearing). When Petruchio explains that anyone who wants to court Bianca is dependent on Petruchio's success with Katherina, Tranio/Lucentio agrees to pay his share of the expenses. So they all go off together, with the three suitors for Bianca pinning their hopes on the single suitor for Katherina. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 1-38 Katherina has tied Bianca's hands together and won't untie them until Bianca tells her which of her suitors--at this point, she knows only of Hortensio and Gremio--she loves best. Perhaps Katherina is burning with jealousy because her sister has suitors and she herself has none. If so, this jealousy may suggest that, contrary to what she says on other occasions, she is indeed interested in marriage. Bianca simply cannot believe that anyone would be jealous of Gremio, but Katherina is so angry that she strikes her sister. The noise of their dispute brings their father in to part them. As he rebukes Katherina and soothes Bianca, you may get some clues about the origin of Katherina's ill temper. Her father seems to prefer Bianca. Do you think that sibling rivalry motivates Katherina? Or do you think that Baptista's preference is a result of Katherina's ill temper? From your own experience or that of your friends, consider Baptista's behavior as a source of Katherina's constant anger. Keep in mind, though, the ways in which Baptista shows his concern for Katherina; for example, his insistence that she marry first. Katherina does not seem to believe that Bianca will not marry before she does. She thinks that the traditional fate of old maids faces her--to dance barefoot at her younger sister's wedding and to "lead apes in hell" (instead of children) when she dies. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 39-113 Baptista is interrupted in his self-pity over Katherina's behavior by the entrance of Bianca's three suitors, Petruchio, and Biondello. For the first time you see together the three disguised characters: Lucentio/Cambio, Hortensio/Litio (the name under which Hortensio presents himself as a tutor), and Tranio/Lucentio. They are all busy trying to ingratiate themselves with Baptista, when Petruchio boldly separates himself from the group and begins his business with Baptista. He describes what he has heard about Katherina in terms that surprise Baptista. He says that she is beautiful, witty, gentle, and modest! Then he presents Hortensio/Litio as a music master for her. Baptista is clearly impressed but can't believe that Petruchio really wants to woo Katherina. Gremio finally manages to push his way between the two of them, in order to present Lucentio/Cambio as a schoolmaster for Bianca. Tranio/Lucentio brings a lute and books as presents for the Minola daughters and asks only to be allowed the privilege of visiting as a suitor to Bianca. Believing him to be Lucentio, Baptista receives him favorably for the sake of Lucentio's father, Vincentio. The suitors' plans to gain access have worked well. Baptista orders that Hortensio/Litio and Lucentio/Cambio be taken immediately to visit their pupils Katherina and Bianca. Then Gremio and Tranio/Lucentio are invited by Baptista to walk in the orchard before dinner, while Petruchio and Baptista negotiate over Katherina's dowry. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 114-181 Petruchio has said that he wants to marry for money, so it isn't surprising that he gets to the point so quickly. As soon as Baptista has promised 20,000 crowns as Katherina's dowry, and Petruchio in turn has promised to leave her a wealthy widow, the latter suggests they draw up a contract. NOTE: DOWRIES AND CROWNS A dowry has two meanings in The Taming of the Shrew. Here it means the money a father pays to a man marrying his daughter. Later, when Tranio/Lucentio and Gremio vie for Bianca's hand, the dowry means property legally assured to a wife in case of her husband's death. Who got and who gave depends on the market: A girl like Katherina would need a large dowry as marriage inducement, whereas a popular girl like Bianca could be awarded to the suitor most likely to assure her a comfortable life. The gold crown was originally a French coin, but Henry VIII had issued English crowns as early as 1526. The English crown was worth about five shillings. Although you must be very cautious in assigning values to Elizabethan money, it's worth noting that a sixteenth-century soldier was paid sixpence a day, or one-tenth of a crown, so 20,000 crowns would pay the wages of 200,000 soldiers for one day! Petruchio brushes aside Baptista's doubts about his ability to gain Katherina's love. Baptista's skeptical response, warning him against "some unhappy words," seems to be justified, as Hortensio bursts into the room with the remains of the musical instrument, the lute, around his neck. He miserably tells Baptista and Petruchio that he was just trying to show Katherina how to place her fingers on the frets (the lute is like the guitar), when she became impatient and hit him with the instrument. NOTE: THE TAMING METAPHOR As you can see from the play's title, the desired change in Katherina's character is compared to the taming of a wild animal. The metaphor recurs throughout the play. Notice here that Baptista asks: "Why then, thou canst not break her to the lute?" as if she were a wild horse to be broken. While the metaphor may seem justified in view of Katherina's extreme behavior, the suitability of comparing a woman to an animal that must be made obedient to a master's will is questionable. In producing the play, theatrical companies have been aware that audiences often find this "taming" offensive. Some productions exaggerate it for shock value; others find ways of toning it down. Petruchio professes even greater love for Katherina after hearing Hortensio's sad story, although he hasn't even seen her yet. Concerned about Hortensio's feelings, Baptista reassigns him to Bianca, exactly what Hortensio wants, of course. They leave Petruchio alone to await Katherina's arrival. Petruchio now speaks what is called a soliloquy, a speech to oneself or to the audience usually describing what the character is thinking. Petruchio lays out his plan of action to show Katherina who's master: He will contradict everything she says and flatter her profusely. See whether Petruchio carries out his plan and what reaction it gets from the lady. