The Taming of the Shrew
Earlier tonight I saw a really great performance of “The Taming of the Shrew” at the Shakespeare Theatre at Navy Pier. I hadn’t read the play but after tonight’s performance, I do recall seeing the end of the movie version with a very young Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Here is a synopsis of the play as written at the Shakespeare Resource Center internet site:
Baptista, a wealthy merchant of Padua, has two daughters: Katherina and Bianca. Because of Katherina’s shrewish disposition, her father has declared that no one shall wed Bianca until such time as Katherina has been married. Lucentio of Pisa, one of many suitors to the younger and kinder Bianca, devises a scheme in which he and Tranio (his servant) will switch clothes, and thus disguised, Lucentio will offer his services as a tutor for Bianca in order to get closer to her. At his point, enter Petruchio of Verona, in Padua to visit his friend Hortensio (another suitor to Bianca). Attracted by Katherina’s large dowry, Petruchio resolves to woo her.
To the surprise of everyone, Petruchio claims that he finds Katherina charming and pleasant. A marriage is arranged, and Petruchio immediately sets out to tame Katherina through a series of increasingly worse tricks. This involves everything from showing up late to his own wedding to constant contradictions to whatever she says, even to the point of claiming that the sun is in fact the moon. After many trying days and nights, an exhausted Katherina is indeed “tamed” into docility.
By the end of the play, Lucentio has won Bianca’s heart and Hortensio settles for a rich widow in Padua. During an evening feast for Bianca and Lucentio, Petruchio makes and wins a wager in which he proposes that he has the most obedient wife of all the men there, at which point Katherina gives Bianca a lecture on how to be a good and loving wife herself.
I should say that while I thought the actors gave a great performance, as a feminist (yes, I’m admitting to being one), I find fault with Katherina’s speech at the end where she states that because women are weak creatures they should be obedient to their husband who “is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper.” But trying not to dwell on that, the play after all was written circa 1593. Thank goodness that most people have evolved from this simplistic view of a woman.