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The play begins with a framing device, often referred to as the Induction, in which a mischievous nobleman tricks a drunken tinker named Christopher Sly into believing he is actually a nobleman himself. The nobleman then has the play performed for Sly's diversion.
The main plot depicts the courtship of Petruchio, a gentleman of Verona, and Katherina, the headstrong, obdurate shrew. Initially, Katherina is an unwilling participant in the relationship, but Petruchio tempers her with various psychological torments—the "taming"—until she becomes a compliant and obedient bride. The subplot features a competition between the suitors of Katherina's more desirable sister, Bianca.
The play's apparent misogynistic elements have become the subject of considerable controversy, particularly among modern audiences and readers. It has been adapted numerous times for stage, screen, opera, and musical theatre; perhaps the most famous adaptations being Cole Porter's musical Kiss Me, Kate and the 1967 film version of the original play, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The film 10 Things I Hate About You is also loosely based on the play.
Characters appearing in the Induction:
Prior to the first act, an induction frames the play as a "kind of history" played in front of a befuddled drunkard named Christopher Sly who is tricked into believing that he is a lord.
In the play performed for Sly, the "Shrew" is Katherina Minola, the eldest daughter of Baptista Minola, a lord in Padua. Katherina's temper is notorious and it is thought no man would ever wish to marry her. On the other hand, two men – Hortensio and Gremio – are eager to marry her younger sister Bianca. However, Baptista has sworn not to allow his younger daughter to marry before Katherina is wed, much to the despair of her suitors, who agree that they will work together to marry off Katherina so that they will be free to compete for Bianca.
The plot becomes more complex when Lucentio, who has recently come to Padua to attend university, sees Bianca and instantly falls in love with her. Lucentio overhears Baptista announce that he is on the lookout for tutors for his daughters, so he has his servant Tranio pretend to be him while he disguises himself as a Latin tutor named Cambio, so that he can woo Bianca behind Baptista's back.
In the meantime, Petruchio arrives in Padua, accompanied by his servant, Grumio. Petruchio tells his old friend Hortensio that he has set out to enjoy life after the death of his father and that his main goal is to wed. Hearing this, Hortensio seizes the opportunity to recruit Petruchio as a suitor for Katherina. He also has Petruchio present to Baptista a music tutor named Litio (Hortensio himself in disguise). Thus, Lucentio and Hortensio, pretending to be the teachers Cambio and Litio, attempt to woo Bianca unbeknownst to her father, and to one another.
Petruchio, to counter Katherina's shrewish nature, woos her with reverse psychology, pretending that every harsh thing she says or does is kind and gentle. Katherina allows herself to become engaged to Petruchio, and they are married in a farcical ceremony during which (amongst other things) he strikes the priest and drinks the communion wine, and then takes her home against her will. Once they are gone, Gremio and Tranio (disguised as Lucentio) formally bid for Bianca, with Tranio easily outbidding Gremio. However, in his zeal to win, he promises much more than the real Lucentio actually possesses, and Baptista determines that once Lucentio's father confirms the dowry, Bianca and Tranio can marry. Tranio thus decides that they will need someone to pretend to be Vincentio, Lucentio's father, at some point in the near future. Elsewhere, as part of their scheme, Tranio persuades Hortensio that Bianca is not worthy of his attentions, thus removing any problems he may cause.
Meanwhile, in Petruchio's house, he begins the "taming" of his new wife. She is refused food and clothing because nothing – according to Petruchio – is good enough for her; he claims perfectly cooked meat is overcooked, a beautiful dress doesn't fit right, and a stylish hat is not fashionable. He also sets about disagreeing with everything she says, and forcing her to agree with everything he says, no matter how absurd; on their way back to Padua to attend Bianca's wedding, she agrees with Petruchio that the sun is the moon, and proclaims that "if you please to call it a rush-candle,/Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me" (4.5.14–15). Along the way, they meet Vincentio who is also on his way to Padua, and Katherina agrees with Petruchio when he declares that Vincentio is a woman and then apologises to Vincentio when Petruchio tells her he is a man.