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 182-271 This is the first encounter between these two equally matched contestants. It's obvious that Katherina has never come up against anyone like Petruchio before--everyone else has reacted to her temper as Hortensio did and fled in terror. Petruchio approaches her with admiration for her beauty, "the prettiest Kate in Christendom," and tries throughout the scene to treat her gently. But there's iron in the velvet glove. When she strikes him, he says he will hit her if she strikes him a second time. They exchange a barrage of puns, many with sexual meanings. Toward the end, Petruchio woos Katherina with a speech crediting her with exactly the opposite of her attributes. Ask yourself as you watch the developing relationship between Katherina and Petruchio what the true source of his power over her is. Is there something besides mastery that she senses in his approach? THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 272-317 Petruchio fools Baptista, Gremio, and Tranio/Lucentio by telling them that Kate has adopted her shrewishness deliberately, and when alone with him, is as mild and modest as Chaucer's Grissel (Patient Griselda) or the Roman Lucrece (Lucretia), both well-known models of female virtue. He announces that he and Katherina will be married on the next Sunday. Katherina really loves him in private, he says, and behaves "curst in company" by agreement with him. It's a clever move, because no one can prove otherwise. Petruchio leaves for Venice to buy wedding clothes. (Padua and Venice are not far apart; Padua is on the mainland and Venice is just off the Adriatic coast.) THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 318-404 Baptista still thinks the marriage won't come off even though he is prepared to "venture madly on a desperate mart," or business deal. The others point out, continuing the business metaphor, that Katherina was like merchandise that wasn't moving very quickly. They now turn as fast as they can to their own business--marrying Bianca. Again you see a mercenary approach to marriage. In effect, Baptista auctions Bianca to the highest bidder. Notice the contrast between this discussion of a marriage settlement and the earlier one concerning Katherina's dowry: Petruchio had to be promised money to marry Katherina--half of Baptista's fortune at his death and 20,000 crowns right away. But Gremio and Tranio/Lucentio have to show Baptista how well they can keep Bianca. Tranio once again shows how useful a servant he is by easily outbidding Gremio. Baptista acknowledges that Tranio/Lucentio offers the greater fortune but insists on hearing Vincentio's own consent to the agreement. Baptista's a sound businessman: He wants to be assured that Bianca will be looked after if her husband should die. Gremio comments, "And may not young men die as well as old?" The line comes from a society with a different experience of death from ours. We associate death with old age, but in Elizabethan times, so many young people died from disease or were killed in battle that it was a considerable achievement to grow old. Baptista sums up the situation: Katherina will be married the next Sunday, and therefore Bianca is free to be married the following Sunday. She will marry Lucentio (we know that Tranio is wooing for him) if he can produce his father to agree to the settlement. If not, she'll marry Gremio. Tranio/Lucentio is now left alone for a soliloquy. He has to find someone to impersonate Vincentio in time for Lucentio to marry Bianca in less than two weeks. He comments wryly that fathers usually "get" (that is, beget, or cause conception of) sons, but now he, acting as a son, has to "get" a father. At the end of Act II, it looks as if the major problem of the play is already solved, because Baptista has found a husband for Katherina, and so Bianca can be married. But in a comedy, solutions to problems give rise to further problems. In this case, Tranio has to find someone to act the part of Lucentio's father. Watch how Shakespeare constructs the play. You won't hear much about this latest plot development until Act IV, when a new element is needed to delay a premature ending. Then you will remember that a father for Lucentio was mentioned at the end of Act II. Of course nothing is certain at this point. You don't know whether Petruchio will actually marry Katherina. You don't know if Bianca will fall in love with Lucentio. And, like Tranio, you have no idea where a father is going to come from. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: ACT III, SCENE I Lucentio is dressed as Cambio. Hortensio, dressed as Litio, and Lucentio/Cambio are competing for a chance to work privately with Bianca, but neither will let the other alone with her. Each of them tries to use his teaching as a cover to speak of love. The surprise in this scene is Bianca's personality. What has happened to the easygoing, sweet girl? What is your impression of Bianca's method of handling her tutors? Is her character consistent with what you have already seen and with the way others have described her? Lucentio/Cambio and Bianca read together a passage in Latin written by the Roman author Ovid, who wrote on love in the first century A.D. You may imagine the two of them sitting very close together, trying to whisper so that Hortensio can't hear, although he keeps trying to edge closer to them. Lucentio/Cambio reads the Latin