“The Taming of the Shrew,” from The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works, by W. Shakespeare

My Copy: 9780199267170

I had a hard time getting through this one. I was confused a little as to the behavior of many of the characters, and finally the ending made me a little mad at first. I had to take some time to read it again, and some analyses made of the story. My own findings were mixed, and I don’t think I liked many of the characters.

Though, after she’s essentially given to Petruccio, I felt more for Katherine than I would’ve imagined. He was terrible, and part of me hoped she’d kill him. Being on the receiving end of unwanted attention myself a few times, I really hoped she would.

The “shrew” in this story is Katherine, the elder sister of Bianca. Bianca is considered the perfect woman: beautiful, quiet, obedient, and the one all the men want. However, she can’t get married until Katherine does, a woman who can cut any man down with her wit, intelligence, and sharp tongue. In a society with strict gender norms, Katherine stands out too much and is held in low esteem, which means Bianca will never marry.

But her suitors get an idea: find someone willing to woo and marry Katherine, and that will free Bianca for one of them. This brings in Petruccio, who is essentially a schemer and social climber who will do anything for money. The father gets involved in this to a degree by falling for Petruccio’s desire to meet and marry Katherine. Then, as things progress, much more changes, and reveals more about these women than the men realized.

Let’s face it, Katherine was pretty harsh in the beginning, but as I got to read it a second time, I kind of felt bad for her. She knows she’s in a bad position, perhaps secretly wanting a marriage but knowing her behavior will turn suitors away. But at the same time, angry at the way her life is, with a father that dotes on the younger, prettier and more subservient daughter. She lashes out in anger–that’s one viewpoint I agree with the most. She wants to be able to think and speak her way, but would like to be married, too…but not to this Petruccio.

What stinks is the moment when Petruccio is late to his own wedding and she bursts into tears. Her father doesn’t seem to realize how humiliating–in just about every way–that this is for her. And that’s what struck me about this whole marriage: nobody gave a damn as to what Katherine wanted with this marriage.

And that’s probably why I hate this one right now. Everybody wanted rid of her or to change her for their own comfort. I was angry on her behalf.

I suppose I found something to like after all: I found a character I could understand for the most part. I would probably have been a shrew in a life like that (hell, maybe I have been at times).

Okay, there’s one more: there are so many different ways to interpret this play, when you look at Katherine’s behavior, at Petruccio’s, at Bianca’s. There are several twists and turns that come about, and the ending speech…I wonder if Katherine really believed what she was saying or just said what her husband wanted to hear, learning how to play-act her role as a good wife. Hmm…worth a shot.

I think investigating that last scene would be worth a sequel to see how things turned out if she was play-acting. Of course, in my head, it would lead to an “accidental” murder with a wealthy widow as a result.

I may read this one again someday, but I’m not in a hurry to. Maybe it’s the times we live in, with gas-lighting and sexual harassment, but I can’t really enjoy this one right now. What Petruccio does to “train” his new wife just makes me cringe.

 

One thought on ““The Taming of the Shrew,” from The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works, by W. Shakespeare

  1. bobcabkings says:

    Katherine is definitely an assertive woman dealing with a society in which that is a problem. I haven’t read the play and the only production I’ve seen (multiple times) of it is the one with Elizabeth Taylor as Katherine and Richard Burton as Petruccio. They played it rather broadly and by the end I’ve suspected that everybody else is going to regret, eventually, putting them together. In that final scene, I’ve often thought they were playing it as their two characters knowingly parodying the social norms. I also thought that, as they did in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, they were drawing on their own complicated and stormy relationship for their characters.

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