Meanwhile, back in Padua, Lucentio and Tranio convince a passing pedant to pretend to be Vincentio and confirm the dowry for Bianca. The man does so, and Baptista is happy for Bianca to wed Lucentio (actually Tranio in disguise). Bianca then secretly elopes with the real Lucentio. However, Vincentio arrives in Padua, and encounters the Pedant, who claims to be Lucentio's father. Tranio (still disguised as Lucentio) appears, and the Pedant acknowledges him to be his son Lucentio. There is much confusion about identities, and the real Vincentio is set to be arrested when the real Lucentio appears with his newly betrothed Bianca, and reveals all to a bewildered Baptista and Vincentio. Lucentio explains everything that has happened and all is forgiven by the two fathers.
Meanwhile, Hortensio has married a rich widow, and so in the final scene of the play there are three newly married couples at Baptista's banquet; Bianca and Lucentio, the widow and Hortensio, and Katherina and Petruchio. Because of the general opinion that Petruchio is married to a shrew, a quarrel breaks out about whose wife is the most obedient. Petruchio proposes a wager whereby each will send a servant to call for their wives, and whichever comes most obediently will have won the wager for her husband. Katherina is the only one of the three who comes, winning the wager for Petruchio. At the end of the play, after the other two wives have been hauled into the room by Katherina, she gives a speech on the subject of why wives should always obey their husbands and the play ends with Baptista, Hortensio and Lucentio marvelling at how successfully Petruchio has tamed the shrew.
Although there is no direct literary source for the Induction, the tale of a tinker being duped into thinking he is a lord is a universal one found in many literary traditions. For example, a similar tale is recorded in Arabian Nights where Harun al-Rashid plays the same trick on a man he finds sleeping in an alley, and in De Rebus Burgundicis by the Dutch historian Pontus de Heuiter, where the trick is performed by Philip the Good, i.e. Philip III, Duke of Burgundy. Arabian Nights was not translated into English until the mid 18th century, although Shakespeare could have known it by word of mouth. He could also have known the Philip III story as, although De Rebus wasn't translated into French until 1600, and into English until 1607, there is evidence the Philip III story existed in a jest book (now lost) by Richard Edwardes, written in 1570, which Shakespeare certainly could have known.
Something similar is the case with regard to the Petruchio/Katherina story. The basic elements of the narrative are present in the 14th-century Castilian tale by Don Juan Manuel of the "young man who married a very strong and fiery woman." Again however, there is no evidence that Shakespeare directly used this text during the composition of The Shrew. Indeed, as with the Induction plot, the story of a headstrong woman tamed by a man was a universal and well known one, found in numerous traditions. For example, according to The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Noah’s wife was just such an individual (‘“Hastow nought herd,” quod Nicholas, “also/The sorwe of Noë with his felaschippe/That he had or he gat his wyf to schipe”’; The Miller’s Tale, l. 352–354). Historically another such woman is Xanthippe, Socrates’ wife, who is mentioned by Petruchio himself. Such characters also occur throughout medieval literature, in popular farces both before and during Shakespeare's life, and in folklore.
In 1959, J.W. Shroeder conjectured that the literary source for the Petruchio/Katherina story could have been William Caxton's translation of the Queen Vastis story from Livre pour l'enseignement de ses filles du Chevalier de La Tour Landry. A more detailed argument was put forward in 1964 by Richard Hosley, who suggested that the main source could have been the anonymous ballad A Merry Jest of a Shrewde and Curste Wyfe, Lapped in Morrell's Skin, for Her Good Behavyour. The ballad tells the story of a headstrong woman who is frustrated because her father seems to love her sister more than her. Due to her obstinacy, the father marries her to a man who vows to tame her, despite her objections. The man takes her to his house, and begins the taming. Ultimately, the couple return to the father's house, where she lectures her sister on the merits of being an obedient wife. However, the 'taming' in this version is much more physical than in Shakespeare; the shrew is beaten with birch rods until she bleeds, and is also wrapped in the flesh of a plough horse (the Morrell of the title) which was killed specially for the occasion. However, due to the lack of verbal parallels usually found when Shakespeare used a specific source, most critics do not accept either Shroeder or Hosley's arguments.
