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View Full Version : Does anyone else have a problem with this play?



Dark Muse
01-09-2008, 12:05 AM
I went to see a Preformance of the Taming of the Shrew, knowing little of the details of what it was about, for I had not read this one yet, but I knew that my sister hates the play, though I did not know the full reason, so I went to see it, with the full intent of having an open mind about it, and in spite of my efforts not to think this way, I just hated it. I thought it was the most auful thing ever. And I honestly I really did try not to hate it, and to try and find some vaule in it, but it was just god awful to me. Watching that play made me angery at Shakespeare.

And I really am surprised by how many people acutally seem to like this play. It is a story about a man who decides to train his wife as if she were a dog, and tortures her, in order to physcialy and mentally break her down so that she will become an obedient slave to him.

Then at the end we are all suppose to apploud when Katherina gives her speach about how women are weak and should be subserviant to men.

aeroport
01-09-2008, 03:48 AM
Hello, Dark Muse.
Your objections are understandable, but - as always with the Bard - there are more things to consider. The play has been rather heavily discussed on this site (especially about a year ago, when I believe it was one of the Shakespeare Discussion Group works), and you might find why the play appeals to some people by looking at some of the threads in its subforum (http://www.online-literature.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=1269).
Personally, I was just kind of unimpressed with it until I discovered Bloom's book (Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human), which was where I first encountered the idea that Kate's speech at the end is perhaps a little...I don't know, subversive, perhaps? Anyway, hope that helps.

Dark Muse
01-09-2008, 03:53 AM
Well going into the play I really tried to keep that mind set, but well in this case I just could not, though it might help to acutally read the play, as I have only seen it preformed and in addition to not carring for the content of the play itself I was further distrubed by the reactions of the audience and thier seeming to applaud the idea of torture.

aeroport
01-09-2008, 05:01 AM
Ew, well, that does sound rather creepy on the part of the audience. I've actually never been able to look at the play the same way since Bloom's book, but I'll take a look at the introduction to the play in The Riverside Shakespeare - which I think usually includes some brief discussion of the sources Shakespeare drew from - and see what it makes of it.

Shakespearelove
02-19-2008, 11:09 PM
When you saw the performance of The Taming of the Shrew, they probably didn't perform the Induction, in which Christopher Sly, a drunkard, is tricked into thinking that he is a wealthy nobleman. The problem with omitting the Induction is that doing so distorts the interpretation of the play, in that Sly is a parallel character to Petruchio, who believes himself to be the lord and master of Katherina, his wife. In the same way that Sly is living in a dream world, so is Petruchio and thus, by extension, all men who believe that women should be subservient to their husbands. If you examine the female characters in Shakespeare's plays, you will see that the women are every bit a smart as the men (and oftentimes even smarter), so to believe that Shakespeare was sending the message that women should submit to their husbands is to misinterpret his play.

Tournesol
02-19-2008, 11:54 PM
In discussing Katerina's treatment by her husband, her speech at the end of the play etc, we cannot forget Bianca, her sister.

While Kat is 'tamed', we are amused by the fact that the 'timid' Bianca [as everyone in the play sees her to be] is actually not as nice as we think.

Dark Muse, I don't know how much of Bianca was included in the play you saw. But in Shakespeare's play, at the end, when Bianca's husband calls for her, she ignores him, and she goes about doing what she wants, unlike the shrew Katerina.

All in all, Pet.'s treatment of Kat is meant to be humourous, I guess the portrayal of it on stage made it seem more cruel that it was actually meant to be...
Another thing to think of is...if it were the other way around: the woman treating the man as such, would we as humans still be as sensitive about it?

Dark Muse
02-20-2008, 12:00 AM
Well personaly I think I can say that if the roles were reversed my reaction would be the same, having just come from a discussion of a D.H. Lawrence story in which I came down very hard upon a woman character becasue I thought her treatment to her husband was cruel

Tournesol
02-20-2008, 12:08 AM
I agree with you.

But I still encourage you to read the play. It's very enjoyable, funny, lots of sexual connotations.

The dramatic irony throughout the play is that, while everyone on stage sees Kat as being the one who needs taming, the audience knows that Bianca is the real Shrew.
I've never seen the play performed, but I have studied it while I was at university.
I hope you enjoy reading it, Dark Muse!

