Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thoughts: The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

Renowned as Shakespeare's most boisterous comedy, The Taming of the Shrew is the tale of two young men, the hopeful Lucentio and the worldly Petruchio, and the two sisters they meet in Padua.

Lucentio falls in love with Bianca, the apparently ideal younger daughter of the wealthy Baptista Minola. But before they can marry, Bianca's formidable elder sister, Katherine, must be wed. Petruchio, interested only in the huge dowry, arranges to marry Katherine -against her will- and enters into a battle of the sexes that has endured as one of Shakespeare's most enjoyable works.
- via Goodreads

I can’t believe I was even excited for this. To explain my excitement, let me backtrack a little.

I mentioned in a previous post that 10 Things I Hate About You is one of my favorite movies of all time. I absolutely adored Julia Stiles’ character, Kat. She read The Bell Jar, and kicked misogynists in the balls. How can you not love her? The movie was actually based on The Taming of the Shrew, and I was ready to love the play as much as the movie.

I was destined for disappointment.

After reading the play, I wanted to hit Shakespeare on the back of the head with a hardbound collection of all his plays, and scream, “What the hell were you thinking?” I know that Shakespeare’s portrayal of women and the treatment women was the norm during his time, and blah, blah, blah. At the moment, I refuse to listen to sensible arguments, and will, in fact, continue to rage on.

The whole concept of taming a shrew? I shall counter that with a quote from the Sex and the City: “Maybe some women aren't meant to be tamed. Maybe they just need to run free ‘til they find someone just as wild to run with them.” Enough said.

In one passage, Petruchio says:
"For I am he born to tame you Kate,
And bring you from a wild Kate to a Kate
Conformable as other household Kates."
So, basically, his idea of taming her is synonymous with making her just like every other Kate in the world, stamping out her personality and ignoring her wishes. Way to be a great husband, Petruchio.
“My tongue will tell the anger of my heart,
Or else my heart, concealing it, will break.
Yes, Katherine, if I were you, my heart will break, too. Even if your life is meant to be a comedy.

As for the male characters in The Taming of the Shrew? I just want to ship them all off to a desert island, and see how well that works out for them.

***
Read this for Shakespeare Reading Month hosted by A Literary Odyssey.

12 comments:

Jillian said...

I think Shakespeare is parodying the attitude about women in the times -- being overly ridiculous to make it obvious that the ideas of the day (that wives are only good when they're submissive) were pretty over-the-top.

I haven't read this one yet, but I was studying about it recently and own a copy. I'm excited to read it. I think Austen and Shakespeare probably had a good chuckle over this one. (The play I mean. Not your review!) :)

mooderino said...

To be fair, not all Shakesspeare's women characters were dominated by men. Some were horrific murderers.

mood

Amanda said...

I will submit that Kate really was a b*tch, and SOMEONE needed to shut her up. I would've preferred it was her sister, but hey. Whatevs. ;)

Zibilee said...

I had high hopes for this book, as I have heard it is one of the most accessible of Shakespeare's works, but the idea of taking all the originality and life out of a woman, and "taming" her as it were, annoys me. I love the quote from Sex in the City as well. I would hate it if someone decided to try to tame me! Wonderful review today!

Laura said...

Dude, don't even get me started! I was so so so angry at this play when I read it the other week, and I was sort of really mad at Shakespeare, and alll the attempts to defend him, too. Not cool, dude. At all.

Andi said...

Haven't read it (yet), but I did like the movie and if it's enough to piss you off, I really want to read it! I just like controversy, what can I say? I'm sure I'll hate it too.

Red said...

I know Shakespeare was writing about norms from the time and the source poem is actually much meaner to the "shrew" than he was, but it's still hard to read this and not want to throw things. And any justifications I've heard recently never seem to really make sense or be true.

At least he has strong female characters in other plays!

L.L. said...

I haven't read this, but that one quote makes me want to give Shakespeare a hearty smack as well! Sometimes it is hard for me to tell what he means tongue-in-cheek. I know The Merchant of Venice is meant to be a comedy and I think it is just appalling. I love Shakespeare but there are definitely some differences there!

Brenna said...

OH man don't let this one put you off of Shakespeare. Many of his plays include strong female roles.

I actually liked this one quite I bit.

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

Oh, what a shame. 10 Things About You is such a great movie though ...

carol said...

Yeah, I didn't like this one either. I think that it was meant to be funny. I think Kate was still going to rule the roost so to speak, but not one I enjoyed.

Rebecca Reid said...

Hmmm. See, I haven't read this but I love the movie with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. I think, as another commenter mentions, that Shakespeare is exaggerating to show a point. I can understand being frustrated (and the movie is frustrating too) but I'm not so sure Petruchio won in the end...Kate is, as someone else said, going to be the one ruling the roost.

As I said, I haven't read the play, only seen it, so I'm curious to see what my impressions are reading it. I anticipate it's more satirical than serious, though...

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