The general feeling amongst twentieth century critics is that Shakespeare most likely adapted the popular tradition, fashioning it to fit his own story. A major factor in the dominance of this theory is the work of Jan Harold Brunvand. In 1966, Brunvand argued that the main source for the play was not literary, but instead the oral folktale tradition. Specifically, Brunvand argued that the Petruchio/Katherina story represents a subtype of Type 901 ('Shrew-taming Complex') in the Aarne–Thompson classification system. Brunvand discovered 383 oral examples of Type 901 spread over all of Europe, whereas he could find only 35 literary examples, leading him to the conclusion that if Shakespeare took this story from anywhere, he most likely took it from the oral tradition. Most contemporary critics accept Brunvand's findings.
Unlike the Induction and the main plot however, there is a recognised source for Shakespeare's sub-plot, first suggested by Alfred Tolman in 1890; Ludovico Ariosto's I Suppositi (1551), which Shakespeare used either directly or through George Gascoigne's English prose translation Supposes (performed in 1566, printed in 1573). In I Suppositi, Erostrato (the equivalent of Lucentio) falls in love with Polynesta (Bianca), daughter of Damon (Baptista). Erostrato disguises himself as Dulipo (Tranio), a servant, whilst the real servant Dulipo pretends to be Erostrato. Having done this, Erostrato is hired as a tutor for Polynesta. Meanwhile, Dulipo pretends to formally woo Polynesta so as to frustrate the wooing of the aged Cleander (Gremio). Dulipo outbids Cleander, but he promises far more than he can deliver, so he and Erostrato dupe a travelling gentleman from Siena into pretending to be Erostrato's father, Philogano (Vincentio), and to guarantee the dower. However, Polynesta is found to be pregnant with Erostrato's child, but everyone thinks it is Dulipo's, and Damon has Dulipo imprisoned. Soon after, the real Philogano arrives, and all comes to a head. Erostrato reveals himself, and begs clemency for Dulipo. At this point, Damon realises that Polynesta truly is in love with Erostrato, and so forgives the subterfuge. Having been released from jail, Dulipo then discovers that he is Cleander's long lost son. There is no counterpart to Hortensio in the original story, although an important character named Pasiphilo has no counterpart in Shakespeare's adaptation.
Efforts to establish the play's date of composition and genesis have been complicated by its uncertain relationship with another Elizabethan play with an almost identical plot but different wording and character names, A Pleasant Conceited Historie, called the taming of a Shrew, which is often theorised to be a reported text of a performance of The Shrew, a source for The Shrew, or an early draft (possibly reported) of The Shrew. A Shrew was entered on the Stationers' Register on 2 May 1594, suggesting that whatever the relationship between the two plays, The Shrew was most likely written somewhere between 1590 and 1594.
Kier Elam posits a date of 1591 as a terminus post quem for the composition of the Folio text of The Shrew, based on Shakespeare's probable use of two sources published that year. First, Shakespeare errs in putting Padua in Lombardy instead of Veneto, probably because he used Abraham Ortelius's map of Italy in the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (4th ed., 1591) as a source, which has "Lombardy" written across the entirety of northern Italy. Secondly, Elam suggests that Shakespeare derived his Italian idioms and some of the dialogue from John Florio's Second Fruits, a bilingual introduction to Italian language and culture published in 1591. Elam points out that Lucentio's opening dialogue:
Tranio, since for the great desire I had
To see fair Padua, nursery of arts,
I am arrived for fruitful Lombardy,
The pleasant garden of great Italy.
is an example of Shakespeare's obvious borrowing from Florio's dialogue between Peter and Stephan, who have just arrived in the north:
I purpose to stay a while, to view the fair Cities of Lombardy.