Virgil
02-20-2008, 12:08 AM
It is sexist DM, but in a charming sort of way. We did have a discussion of this play once. If you do a search you might find an interesting discussion.

Dark Muse
02-20-2008, 12:41 AM
It is hard to imagine it being charming, but one of these days I will read it for myself, perhpas such things just do not come acorss upon stage as well.

Redzeppelin
03-06-2008, 02:57 PM
I would suggest that you read the play (if you've not aleady) so that your decisions are based more on Shakespeare's language rather than a director's interpretation of that language.

The use of the word "torture" is hyperbolic; just like the average sitcom that has characters crash cars and walk into the house with their hair smoking, I doubt that Kate's "starvation" and "sleep deprivation" are in any way meant to suggest that she is in any real suffering. If people critiqued cartoons and sit coms like they criticised this play, well they'd all be seen as horrific in terms of the violence they offer.

People tend to get agitated about Petruccio's "taming" of Kate without exploring in any meaningful way the reality that Kate's behavior is over-the-top, out-of-control and fully unacceptable. You cannot paint her as some sort of proto-feminist because she does not rebel for any clear cause per se (she does not act out in defense of her femininity and she does not focus her anger only on men), but she simply acts out to vent her rage. Many people (especially women) run to Kate's defense, but would you actually like to spend time with her as a friend as the play depicts her prior to her "surrender"? Doubtful.

What the unspoken issue really is, is that our "politically correct" culture shudders at the idea that a woman can be out of control and that a man might serve as the "tool" by which she learns a better way navigating life. We're quite happy to watch our comedies and sitcoms that portray men as bumbling "cavemen" in need of the "polish" a good woman provides, but turn the tables and look what we get?

I suggest that if the roles would have been reversed, few people would have any issue with the play - and any men that would protest would be quickly shouted down; after all, as the former "oppressors," we deserve whatever we get, right?

Perhaps you might consider seeing the play as I present it to my students: as a testimony of a man's love in his willingness to liberate a woman whom he sees as his equal from a temperament that - unaddressed - would leave her angry and alone for the rest of her life. In the Renaissance, that is a death sentence for a woman.

kelby_lake
11-29-2009, 09:26 AM
It is hard to imagine it being charming, but one of these days I will read it for myself, perhpas such things just do not come acorss upon stage as well.

It depends how the director interprets it. If the director entirely agrees with Petruchio, the play can come across as promoting the humiliation of women who aren't subservient and as trivialising violence (it may just be slapping but there is a lot of beating in the play). I think Shakespeare should have developed the Induction more and weaved it throughout the play, thus making the audience more critical of what is happening on stage.

Katherina and Petruchio are both wrong; Petruchio is marrying Katherina primarily for money. He decides to marry her before he has even seen her. But I do think that Katherina is too cynical about men.

Petruchio does seem to begin to feel sorry for her.

I'm surprised that The Taming of The Shrew isn't classed as a problem play; although it might have been treated as pure farce back then, there's certainly now some questions about the cruelty. Although there is quite a lot of cruelty even in the comedies.

Beewulf
11-29-2009, 11:07 PM
I'm surprised that The Taming of The Shrew isn't classed as a problem play; although it might have been treated as pure farce back then, there's certainly now some questions about the cruelty. Although there is quite a lot of cruelty even in the comedies.

To me the problem with Shrew is not the treatment of Kate (Redzeppelin persuasively explains in a previous post why Petruchio's treatment of Kate is justifiable) but why Shakespeare devotes an entire act to establishing the Christopher Sly plot line only to ignore Sly once the Petruchio/Kate story takes off. Since Shakespeare is noted for his ability to manage multiple plot lines, I've never understood why he leaves this one dangling.

Is this simply an example of a bad playwrighting or have I missed something?

Thanks for your help!

kelby_lake
11-30-2009, 02:30 PM
To me the problem with Shrew is not the treatment of Kate (Redzeppelin persuasively explains in a previous post why Petruchio's treatment of Kate is justifiable) but why Shakespeare devotes an entire act to establishing the Christopher Sly plot line only to ignore Sly once the Petruchio/Kate story takes off. Since Shakespeare is noted for his ability to manage multiple plot lines, I've never understood why he leaves this one dangling.