words loudly and then lowers his voice to give Bianca the real message. Just when Lucentio has explained why he and his servant Tranio have changed places, Hortensio declares that his instrument is ready. Lucentio and Bianca try delaying tactics: first the treble is out of tune--giving Bianca a chance to reply coyly to Lucentio under the cover of the Latin--then the bass. Hortensio begins to notice what's going on. Then Bianca gently puts aside Lucentio to let Hortensio/Litio have his turn. He gives her a piece of paper ostensibly explaining the scale or "gamut." She reads it aloud, paralleling the encounter with Lucentio. But she soon thrusts Hortensio's "gamut" from her, making quite clear her preference for Lucentio. Called to help prepare the house for Katherina's wedding the next day, she leaves them both. Lucentio avoids a confrontation with Hortensio by departing just as quickly. Hortensio speaks to himself, using a metaphor from hunting with a hawk to make his point. If Bianca responds to Cambio's easy flattery, then she isn't worth much, he rationalizes. A good hawk homes in only on worthy prey, that is, a good Bianca should respond only to someone worthy like Hortensio. It seems as if Hortensio is ready to give up the contest for Bianca. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: ACT III, SCENE II This scene takes place the next day, Katherina's wedding day. Baptista anxiously worries aloud to Tranio/Lucentio about Petruchio's lateness for the ceremony. Note his concern with his own shame and what others will say about this "mockery." Katherina sees herself as the only person wronged. She believes that Petruchio means to leave her standing at the church door. Is Katherina on the verge of change? Do her last words, wishing she'd never seen Petruchio, hint at anything else besides hurt vanity? Could it be love? Repeat her line with different intonations indicating different emotions to see which one you think best fits the situation. NOTE: DISCREPANCIES IN SHAKESPEARE'S PLAYS Tranio's reassurance speech here (lines 21-25) does not really fit, since Tranio doesn't know Petruchio well. It would make more sense for Hortensio, Petruchio's friend, to say of him: "I know him passing wise." Some of Shakespeare's plays were written down later from the players' memories. This method led to odd mistakes: Sometimes the players' real names were inserted instead of the parts they played (probably the reason one of Petruchio's servants is called Curtis, the name of an actor in the company), and sometimes, as seems to be the case here, the wrong character was given a speech. Biondello, Lucentio's servant, now comes rushing in excitedly. He announces Petruchio's arrival. The prose in which he describes Petruchio's dress and his horse is full of colorful Elizabethan terms and horse terminology. They conjure up the ridiculous picture of a man coming to his wedding in rags, wearing a rusty sword and riding a horse that belongs in the glue factory. Both Petruchio and Grumio are dressed exactly the opposite of what Baptista expects of a bridal party. When Petruchio and Grumio finally arrive on stage, their appearance is as bad as Biondello described. In horror, Baptista and the others urge Petruchio to borrow clothes more suitable to a wedding, but he refuses. Katherina will marry him, not his clothes, he says. He rushes off to see her. After Gremio and Baptista depart for the wedding ceremony, Tranio reports to Lucentio, his master. They have to find someone to impersonate Vincentio, so that Lucentio can marry Bianca. At this point Gremio returns and tells about Petruchio's wedding. Petruchio's behavior at his wedding was apparently even worse than his appearance. He knocked down the priest, called for wine, threw the dregs in another church official's face, and finally gave his bride a smacking kiss. When the wedding party actually enters, Petruchio has another surprise for everyone. He and Katherina aren't going to attend their own wedding dinner but are leaving at once. Baptista and his friends plead with Petruchio. When Katherina adds her voice, we think he has changed his mind. But he hasn't, and she reacts with fury, tells him he can go without her, and declares that women will be made fools of if they don't resist male tyranny. Is Katherina, and thereby Shakespeare, aware of the larger issues of female independence in society? Is there any other evidence of this in the play? But Petruchio pulls her away. Everyone else can go to the bridal feast, but the two of them must leave. He speaks a line that is the key both to his character and to a major theme of the play: "I will be master of what is mine own." And off they rush. NOTE: THE ELIZABETHAN WORLD PICTURE Religion and social values in Shakespeare's time supported a belief in a hierarchical structure of human relationships. Everything was arranged in a series of pyramids: God was at the top of the largest one, with angels below Him, man beneath them, animals under them, and plants at the bottom. The political structure had the monarch at the top, lords next, and commoners below. In a family, the man ruled the household, his wife obeyed him, and the children were next, just above the servants. Elizabethans believed that if the order were disturbed, things would go wrong. Katherina is assuming an authority that does not belong to a woman, the right to do as she likes without obeying her husband's wishes. So when Petruchio declares with all the strength of his personality that he will be master in his own house and demand obedience from what belongs to him, he is putting the social order straight. He is also demonstrating that wives were thought of as possessions--chattels--along with furnishings and animals. Petruchio's jokingly boastful defense of Katherina demonstrates his intention to defend his property. Can you find any evidence in the play that suggests that Shakespeare may have also been critical of these attitudes? The rest of the wedding party decides they may as well eat the feast since it has been prepared, and--ironically, because we know what they do not--they choose Tranio/Lucentio and Bianca to sit in the seats meant for the bride and groom. