The Taming of the Shrew is my favourite, and most remembered out all of the Shakespeare’s plays. It is a fantastic play, filled with a carnival,comedy, intriguing characters and memorable moments, whilst simultaneously providing an opportunity to debate and consider more serious issues, such as Feminism.
My attraction to the play, can mostly be attributed to the creation of the main female protagonist Kate. She begins as a wild ‘shrew’; she is an independent feisty woman who appears very different to a lot of the other quieter, more submissive female Shakespearean characters. We are introduced to her as the more rebellious sister, fighting the conventions of marriage, and scaring most suitors away. The only reason that her husband Petruchio takes her on, is to prove himself to his acquaintances, who all believe Kate will never be the gentle wife that they all wish for. Kate is a woman who stands up for herself, refusing to recognise her sex as a weakness.She is a character, who as a modern audience we are far more likely to connect to with; she relates significantly to common notions of feminism, and her courage against patriarchal conventions becomes her trademark throughout the play.
One of my favourite things about the Taming of the Shrew is the variety of film and play adaptions which exist around it. The results of these adaptions are very diverse; a lot of people have very different opinions on what is meant by the resolution of the Taming of the Shrew. As the play is a comedy, an audience would expect it to have a happy resolution. Some people would say that this is achieved. Kate ends her play with a speech about the way a woman should serve her husband. Some people believe this is a comic ending from the point of view of the Elizabethan period. Although, in our modern society we find it incredibly diffiuclt to swallow that that the submission of her character could ever be a good thing, from the situation, Kate’s life gets a lot easier when she conforms to society. We might find sadness in her change of character, but if genuinely it means her life becomes easier in that period of time, without the constant threat of punishment,and torture that she is put through, then perhaps it is the best resolution. Additionally, some have argued that perhaps genuinely Kate’s marriage becomes happy. She is the only one to come when her husband asks her to, which could be taken to show a genuine loyalty on her part and a genuine care for her husband.
An important reason why I love this play so much, is that there is also an entirely different way of receiving the final speech, and lots of very different perspectives on the conclusion of the play. Some adaptions have allowed Kate to wink at the end, perhaps giving the impression that she may be acting subservient, but it is all part of a game with her holding ultimate control. This would mean that Kate has found a way to live happier by acting submissive, but really she has won the ultimate gain. Some would argue the wink included,is wishful thinking by directors, added to make a modern audience more comfortable with the ending, when in fact it was not intended by Shakespeare at all. The controversial ending adds a whole level of debate to the play. People can discuss what they think is intended by the ending for a long time, and this is what I love about the play. Some believe despite it being sad that she alters her character, she ends up better off, whereas others can simply not accept that a resolution of subservience could ever be accepted as a happy resolution.
Another reason why I love this play is the humour. There is a lot of easy humour, such as disguises, repetition, pet names, slapstick humour, such as when Kate falls of the horse in to the mud, and in general a lot of wit and sarcasm. However, there is two levels to this humour. There is the surface humour, but also a lot of black, much darker humour. There are a lot of jokes about Kate being too wild to be sold off by her father, and in general a lot of derogatory and quite threatening statements towards Kate. This is very clever of Shakespeare; presenting serious problems through humour is a very diffiuclt thing to do. Some have said that writing tragedies can actually be easier, as the writer can simply focus on sadness. Whereas to be able to write about serious feminist issues in the light of comedy is not only a massive achievement but allows the issues to be seen in their most realistic day to day form. It normalises the behaviour towards Kate, whilst also asking the audience to really think consider her treatment.
I also really enjoy the setting of the play, surrounding the carnival, and the time of misrule. It was a day when all the servants where allowed to dress up and have a carnival. It adds a level of history to the play which I really enjoyed researching and finding more about. The whole atmosphere of the carnival is the opening up of new opportunities, which is a great setting for the play, as it opens up different character’s behaviours and brings out certain situations which might not occur if it wasn’t for the carnival.
Overall, it is a really interesting play. I studied it at A level and it is one of those plays which I have never seemed to forget. The character of Kate, the plot, the humour, and the debate which emerges from reading it, are all so distinctive and different. I thoroughly enjoy both the reading of the play, and immersing myself in the range of different film or play adaptions that exist of it. I hope you all give Taming of the Shrew a watch or a read for yourselves and let us know what you think!
Featured image is free for public use with this license.https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Licensing#Material_in_the_public_domain