Is this simply an example of a bad playwrighting or have I missed something?

Thanks for your help!

The Sly bit isn't actually an act; it's an induction, basically a framing device for the play. Because it's so long, as an audience you get attached to Sly or you are at least amused enough to want to see Sly's reaction; however as it is the induction, the characters all disappear.

Shrew's pretty early so it looks like Shakespeare was playing around with the idea of a play-within-a-play. He establishes it better in later plays.

There's a play called 'Top Girls' which starts with a scene of historical women chatting to each other in a restaurant. The actual story is about women in the 80's and the characters are multi-roled (so the historical women become their 80's counterpart). It's really the only way to pull off the Induction (Sly and Petruchio have been played by the same man).

Dark Muse
11-30-2009, 03:02 PM
Seeing the renewed interest in this thread, and reading over the various different comments made by others I will, as soon as I have an opening in my reading actually read the play for myself and try to do so with an open mind to see if indeed in the reading of the play I can revaluate my opinion of it and get a different interpretation than was offered in the performance which I saw.

Beewulf
11-30-2009, 07:00 PM
"The Sly bit isn't actually an act; it's an induction, basically a framing device for the play. Because it's so long, as an audience you get attached to Sly or you are at least amused enough to want to see Sly's reaction; however as it is the induction, the characters all disappear."

The notion that the opening scenes of Shrew comprise an "induction" that is distinct from the action that follows is the result of modern attempts to regularize the play's structure. Exactly how Shakespeare viewed the material involving Christopher Sly is unknown, but it appears that those scenes were not considered a framing device during Shakespeare's career because the First Folio of 1623 integrates Sly's scenes into the first act. If you examine a folio facsimile you'll find that Sly's line, "let the world slip; we shall nere be younger" flows without interruption into Lucentio's entrance and first line.

Moreover, after the Petruchio/Kate plot line begins, Shakespeare doesn't eliminate Sly from the play. He and The Lady have a short exchange of dialogue immediately before Petruchio and Grumio enter. Then, according to the minimal stage directions of the Folio, Sly and The Lady stay on stage and watch the rest of the play.

Another element that suggests Sly was at some point conceived as an integral element of the play is the way in which Shakespeare portrays Sly as Kate's mirror image. Recall that when The Lord comes upon the passed-out Sly he conceives of a method to reform the miscreant:


O monstrous beast! how like a swine he lies!
Grim death, how foul and loathsome is thine image!
Sirs, I will practise on this drunken man.
What think you, if he were convey'd to bed,
Wrapp'd in sweet clothes, rings put upon his fingers,
A most delicious banquet by his bed,
And brave attendants near him when he wakes,
Would not the beggar then forget himself?

In other words, The Lord will use the ploy of exaggerated decorum to see if he can turn a beast into a gentleman. In later scenes, Petruchio will employ the mirror opposite of the Lord's approach, using the ploy of exaggerated coarseness to "curb [Kate's] mad and headstrong humor" and turn a shrew into a gentlewoman.

There is evidence, then, that the scenes involving Sly are something more an introductory device . . . of course, the problem still remains--why did Shakespeare eventually abandon Sly?

kelby_lake
12-01-2009, 01:45 PM
I'm thinking that he wanted to do a play-within-a-play style thing, where the characters watching the play would have reactions and interactions reflecting the characters in the play, but perhaps was not skilled enough/didn't know how to weave it in properly without slowing down the 'play' (Shrew's an early comedy and you can see the play-within-a-play device used much more satisfactorily in later plays).