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 1-106 Grumio arrives exhausted at Petruchio's house and tries to rouse the servants. Notice that the scene is in prose, as is appropriate for the speakers, who are servants, and for their subject, domestic arrangements. After exchanging jokes with Curtis, Grumio describes the appalling journey that Katherina has suffered as a bride. Her horse fell on her and Petruchio did not help her. Instead, leaving his wife in the dirt, he took off after Grumio to beat him for having let Katherina's horse stumble, causing more and more confusion until Katherina was reduced to praying and the horses ran away. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 107-75 Petruchio comes in bellowing at his servants, complaining that they didn't follow his orders. He is followed by a miserable Katherina, wearing a dress covered with mud and limping from her fall off the horse. Petruchio continues to abuse his servants because one doesn't take his boots off properly and another lets a basin of water spill. When the food is brought in, Petruchio immediately pretends to find fault with it and throws it at the servants. Katherina tries to soothe him, giving Petruchio a chance to present the argument he will rely on a great deal during Act IV, that things aren't good enough for her. She is led off to her bridal chamber, not having eaten at all, and also, perhaps for the first time ever, not having spoken anything but conciliatory words. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 176-98 Petruchio now speaks to the audience and compares his strategy for Katherina to the taming of a hawk. His "falcon" is Katherina, now trying to get comfortable in a strange house. The first few lines of the speech are full of images and words from falconry. Katherina must not eat until she stoops, which means not only yielding her will, but performing what she is trained for; she is a "haggard," that is, a hawk that has already hunted for itself, not a chick from the nest. He must watch her as falconers watch hawks that "bate and beat," fluttering their wings in continual attempts to get free. NOTE: THE TAMING OF HAWKS Since wild animals were first tamed, they have been used to help people hunt. In fact, their hunting uses may have preceded keeping them as pets. You are familiar with the use of dogs to chase, roust, and collect or corner birds, deer, or rabbits. In China, cormorants are used to bring fish to their masters, who fasten a tight string or ring around their necks to prevent them from swallowing the fish. Hawks, a family of predatory birds that includes falcons, merlins, and kites, are trained to fly above their prey, swoop down on it, and then bring it back to their masters. Hawking or falconry was an aristocratic sport in Medieval and Renaissance times. Kings and lords boasted to each other about the beauty and quality of their birds. But hawks are fierce creatures who must be handled with knowledge and care. To avoid the sharp talons, a falconer or hawkmaster wears heavy leather gloves when the hawk perches on his wrist. The hawk is tied to the wrist with long leather thongs, called jesses, which can become dangerously entangled if the hawk takes off unexpectedly. To prevent that happening, a hood is placed over the hawk's eyes so that it will not be startled into sudden flight. There is a large literature on falconry, which has an extensive vocabulary. You can see examples of this vocabulary in Petruchio's speech. He is referring to the breaking of a hawk, which is accomplished by keeping the hawk in a small room without food or sleep until it accepts its master. The master stays with it all the time, soothing it and dominating it by preventing its sleeping or attacking him. The breaking can go on for more than two days, during which time the man and the hawk develop emotional bonds that enable them to hunt together. It is a process that is hard on the tamed (Katherina), but even harder on the tamer (Petruchio), because he has to be alert constantly. Think of the traits of a hawk and the ways in which Katherina is like one. Remember to include both positive and negative traits. What is the final relationship between a hawk and its master? Is this appropriate for a husband and his wife? Leaving the hawking metaphor, Petruchio explains the details of his strategy: He will continually complain that things are not good enough for his wife, keeping her awake and without food while pretending it is all for her welfare. You now understand a great deal about Petruchio's character. Whom do you know like him? Do any of these adjectives describe him: confident, opportunistic, shrewd, boastful, conceited, inventive? Which is the most accurate? Why? Do you think he'd make a good husband? A friend? What might be the drawbacks of such a friend? THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 1-56 You're now back in Baptista's house. Hortensio has brought Tranio/Lucentio to a spot where they can see Bianca and Lucentio/Cambio together. Tranio, in the character of Lucentio, feigns to be surprised that Bianca is attracted to anyone but him. Hortensio (disguised as Litio) wants to convince him. As soon as Bianca and Lucentio enter, it is obvious that the "schoolmaster" has become the lover. Hortensio triumphantly points this out to Tranio, who continues to pretend amazement. Hortensio's pride is seriously hurt that Bianca would scorn the advances of a gentleman like him for an apparent servant. Tranio eagerly seizes on Bianca's moral faults, her "lightness," as an excuse for rejecting her. The two men make a bargain: neither of them will marry her. Tranio is a clever fellow. He has managed to use the situation to cut out Hortensio, thus giving his master a clear field. Hortensio leaves hastily, saying that he will keep his side of the bargain by immediately marrying a wealthy widow who has wanted to marry him for a long time. Note that he uses the same word, "haggard," to describe Bianca as Petruchio used about Katherina. This should remind you that Hortensio used the hawk metaphor earlier, when he first began to suspect Cambio in Act III. Since both Bianca and Katherina are compared to hawks despite their different natures, you might ask which of them most deserves the description. With Hortensio gone, Tranio greets Bianca and Lucentio with the news that Hortensio has gone off to marry the Widow. