The Taming of the Shrew

Definition

Theater

  • Shakespeare's comedy of rough wooing, written c. 1591 - 93 with the date of first performance unknown. Its precise relationship to another anonymous play called The Taming of a Shrew has sparked much scholarly debate.

    The play opens with an Induction in which Christopher Sly,a drunken tinker, is tricked into believing that he is a lord. Thestory of Katharina and Petruchio is then performed for his pleasureby a troupe of strolling players. Katharina, the shrew of the title,and Bianca, her beautiful sister, are the daughters of a rich Paduanmerchant. While Bianca has numerous wooers, the older Katharina, whomher father is determined to see married first, drives men away withher furious temper. Eventually Petruchio, a blatant fortune-hunter,marries the unwilling Katharina and carries her off to his home inVerona. Here he successfully tames her through a campaign of deliberatelyoutrageous behaviour that echoes and outdoes her own. In the final sceneKatharina, who seems to have genuinely fallen for her unconventional husband,astonishes her family by delivering a long speech on marital obedience.

    The Taming of the Shrew was rewritten by Garrick in1754 as the popular Catherine and Petruchio. Cole Porter lateradapted Shakespeare's original for his Broadway musical Kiss MeKate (1948). In 1967 the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylorfilm of The Taming of the Shrew credited three writers, nonebeing Shakespeare.

    In 1978 at Stratford Jonathan Pryce played the drunken Slyso convincingly, fighting in the stalls and ripping down scenery,that several members of the audience left their seats to call thepolice. The 14-year-old Laurence Olivier gave one of his first stageperformances as Katharina in an all-male schools production at Stratford in1922. "I can't remember any actress in the part who looked better,"wrote the critic W. A. Darlington.

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