Title: The Taming of the Shrew
Author: William Shakespeare
Publication Date: 1623
Genre(s): Fiction, Drama, Comedy
“I’ll pheeze you, in faith.”
As you may or may not know, I am taking a Young Adult Literature class this semester, which I am thrilled about. In addition, I am taking a Shakespeare Literature class, which I am no-so thrilled about. We will be reading about a dozen or so of Shakespeare’s plays, the first of which being Taming of the Shrew.
Baptista Minola has two daughters: Bianca the beautiful, and Katharina the cursed. Everyone is head-over-heels in love with Bianca, but she is not allowed to wed until Katharina is married first. Katharina, though, is a “shrew,” which basically means a raging bitch. She is wild, angry, and fierce; no one would dare attempt to woo her. That is, until Petruchio comes along. Petruchio, of course, wants to be rich, and knows if he marries Kate, he’ll obtain her dowry. So he takes it upon himself to marry Kate, even against her will. Meanwhile, Lucentio devises a crazy-ass plan with his buddy Tranio to woo Bianca, even as many others are trying to attempt the same. A classic Shakespearean comedy.
The Taming of the Shew actually opens with a drunkard name Sly. A rich Lord wants to play a prank on Sly, dressing him in robes and convincing him that Sly himself is a Lord. After Sly agrees that he is indeed a Lord, he is asked to watch a play called The Taming of the Shrew. There’s honestly no point whatsoever to the beginning of Shakespeare’s play except to have a play within a play. Typical Shakespeare. Sly is only mentioned one other time in the play, and only very briefly. The rest of the play focuses on the play within. The play within, also called The Taming of the Shrew, is all-in-all simply ridiculous. Baptista’s rule for his daughters is silly. Lucentio’s deceitful plan is silly. Hortensio’s pursuit is silly. The whole thing is silly, which is obviously Shakespeare’s intent, I just don’t love it as much as I’m supposed to. I’ll admit the plot is unique, of course, just totally ridiculous.
At first, I hated Katharina, as we’re probably supposed to. She’s the “shrew” — the bitch of the play. Then Petruchio comes along and endlessly peruses her, refusing to accept “no” as an answer. If you’ve ever seen the Elizabeth Taylor film adaptation of the play, then you will understand when I say Petruchio comes across as rapey and creepy. He forces her to marry him, takes her away from her family, and “tames” her. It’s disgusting. I actually sympathize with her for most of the play, especially at the end during her monologue.
Though I thought Lucentio was ridiculous, I was rooting for him over all of Bianca’s other suitors. I didn’t much care for any of the characters in this play, but if I had to choose my favorite, I’d pick Lucentio. I don’t know why. I guess he was just really determined, which is endearing. Shakespeare was a master at the art of insta-love. One thing I don’t understand, though, is why Lucentio needed such an elaborate play to woo Bianca — he should have just waited one more day when Katharina would be claimed by Petruchio; then he could have simply asked for Bianca’s hand in marriage as himself.
One thing I hate about Shakespeare’s plays are the names. All the names are strange (to a twenty-first century reader) and all quite similar. I always get characters mixed up and often forget about the ones that are mentioned briefly in the beginning and then randomly pop up towards the end. In Taming of the Shrew, I had a specific problem with Gremio and Grumio. Really? One letter difference? You couldn’t have been a little more creative than that, Shakespeare?
Shakespeare’s language is always hard to understand at first. In fact, it takes me a lot longer to read his work than it takes me to read a YA novel (obviously). He was brilliant, though, and wildly talented. However, I am a firm believer than Shakespeare’s plays are meant to be preformed as opposed to read. I much prefer watching his plays acted out on stage than to read them because I like to see what the characters are doing during their Act-long banter.