Or perhaps he got so interested in the 'play' that he abandoned Sly. Personally I think it was a bad mistake, as the action is set up so that Sly is the main character and Kate and the others are 'characters' in a play. Sly's parts are important as they reflect themes in the play- and they're just funny- the Induction is often cut by a director but by doing this, it makes the play seem serious and so it comes across as dated or misogynistic.

michelledale
02-11-2010, 03:28 PM
I, personally, have only read the play in a class. I found the play to be an enjoyable read in and of itself. I find that that there is nothing wrong with the written play. Sure, Petruchio uses high handed methods with Kate when he marries her but keep this in mind, Shakespeare lived in a different time period where the Church made women out to possessions. Women had no power over what happens to them back then. In fact, it was a lucky fate that Kate found someone to marry her, if she had not been married Kate would have be an old spinster that no one would have wanted to marry. A woman's purpose was to marry and have children, not be a 'shrew'. Taming of the Shrew is a great play, as long as we don't try to put our views of today on a play that was written the 16th century.

roobert629
02-11-2010, 03:28 PM
I agree with Shakespeare on this play. Kate was being unruly an deserved what she got. He never actually hit her which is better than what most people do today.

Dark Muse
02-11-2010, 03:47 PM
I agree with Shakespeare on this play. Kate was being unruly an deserved what she got. He never actually hit her which is better than what most people do today.

I am not quite sure that depraving her of food and sleep is much of an improvement over not hitting her, considering that sleep and food deprivation are methods that have been used against prisoners of war.

xman
02-12-2010, 02:07 PM
I'm going to agree with you DM. I have seen and read this play a few times each and every time it strikes me as unsavoury. The only way to make it palatable is to paste a dumb show on the end to compliment the induction and basically show that if Sly agrees with the sentiments presented in the play, the actors do not, but that is making assumptions about the piece and painting a mustache on it.

X

kelby_lake
02-13-2010, 08:21 AM
I, personally, have only read the play in a class. I found the play to be an enjoyable read in and of itself. I find that that there is nothing wrong with the written play. Sure, Petruchio uses high handed methods with Kate when he marries her but keep this in mind, Shakespeare lived in a different time period where the Church made women out to possessions. Women had no power over what happens to them back then. In fact, it was a lucky fate that Kate found someone to marry her, if she had not been married Kate would have be an old spinster that no one would have wanted to marry. A woman's purpose was to marry and have children, not be a 'shrew'. Taming of the Shrew is a great play, as long as we don't try to put our views of today on a play that was written the 16th century.

This is such a poor argument. Black people were slaves and racism was rife centuries ago- does that mean that we can accept it because it was 'of the time'? What about 'The Black and White Minstrel Show'? People might have found it funny back then but nowadays most people would find it repugnant.
Taming of The Shrew is much better than that but still- just because we can, and must, appreciate that people held different views a long time ago, it doesn't mean that we can't question it.

I'm pretty sure that Shakespeare is portraying the play as being the fantasy of Sly- or at least, Sly would certainly misinterpret it. Let's face it, if we were staging Taming of the Shrew now, we would stage it in a more ironic way than back then.

Redzeppelin
08-26-2010, 05:45 PM
"Taming" is a farce - just as "Married With Children" and many other sit-coms on TV are farces. As such, when Al Bundy gets tossed out of a window and we see him land in the back yard from the second floor, we are not outraged at his sufferings, nor are we worried about his health. We know that in a farce that the suffering isn't real - it isn't life threatening, it isn't painful. If Kate is truly suffering via the food and sleep deprivation, why doesn't Shakespeare give us that indication? He was a good writer - why leave that out? The reality is that the "violence" of the play is sit-com violence - the play was not depicting the "torture" of a woman. People who take it that way are simply trying to turn a Renaissance sit-com into a tragedy because the political correctness of our current culture detests seeing a woman in Kate's position; the problem is that we let our cultural blinders lead us to interpretations that are inconsistent with the work itself. There is nothing even remotely serious in this work so why should be decide that the parts we don't like are to be taken seriously?

Dark Muse
08-26-2010, 06:00 PM
"Taming" is a farce - just as "Married With Children" and many other sit-coms on TV are farces. As such, when Al Bundy gets tossed out of a window and we see him land in the back yard from the second floor, we are not outraged at his sufferings, nor are we worried about his health. We know that in a farce that the suffering isn't real - it isn't life threatening, it isn't painful. If Kate is truly suffering via the food and sleep deprivation, why doesn't Shakespeare give us that indication? He was a good writer - why leave that out? The reality is that the "violence" of the play is sit-com violence - the play was not depicting the "torture" of a woman. People who take it that way are simply trying to turn a Renaissance sit-com into a tragedy because the political correctness of our current culture detests seeing a woman in Kate's position; the problem is that we let our cultural blinders lead us to interpretations that are inconsistent with the work itself. There is nothing even remotely serious in this work so why should be decide that the parts we don't like are to be taken seriously?