Lombardy is the garden of the world.
In his 1982 edition of the play for the Oxford Shakespeare, H.J. Oliver suggests 1592. According to the title page of A Shrew, the play had been performed recently by Pembroke's Men. When the London theatres were closed on 23 June 1592 due to an outbreak of plague, Pembroke's Men went on a regional tour to Bath and Ludlow. The tour was a financial failure, and the company returned to London on 28 September, financially ruined. Over the course of the next three years, four plays with their name on the title page were published; Christopher Marlowe's Edward II (published in quarto in July 1593), and Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (published in quarto in 1594), The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York (published in octavo in 1595) and The Taming of a Shrew (published in quarto in May, 1594). Oliver concludes that these four plays were reported texts sold by members of Pembroke's Men who were broke after the failed tour. As such, if they began their tour in June 1592, and one accepts that A Shrew is a reported version of The Shrew, the assumption is that The Shrew must have been in their possession when they began their tour, as they didn't perform it upon returning to London in September, nor would they have taken possession of any new material at that time or during the tour itself. As such, Oliver believes, The Shrew must have been written prior to June 1592, most likely in early 1592, and it was one of the performances during the Bath/Ludlow tour which gave rise to A Shrew.
Ann Thompson, who also supports the reported text theory, suggests a similar theory in her 1984 edition of the play for the New Cambridge Shakespeare. She too focuses on the closure of the theatres on 23 June 1592, arguing, like Oliver, that the play must have been written prior to June 1592 for it to have given rise to A Shrew. She says that a stage direction in A Shrew seems to indicate a part to be played by the minor actor Simon Jewell, who died in August 1592. This would place the composition date of A Shrew prior to August 1592, and if The Shrew gave rise to A Shrew, The Shrew must have been written at least several months prior, probably in late 1591 or early 1592. Thompson also detects a reference to The Shrew in Anthony Chute's Beawtie Dishonour'd written under the title of Shores Wife (1592). She suggests that the line, "He calls his Kate and she must come and kiss him" references the last act of The Shrew, since A Shrew contains no kissing scenes, further supporting her argument for a 1591/1592 composition date. She also cites verbal similarities between both Shrew plays and the anonymous play A Knack to Know a Knave (c1592), first performed on 10 June 1592 at The Rose. She argues that if Knack borrows from both The Shrew and A Shrew, then The Shrew must have been on stage by mid-June 1592 at the latest, again supporting late 1591/early 1592 as the composition date.
Stephen Roy Miller in his 1998 edition of A Shrew for the Cambridge Shakespeare agrees with the Oliver/Thompson date of late 1591/early 1592, as he too believes The Shrew preceded A Shrew (although he rejects the reported text theory in favour of an adaptation/rewrite theory).
The 1594 quarto was printed by Peter Short for the bookseller Cuthbert Burbie. It was republished in 1596 (again by Short for Burbie), and again in 1607 by Valentine Simmes for Nicholas Ling. The Shrew was not published until the First Folio (1623). The only quarto version of The Shrew was printed by William Stansby for the bookseller John Smethwick in 1631 as A Wittie and Pleasant comedie called The Taming of the Shrew, based on the 1623 folio text. W.W. Greg demonstrated that A Shrew and The Shrew were treated as the same text for the purposes of copyright, i.e. the ownership of one constituted the ownership of the other, and when Smethwick purchased the rights from Ling in 1609 to print the play in the First Folio, Ling actually transferred the rights for A Shrew, not The Shrew.
