Thursday, April 05, 2007


"And did you see Romeo and Juliet? Total rehash of La Celestina! Did this guy ever have an original thought?"

Now, what's freaky about that parody is how true to life it is. The Taming of the Shew comment is almost sentence for sentence my reaction to reading that play in 6th grade. Except I called it crap rather than an anti-diversity agenda.

Either way, Mr. Frazier was not amused.

I've been a feminist a long damned time.


  1. There is actually some debate about how serious Kate's "You should do what the men in your life tell you" speech at the end is. Indeed, I saw a production of it where the actress playing Kate's speech was highly ironic - wink to the women in the audience.

    The biggest problem that we have with Shakespeare's plays today is that we have very little evidence of how the plays were acted and directed. For all we know, Shakespeare was mocking how young men go chasing after wealthy wives instead of strong willed women.

    Indeed, the greatest bit of evidence for this viewpoint is the fact that most of the male figures in the play are played as fools and Petruchio submits himself to the same treatment to which he submits Kate.

    It's similar to the discussions that "The Merchant of Venice" isn't truly anti-Semetic. Because while Shylock is portrayed as a greedy, stingy and deceitful man, it's not like any of the Christian characters are any better...

    Besides, if we're going to criticize Shakespeare - criticism him for the fact that his best action scenes always happened off-stage! Hamlet's ship gets taken over by pirates on the way to England and he somehow bluffs his way to freedom! And we don't get to see a moment of that!


  2. Since we'll never be able to see the plays played as originally intended, I'd say that depends on the players. The beauty of theater is there's room for interpretation from production to production.

    But the way we read it in class (no induction), and the way the analyses we read analyzed the play we were taught it as serious.

    I ended up liking the play after a while, though. Again, depending on the actress it can be tongue-in-cheek, and the lute reference is fun, and Petrucchio is an entertaining jerk.

    And I strongly recommend Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to you.

  3. Heh. I thank you, but I'm well familar with the play. Tom Stoppard is one of my favorites. :)

  4. I've started getting press tickets for Shakespeare productions.

    The only time I didn't write a review after seeing a show was Shrew. I just couldn't figure out what to say -- the *production* was fantastic, but the play itself is so profoundly discomfiting, that it would need too many disclaimers.

    However, there has been a recent change in how TotS is being staged.

    About ten years after Shakespeare wrote TotS, John Fletcher (who cowrote some of Shakespeare's later plays) wrote a sequel: "Tamer Tamed"
    In that play, Petruchio is a widower and marrying again. But his new bride has been warned and has no intention of letting him dominate her. In this play, the women win (quite wittily, too) and it ends in a paeon to equality in marriage.

    Anyway, in the last few years, a number of theaters have started staging both plays paired -- sometimes with the same casts.

    It makes for a good balance, and helps offset some of Shakespeare's misogyny.

  5. BTW, if you're curious, a few other ways modern theater companies have tried to mitigate the misogyny in "Taming of the Shrew"

    1) Shrew is actually a play-within-a-play. It opens with an acting troupe staging the play for a drunkard named Sly. Some directors keep Sly onstage the entire time, or restore a closing sequence from the contemporary play "Taming of A Shrew"
    This adds distance, since you're not directly watching Petruchio taming Katherina, but it's more obviously actors playing those characters.

    2) Some end the play with a nudge and a wink, suggesting that Kat hasn't really been tamed.

    3) Other plays take away the comedic aspect and show her as truly broken by brainwashing.

    However, neither 2 nor 3 are really Shakespeare's spirit.
    Which is why I find the Tamer Tamed pairing so effective. True to the original intentions, but providing a more balanced picture of the sexual politics of the period.

    I know there was a teen flick a few years back "10 things I hate about you" based on the play; don't know how that ended.

    Finally, did you ever see the Moonlighting episode "Atomic Shakespeare" which riffed on the play?

  6. Funny, I've always found "Taming of the Shrew" to be hilarious, but I've only seen it performed, with its tongue firmly in its cheek. And considering that there was a very intelligent and powerful QUEEN on the throne during Shakespeare's time, I have always thought that tongue in cheek was the way that he wrote it.

    And yes, the Moonlighting version was a hoot.

  7. One of the few times I disagreed with a teacher - out loud and emphatically, in any case - was when I compared Dicken's serialized novels to soap operas and complained that serialization ruined Great Expectations. The ending was just too damned rushed. The teacher in question was extremely appalled at both opinions; I think she would have preferred the standard "it sucks/it's old."

    lis riba,

    I own and very much enjoy 10 Things I Hate About You but then I've always had a weak spot for Heath Ledger and his character is just awesome in this movie anyway. There's a lot of stupid stuff, as you'd expect from a teen movie ripping off something like The Taming of the Shrew, but in all it's better than most. Kate grows but she isn't really tamed and her reasons for being a bitch are explained. Patrick's a bit misunderstood as well, and "learns his lesson" too. Most of the character do, it is a teen movie. Mostly it has some awesome lines, Heath is adorable, Julia Stiles is awesome, and most of the bad stuff is mitigated by good stuff. Such as: queen bee type characters being offset by sisters learning to be friends again.

    ps R&G are Dead is one of my faves too. Watching the movie in school was especially awesome, since most of my English class that year was also in my Physics class, and we had just gone over freefall, g, etc. earlier that same week. We all just died during the tennis scene.