Actually you bring up a very good point! I rather like your sit-com explanation of the play and I find it one of the better arguments in favor of the play which have been presented.

It had not occurred to me to view it in that light, probably because a mix of both my own personal emotional reactions and the fact that I think the rendition of the play I saw was a particularly bad one and I have not yet had the opportunity to actually read the play itself.

But I rather like the idea of it all just being a face, like watching cartoons, and considering the violent nature of so many comedies today than indeed I would agree that by not accepting the comic aspect of the play ( in spite of what our modern perspectives might be screaming at us) is it an attempt to turn it into something more serious than it was intended to be, considering that indeed the play was written as a comedy, all aspects of it showed than be viewed in a comic light even if in this day and age it is more difficult to accept some of those ideologies as being comedic.

kev67
03-25-2017, 04:17 PM
I watched this play this afternoon at The Globe theatre, standing up for 5. It was actually a practice run for a 50th birthday excursion. I wanted to check how to get there, what it was like standing up for 90 minutes or whether it would be better to get seats. Anyway...

I did not know what to make of it. Like Dark Muse says, Petruchio, breaks his wife's will by starving her and depriving her of sleep. I wondered whether we were being invited to approve or disapprove. When Kate made her big speech at the end about submitting to husbands, I noticed the other actresses looked upset and the actors seemed silenced and taken aback for a moment. It looked like she had started to love Petruchio, or was it just the Stockhausen Syndrome? I found it really odd. If the message of the play was that you can cure a woman's bad temper by mistreating her until she submits, like breaking a wild horse, and thereby make her fall in love with you, then I am surprised you can find any modern day actresses who be prepared to play the parts. Maybe Shakespeare did not mean this, but it was not obvious to me.

Edit: I had some other thoughts.

Shakespeare is deified, but I suppose this play shows he was a man of his times, and could write things we would not approve of, especially in his early career. I was reminded of the antisemitism in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist.

Art can still be art even when the sentiment is bad. I was reminded of the psalm on which the Boney M song Rivers of Babylon was based. The last lines of that psalm are about killing Babylonian children. I heard that psalm sung by a choir on the radio. It sounded great although the sentiment was shocking. The priest said the point of the psalm was to bring you up short and reflect on your humanity. Maybe that is its effect, but I doubt that is what was intended when the song was composed. Another example, I watched a program about the Mayan civilization, who were very inventive torturers. They even made artwork about it. Therefore, even if the sentiment of The Taming of the Shrew is bad, the play may have the unintended effect on making you reflect.

Some writers make their characters do and says things they clearly do not approve of. I was thinking of a 60's sitcom there was here called Till Death Do Us Part. The main character, Alf Garnet, is a bigot and a racist. He is always arguing with his family who are appalled by what he says, although I expect quite a lot of viewers agreed with him. In the film Get Carter (SPOILER) you start by thinking Jack Carter is an anti-hero. He is capable of violence, sure, but only in line with his underworld activities. You don't take seriously the warnings about him being a killer and a bastard, but as the film goes on, you get the uncomfortable feeling that you have misjudged him as he is a seriously nasty guy. The thing is, there were hints at the start of the film about Jack Carter's real character. I am not sure there is anything in The Taming of the Shrew that gives away that Shakespeare disapproves of Petruchio's actions. Wikipedia says the induction might be read that way.

Accepting that Kate did have a serious personality flaw that would spoil her life and others'. It would need some very transformative process to cure her. From a feminist perspective, it is objectionable that the person who transforms her is a man, and that he transforms her by denying her food and sleep and by other acts of cruelty. In a Christmas Carol, Scrooge undergoes a very harrowing transformative experience. In his case, his transformation is conducted by benign spirits, presumably authorized by God. Scrooge is shown the wrong steps he made all those years ago, and the consequences for himself and other people. He is persuaded rather than tortured to change.