Shakespeare R&P: Taming of the Shrew

I mentioned yesterday that I pretty much loathe the Taming of the Shrew with the white hot passion of a thousand burning suns. Well, today the fires have been quenched, and I actually found it extremely entertaining. Here’s why:

It started with our discussion of the play this morning. A lot of people don’t believe that there is an inherent misogyny in the piece that isn’t light-hearted, comedic, or sarcastic. I used to be one of those people, but the Taming of the Shrew really isn’t that misogynistic, particularly when it’s compared to the contemporary literature of the time. For instance, there’s a particular ballad about a shrewish wife, like Katherina, who is disciplined in… How can I put this gently… In one of the most sadistic ways I’ve read in literature. Just for being stubborn, the wife is flogged bloody and wrapped in the salted skin of a recently deceased plow-horse named Morel. Yeah, compare that to what Petruchio does and see if it’s really that bad. For those of you who don’t know the play, Petruchio withholds food and sleep from Katherina, taming her in the same way a hawker tames his hawk. (As a quick interjection, “Kate” actually bears similarities to the word “kite,” which is a term for a hawk.) What most people don’t realize is that Petruchio is also undergoing the same treatment of no food or sleep in ensuring Katherina receives none, making it really a battle of wits and wills. This is really only as true as the interpretation of the performers and the readers of the text, but close examination reveals a much milder prejudice than people, like me, think.

The performance we saw was superb. Our thirteen-person class got to the Globe early enough to lean against the stage, so I didn’t even notice we were standing for three hours! The actors were superb, and maybe I’m biased because of how monumental the experience of seeing a play at the Globe was to me, but I thought it was the best production of the play I’ve seen or heard about. They use traditional costumes, though they actually had people half in modern clothes in the frame part of the story. (The Taming of the Shrew is framed by a trick played on a drunkard named Sly, and the present action of the story is actually a play within the play, making it even less misogynistic than many think.) Overall, this afternoon was great, and I’m so excited to see two more plays at the Globe! I do have to get some sleep though, if I even can get to sleep; I’m leaving for Scotland in the morning and might be too excited to sleep! I will make a concerted effort, so for now, good night!