Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Getting Shrew'd

This is about Taming of the Shrew. I have seen the play very well performed and incredibly funny. It was the Christopher Sly version, one of many permutations of the play discussed here,
    Some years ago, an English director named Michael Bogdanov did a staging of Shrew that took the psychological warfare aspect of the play quite seriously. Petruchio broke Kate to the point where she gave that awful speech as almost a robot. The wedding guests were appalled and slunk away, and at the end, Petruchio was faced with the knowledge that he'd destroyed his wife. Not much of a comedy, maybe; but completely true to the text.

    Another way to do it might be to use the Christopher Sly induction, have the same actor play Petruchio, and at the end reveal that it was all a male fantasy dream while Chris's wife (played by the actress who played Kate) drags him home by the ear.
And that version was hysterically funny to a woman, since the domination of Kate by Petruchio is presented as the fantastical hallucination of a poor drunk whose wife won't let him in the door at night. A pitiable sight he was too.


eclexia said...

That would be an interesting (and perhaps healing) experience to see the play presented in a way that took the psychological warfare part seriously and revealed it for what it was--to see the guests and Petruchio face the reality of the "taming" being truly a "destroying"....

I felt so sick when I saw the play performed. I really hadn't read Shakespeare growing up and I had no idea what was coming.

Bill said...

Very interesting indeed. Have any Shakespeare critics discussed whether this might have played just like you said? My understanding of "comedy" is everybody's married at the end (tragedy means everybody's dead at the end). It didn't mean "funny". It meant "happy ending". I've heard Shakespeare had a subversive side, so I wonder - at the very least, as a writer - was this Bill doing his best to bend the rules of what "happy ending" could mean? Or was he deliberately stretching the convention to make the point that marraige isn't always a "happy ending". His own wife back home in Avon might have known the answer...

By the way, do you have any opinions on Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale? I think Chaucer was aware that he had to make the character wealthy, by the way, for her opinions to be believable. But what do you think?

Back to the point - Burton and Taylor did fairly well, right up till the end. It was the only head scratching part of the whole production. But imagine what Liz Taylor could've done with it!

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I felt so sick when I saw the play performed. I really hadn't read Shakespeare growing up and I had no idea what was coming.

I did know what to expect so maybe that helped. I also appreciate a little black humour from time to time. Go figure. I have always understood this play as a comi-tragedy.

The Wife of Bath seems quite believable to me. Women had more diverse roles in the Middle ages, don't you think. The prioress too - abbeys and convents gave women strong roles of leadership and plenty of opportunity to express their eccentricity.