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 57-121 Biondello enters with the good news that he has found someone who could impersonate Vincentio, Lucentio's father. This is the Pedant, the first of the two new characters you meet in Act IV. Note that it is Tranio, not Lucentio, who takes on the job of persuading the newcomer to act the part. Tranio is still dressed as his master, and the Pedant greets him as a gentleman. As soon as the Pedant reveals he is from the town of Mantua, Tranio makes up a story that the Dukes of Padua and Mantua are at odds and the Pedant will be killed if he goes undisguised into Padua. Having discovered that the Pedant at least knows of Vincentio, Tranio suggests that he should adopt his name and background as a disguise while in Padua. The Pedant is deeply grateful for what he thinks is a favor, and they go off together so that Tranio can tell him what to say to Baptista. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 1-35 Katherina is asking Grumio to give her food, because, as she eloquently says, she is being treated worse than beggars at her father's door. Grumio is his master's man; he teases Katherina about different kinds of meat, rejecting all of them just as Petruchio had done. He finally provokes her into a rage and she becomes the old Katherina--although here she has clear justification for her anger. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 36-60 When Petruchio comes in, he is accompanied by Hortensio and is bringing a dish to Katherina. But food is snatched from her lips again when she doesn't immediately thank him. Hortensio rebukes Petruchio and offers to eat with Katherina. Katherina's meal is not to last long; Petruchio whispers to Hortensio that he should eat all the food. Meanwhile, Petruchio finishes a speech describing the fine clothes and jewelry they will wear to return to her father's house. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 61-193 But Katherina doesn't get to wear any fine new clothes. The haberdasher offers a cap for Katherina, which Petruchio rejects loudly and vociferously. Katherina declares her right to speak her mind. But Petruchio completely ignores the sense of her speech and pretends that she agrees with him in rejecting the cap. The same thing happens with the gown the tailor presents. Petruchio bursts out in a marvelously punning piece of insult to the tailor based on sewing terminology. Tailors were commonly despised because they were meek little men who spent their days in apparently unmanly pursuits but were also able to cheat their customers easily. The Elizabethan audience probably cheered Petruchio's speech heartily. So, instead of new clothes, Katherina gets a moralizing lecture about the mind making the body rich. Petruchio's speech seems to be a parody on sermons that try to make people happy with their miserable lot. Do you think it all parody? What message is conveyed? What do you think of his examples--the jay and the lark, the adder and the eel? After giving orders to prepare the horses for a trip to Baptista's house, Petruchio announces that it is now seven o'clock and they should be in Padua by dinnertime, which was usually about noon in Elizabethan houses. Katherina is amazed: She can see that it is two in the afternoon and the journey to Padua will take the rest of the day. In Petruchio's reply, he addresses Katherina for the first time directly on the subject of her contrariness. It may be that he wants to help her understand the game, because he quite clearly states the conditions of peace: "It shall be what o'clock I say it is." In fact, in their next scene together, you will see that she finally catches on. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 1-72 After the furious activity of the last scene, this scene at Baptista's house is quite a relief. Tranio, having primed the Pedant and warned Biondello, is ready to deceive Baptista. Remember throughout this part of the scene that Tranio is still dressed as Lucentio, and Baptista thinks it is he who will marry Bianca. The Pedant plays his part to perfection, and Baptista is quick with his consent. Watch how businesslike he is: in one speech the whole matter is taken care of, and in a second speech he proposes to draw up the contract somewhere else because Gremio may overhear. Baptista still thinks Lucentio is Cambio the schoolmaster and therefore someone he can give orders to. Unfortunately, he orders him to inform Bianca that she is to marry Lucentio, exactly what Lucentio wants. After they have all gone off to draw up a contract, Biondello addresses Lucentio as "Cambio" and tells him the priest is waiting to marry him to Bianca. Lucentio seems slow to get the picture, for Biondello has to explain that Lucentio has a chance to marry Bianca while her father is busy with the "counterfeit assurance." Notice how complicated all the deceptions have become. Remember that illusion and reality is one of the play's themes. Try to think of all the places where the two have become confused since the Lord tricked Sly in the Induction. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 1-24 Petruchio and Katherina are disputing again, this time about whether the sun or the moon is shining in the sky. Because she will not agree with him, Petruchio orders the horses returned; they will not go to Baptista's house. Hortensio whispers to Katherina: "Say as he says, or we shall never go." Katherina responds immediately, whether she is exhausted or because she now knows the game. It is a watershed, and Hortensio recognizes it in his speech: "Petruchio, go thy ways; the field is won." The shrew is tamed. NOTE: THE PUZZLE OF KATHERINA'S SUBMISSION The part of Katherina is full of challenges for an actress. How is the submission speech to be played? Katherina's stated reason for finally agreeing with everything Petruchio says is practical: since we have come so far on this journey, please let's go on, no matter what heavenly body gives light. But the way she expresses her reason allows for a wide spectrum of interpretation. Her tone could simply express exhaustion: I'm so tired that I don't care what's in the sky so long as I get some rest. Or it could be defiance--I'll say what you want, but only to get a quiet life. It could also show that she's just realized how to play the game: Oh, now I understand--I must respond to Petruchio and not worry about the truth of the matter. The tone could also be a combination of all three, or introduce other nuances. You should try reading this speech with as many different emotions as you can put into it. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 27-78 Katherina confidently passes the next tests Petruchio sets for her. Seeing Vincentio (Lucentio's real father) approaching, Petruchio pretends to believe that the old man is a lovely young girl and requires Katherina to greet "her" appropriately. Without hesitation, Katherina does so and is equally gracious when Petruchio at once contradicts her and declares the person to be an old man. Vincentio is at first taken aback but then reassured enough to travel with them. NOTE: INCONSISTENCY IN THE TEXT There is no way in the text as we have it that Petruchio could know what he tells Vincentio--that Lucentio will be married to Bianca by this time. Hortensio cannot have known it, because he left after he had made the bargain with Tranio--who he thought was Lucentio--not to marry Bianca. When the play is acted, members of the audience usually don't notice the inconsistency, and in fact it doesn't matter very much. It is just another example of the imperfect state of the text. Hortensio's final words praise Petruchio for giving him an example for dealing with the Widow he is going to marry. Do you think Petruchio deserves all the praise for the taming? Do you think Hortensio will be able to benefit from the example? THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 1-35 Petruchio's party enters, intending to leave Vincentio at his son's house. But Vincentio insists on offering Petruchio a drink in the house, and he knocks at the door. As the Pedant speaks from the window, you have a ridiculous situation in which the two men claim to be the same person. The Pedant is doing an excellent job of playing his part, declaring that his son will need no money as long as he, Lucentio's father, lives. Petruchio assumes that the real Vincentio is the imposter and things begin to look bad for the latter. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 36-99 Biondello comes skipping back from the church where Bianca and Lucentio have been married--and walks straight into his master. Vincentio calls him "crack-hemp," meaning likely to be hanged on the gallows, where the rope is made of hemp. Biondello tries desperately to disavow Vincentio and points to the Pedant in the window above as his master, but it's clearly no use. Tranio, who is still playing the part of Lucentio, walks in with Baptista. Of course, Vincentio recognizes him immediately. He points to the servant's silken doublet and velvet clothes and then cries out in fury at the amount of his money Lucentio and Tranio have been spending in Padua, supposedly at the university. Tranio tries to brave out the matter. When the Pedant tells him that Tranio is Lucentio, Vincentio fears the worst--Tranio has murdered his master and taken his place. Tranio grandly calls for the arrest of Vincentio. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 100-124 Lucentio and Bianca enter. Understanding the situation, Lucentio immediately kneels to ask Vincentio's forgiveness. Notice the stage direction: While the meeting is going on in the center of the stage, the two servants and the Pedant sneak out the back "as fast as may be." Only Baptista still doesn't understand. So Lucentio explains in a speech that begins with a famous line: "Love wrought these miracles." The two young people expect immediate forgiveness for all the deceptions, but Vincentio is off to revenge himself on Tranio, and Baptista wants a fuller explanation. Lucentio's confident assurance to Bianca that "thy father will not frown" is probably based on the size of Vincentio's fortune, which he knows will please Baptista. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 125-38 As the other characters move away from the center stage, Petruchio and Katherina leave the corner from which they have been watching. Petruchio demands a kiss of Kate, who refuses because she thinks it shows poor manners to display affection in public. When he begins to play the same trick on her as he did throughout the fourth act (that is, threaten to return home), she at once yields and they go off together. NOTE: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PETRUCHIO AND KATHERINA Some theater directors think that this tiny scene is Katherina's last attempt at independence, and play it that way. Others think that it shows the development of the relationship between Petruchio and Katherina to the point where they can laugh at his taming techniques. You can imagine Petruchio putting on mock anger as he says, "Why, then, let's home again." They are consciously playing their parts and laughing while they do so. Do they seem in love with each other? You will remember from Katherina's despair at his supposed desertion at the church in Act III that she seemed truly to regret his absence, despite his rough words. Is there a case to be made from the text for love as the cause of Katherina's conversion? THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 1-48 You are now in Lucentio's house, where he is offering a feast to celebrate his marriage. Clearly all has been explained and forgiven, because the Pedant, Tranio, and Biondello are there as well as Baptista and Vincentio. This is the first occasion on which you meet the Widow who has married Hortensio. Not knowing what has happened between Petruchio and Katherina, she puts her foot in her mouth with her remark: "He that is giddy thinks the world turns round." She means that because Petruchio is "troubled with a shrew," he thinks every married man has the same problem. Katherina jumps to Petruchio's defense. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 49-78 The women have retired, and the men continue to jest about their various wooings, using metaphors from hunting. Baptista declares his belief that Katherina has not changed. So Petruchio proposes that they bet on their wives' obedience. He scorns to bet only twenty crowns on Katherina, and the ante is raised to a hundred crowns. Lucentio sends Biondello to ask Bianca to come to her husband. Notice the speech in which Petruchio refuses the low stakes. He says that twenty crowns is a suitable bet for an animal--a hawk or hound--but not for a wife. Remember that animal imagery has been used throughout the play for Katherina, especially by Petruchio himself. It is as if she has earned her status as a human being by submitting, or by at least learning the right role to play. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 79-137 Lucentio and Hortensio are confident and full of bluster that their wives will win them the bet. In fact, Bianca's father Baptista is so convinced of his daughter's obedience that he offers to go halves on the bet with Lucentio, who just as confidently refuses. Then, Biondello returns with a negative answer from Bianca. Hortensio sends him to bring back the Widow. She also refuses to appear. By contrast, Katherina comes at once when Grumio brings Petruchio's message, which was significantly different from the other two: Lucentio "bid" his wife come, Hortensio "entreated," but Petruchio "commanded." He alone has the confidence to assert his position as "master of what is mine own." The merry laughter and shouts cease as Katherina comes to her husband and asks what he wants. He tells her to bring the other two brides to their husbands, and she obeys at once. Baptista is so pleased with the change in Katherina that he gives Petruchio an additional 20,000 crowns as "another dowry to another daughter." So now Petruchio has received a total of 40,000 crowns for marrying Katherina, as well as 100 crowns from Hortensio and Lucentio. Petruchio wants to show off his powers and Katherina's changed character even more, so as she enters with Bianca and the Widow, he tells her to throw down her cap and to stamp on it. She does so at once. The reactions of the two newly married couples will interest you: Bianca and the Widow think Katherina is foolish to obey so literally everything Petruchio says, and Lucentio is quite sour toward Bianca. Then Petruchio pushes his luck one more time: Katherina, once contradictory, independent, and aggressive, is to tell the other wives, whose reputations are quite the opposite, how a wife should behave. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: LINES 138-90 Katherina's speech here is the longest in the play. It is a poetic treatise on the proper behavior of wives. Notice that the images are political: A wife owes the same duty to her husband as a subject owes to his prince, and shrewishness is compared to rebellion and treason. The final image alludes to a traditional sign of obedience. Katherina isn't expecting Petruchio to actually step on her hand but is simply making a symbolic gesture. And place your hands below your husband's foot. In token of which duty, if he please, My hand is ready, may it do him ease. (lines 177-79) NOTE: THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN SHAKESPEARE'S TIME Katherina's speech has obvious problems for twentieth-century women. How can they appreciate being told they should obey their husbands because the husbands provide for them and are their masters? Katherina may sound silly to you when she claims that women are more beautiful if they don't try to assert themselves. How can you reconcile admiration for Shakespeare's play with disapproval of what it conveys? Does Shakespeare necessarily believe in the opinions of a particular character? Some readers argue that this play must be read with a sense of history, that social relationships were different in earlier and--we like to think--less enlightened times. We should realize, they argue, that women in Elizabethan times had inferior status to men. But the historical point of view doesn't explain how we can appreciate the play now, near the end of the twentieth century. Think of it from the perspective of the actress who plays Katherina: How can she deliver this speech? Clearly, she has center stage and the attention of everyone. Is it possible to deliver the whole speech ironically? Some modern actresses finish the speech with a wink to the audience and to the Widow and Bianca. This solution may be reasonable, especially if the actress plays Katherina in Act IV as catching on to the game rather than giving up. Think about other ideas for playing this part. To do as Katherina advises, whether with total sincerity or not, may have been the wisest practical course for a woman in Elizabethan times. She was her husband's possession to a degree hardly imaginable to today's women: She had no property of her own, and no possibility of earning an independent living. Katherina may be expressing a politically sensible course for people in a highly vulnerable situation. The final two lines of the play are spoken as the characters walk off. Lucentio indicates that he is still unwilling to believe his sister-in-law is permanently tamed. Is he expressing his own discontent with the wife he thought so sweet before he married her? Or are these lines a hint from Shakespeare that the taming itself is partly an illusion? Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch summed up the general attitude toward the play when he wrote in the New Cambridge Shakespeare (1928) that The Taming of the Shrew may not be Shakespeare's greatest comedy to "any modern civilised man," but it is always a success when acted on the stage. Here are some critical comments about the play in general and some of its larger themes. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: THE PLAY IN GENERAL As tamer, Petruchio is a gay and witty and precocious artist and, beyond that, an affectionate man; and hence, a remarkable therapist! In Kate, Shakespeare has imagined, not merely a harridan who is incurable or a moral stepchild driven into a misconduct by mistreatment but a difficult woman--a shrew, indeed--who combines willfulness with feelings that elicit sympathy, with imagination, and with a latent cooperativeness that can bring this war of the sexes to an honorable settlement. To have started with farce, to have stuck to the main lines of farce, and yet to have got so much of the suprafarcical into farce--this is the achievement of The Taming of the Shrew, and the source of the pleasure that it has always given -Robert B. Heilman, Introduction to The Taming of the Shrew, The Signet Classic Shakespeare, 1966 The Taming of the Shrew is, then, at least in its broad outlines, a significant piece of social comedy that has something to say about marriage in Elizabethan England, and says it in a truly dramatic manner through a contrast of actions and characters. It is also concerned with the inner world of psychological experience, and particularly with the imagination in relation to human behaviour. These two themes, the social and the personal, are intimately connected with each other, so that the total experience becomes a unified whole. The comedy is a complex work of art.... -G.R. Hibbard, ed., The Taming of the Shrew, New Penguin Shakespeare, 1968 THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: THE PLAY AS FARCE The interest of the audience will be in the devices, not in the persons who work them or upon whom they are worked. A certain callousness will be induced to form in the sensibilities of the beholder, so that whereas in another case he would be outraged he will now laugh freely and steadily for two hours. The practitioner in farce, no less than the practitioner in melodrama, must possess the art of insulating his audience's heart so that it cannot be shocked while the machinery hums. -Mark Van Doren, Shakespeare, 1939 THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: THE PLAY AS SOCIAL DESCRIPTION Though the last scene lacks romance it contains in a highly representative manner those things in the play which I believe best characterize it and give us the greatest pleasure.... All is not easy and intimate; and the talk, though its kind of wit is not ours, convinces us that real people are talking. Shakespeare in fact exercises here his adorable gift of making us feel close to his characters, almost of allowing his readers to share in the social life he presents so lucidly.... All through the play there is the impression of the genuine domestic life, humanizing the cruder parts of the main plot and bringing to life the rigid and potentially arid conventions on which the subplot is founded.... The most sustained picture of domestic life is that of Petruchio's country house. True, the things that happened there were exceptional but at the same time we gather the sense of what was normal. Grumio in one sense is the conventional, necessary clown but he is also that genuinely recurrent character, the humorist of the gang. Arriving after the dreadful journey he calls Curtis, one of the servants, who enters and asks who "calls so coldly." Grumio, undefeated, answers, "A piece of ice. If thou doubt it, thou mayst slide from my shoulder to my heel with no greater a run but my head and my neck" (IV, i, 12), and we feel that this is the kind of thing the other servants expect of him.... And later the visits from the tradesmen complete the picture of life in the country. -E. M. W. Tillyard, Shakespeare's Early Comedies, 1966 THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: A WOMAN'S RESPONSE TO THE PLAY In working on the play I have found that my own problem with its overt endorsement of patriarchy does not decrease, though my pleasure in its formal qualities, the sheer craft and detail of the construction, continues to grow. In performance I suspect that the personality of the actor playing Petruchio is crucial to the play's success, and this is a factor that Shakespeare would have been able to take into account. The man must have real stage presence, and the ability to convey an underlying intelligence and sensitivity; he must not be a loud-mouthed bully. As Germaine Greer remarks, "Kate has the uncommon good fortune to find [a husband] who is man enough to know what he wants and how to get it." By most standards, including feminist ones, Petruchio is a more interesting and challenging possibility as a husband than the Orlandos and Orsinos of this world, just as Kate is a more interesting wife than Bianca. -Ann Thompson, ed., The New Cambridge Shakespeare edition of The Taming of the Shrew, 1984 THE END