The Taming of the Shrew has been the subject of much analytical and critical controversy, often relating to a feminist reading of the play in general, and Katherina's final speech in particular, as offensively misogynistic and patriarchal. Others have defended the play by highlighting the (frequently unstaged) Induction as evidence that the play's sentiments are not meant to be taken at face value, that the entire play is, in fact, a farce. This issue however, represents only one of the many critical disagreements brought up by the play.
One of the most fundamental debates is the issue of authorship. The existence of A Shrew, which appeared in 1594, has led to an examination of authenticity regarding The Shrew. As Karl P. Wentersdorf points out, A Shrew and The Shrew have "similar plot lines and parallel though differently named characters." As such, there are five main theories as to the relationship between The Shrew and A Shrew:
Although the exact relationship between The Shrew and A Shrew remains uncertain, and without complete critical consensus, there is a tentative agreement amongst many critics that The Shrew is the original, and A Shrew is derived from it in some way. The main reason for assuming The Shrew came first is "those passages in A Shrew [...] that make sense only if one knows The Shrew version from which they must have been derived;" i.e. parts of A Shrew simply don't make sense without recourse to The Shrew.
The debate regarding the relationship between the two plays began in 1725, when Alexander Pope incorporated extracts from A Shrew into The Shrew in his edition of Shakespeare's works. Pope added the Sly framework to The Shrew, and this practice remained the norm amongst editors until Edmond Malone removed all extracts from A Shrew and returned to the strict 1623 text in his edition of the plays in 1792. At this time, it was primarily felt that A Shrew was a non-Shakespearean source play for The Shrew, and hence to include extracts from A Shrew in the body of The Shrew was to graft extraneous material onto the play which the playwright did not write.
This theory prevailed until 1850, when, in a series of articles for the magazine Notes and Queries, Samuel Hickson compared the texts of The Shrew and A Shrew, concluding that The Shrew was the original, and A Shrew was derived from it, not the other way around. Hickson chose seven passages that are similar in both plays and analysed them to conclude that A Shrew was dependent on The Shrew, although he was unsure exactly how The Shrew gave rise to A Shrew. In 1926, building on Hickson's research, Peter Alexander suggested the bad quarto theory. He based his argument on three main pieces of evidence:
Alexander argued this evidence suggested that the direction of change was from The Shrew to A Shrew, i.e. A Shrew was derived from The Shrew and hence must be a bad quarto. In their 1928 edition of the play for the New Shakespeare, Arthur Quiller-Couch and John Dover Wilson wholeheartedly supported Alexander's theory, which has remained popular ever since.
However, not everyone agreed with Alexander. For example, in 1930, E.K. Chambers rejected Alexander's theory and reasserted the source theory. Similarly, in 1938, Leo Kirschbaum also rejected Alexander's claim. Although Kirschbaum agreed with the bad quarto theory in general, he didn't believe A Shrew qualified as a bad quarto. He argued that A Shrew was simply too different from The Shrew to come under the bad quarto banner, unlike Alexander's other examples of bad quartos The First part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster and The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of Yorke. Stephen Roy Miller supports Kirschbaum's opinion, pointing out that "the relation of the early quarto to the Folio text is unlike other early quartos because the texts vary much more in plotting and dialogue." Character names are changed, plot points are altered (Kate has two sisters for example, not one), the play is set in Athens instead of Padua, Sly continues to comment on events throughout the play, and entire speeches are completely different (lines from other plays are also found in A Shrew, especially from Marlowe's Tamburlaine), all of which suggests that the author/reporter of A Shrew thought he (or she) was working on something different from Shakespeare's play, not simply transcribing it. As Miller points out, "underpinning the notion of a 'Shakespearean bad quarto' is the assumption that the motive of whoever compiled that text was to produce, differentially, a verbal replica of what appeared on stage," and both Kirschbaum and Miller argue that A Shrew does not fulfil this rubric.
Alexander's theory continued to be challenged as the years went on. In 1942, building on the work of Charles Knight, R.A. Houk developed what came to be dubbed the Ur-Shrew theory. In 1943, in a controversial argument, G.I. Duthie combined Alexander's bad quarto theory with Houk's Ur-Shrew theory. Duthie argued that A Shrew was a memorial reconstruction of Ur-Shrew, a now lost play upon which Shakespeare's The Shrew was based; "A Shrew is substantially a memorially constructed text and is dependent upon an early Shrew play, now lost. The Shrew is a reworking of this lost play." Duthie argued that the time-scheme of A Shrew shows that it was a garbled version of something which probably made more sense in an original form, and that Shakespeare reorganised the plot when composing The Shrew so as to make more chronological sense. Although Duthie's argument wasn't fully accepted at the time, it has been gaining increased support in the late twentieth century.
In the light of Duthie's theory, in 1958, J.W. Shroeder attempted to revive the source theory by disproving both Hickson and Alexander's bad quarto theory and Houk and Duthie's Ur-Shrew theory. Shroeder's argument (which rests on the hypothesis that The Shrew was not written until at least 1597) was based on an analysis of parallel passages (some of which had been used by Hickson to argue the bad quarto theory) and chronological problems within both plays to show that there was no need for an Ur-Shrew theory or a bad quarto theory, when a source theory could address all the problems raised by comparing the two plays. Shroeder's argument, however, was never fully accepted.
Subsequently, in 1964, Richard Hosley, in his edition of the play for the Pelican Shakespeare challenged the theories of Hickson, Alexander, Houk, Duthie and Shroeder, and suggested an early draft theory. Hosley's argument was based on the relative complexity of A Shrew when compared to contemporaneous plays. If A Shrew was not an early draft (i.e. not by Shakespeare), we would have "to assume around 1593 the existence of a dramatist other than Shakespeare who was capable of devising a three-part structure more impressive than the structure of any extant play by Lyly, Peele, Greene, Marlowe, or Kyd." In this sense, Shakespeare must have written A Shrew, and as it is decidedly inferior to The Shrew, it follows that it is an early draft of the later play.
Alexander himself returned to the debate in 1969, once again re-presenting his bad quarto theory in light of the many objections raised in the preceding forty years. In particular, Alexander concentrated on the various complications and inconsistencies in the subplot of A Shrew, which had been used by Houk and Duthie as evidence for an Ur-Shrew, to argue that the reporter of A Shrew attempted to recreate the complex subplot from The Shrew but got muddled and imported ideas and lines from other plays. For much of the remainder of the twentieth century, Alexander's views remained predominant.
After little further discussion of the issue in the 1970s, the 1980s saw the publication of three scholarly editions of The Shrew, all of which re-addressed the question in light of the by now general acceptance of Alexander's theory; Brian Morris' 1981 edition for the Arden Shakespeare, H.J. Oliver's 1982 edition for the Oxford Shakespeare and Ann Thompson's 1984 edition for the New Cambridge Shakespeare. Morris summarised the issue at that time by pointing out, "Unless new, external evidence comes to light, the relationship between The Shrew and A Shrew can never be decided beyond a peradventure. It will always be a balance of probabilities, shifting as new arguments and opinions are added to the scales. Nevertheless, in the present century, the movement has unquestionably been towards an acceptance of the Bad Quarto theory, and this can now be accepted as at least the current orthodoxy." Thompson wholeheartedly supported the bad quarto theory, but both Morris and Oliver were less sure, arguing instead for a combination of the bad quarto theory and the early draft theory.
Other critics have also spoken on this issue. Championing the bad quarto theory, Ann Barton says, A Shrew is "now generally believed to be either a pirated and inaccurate version of Shakespeare's comedy or else a "bad quarto" of a different play, now lost, which also served Shakespeare as a source." Leah S. Marcus, whilst discussing the prevailing bad quarto theory, suggests that A Shrew is not a transcription of a performance of The Shrew, but is in fact an earlier version of The Shrew; that is to say, Shakespeare himself authored both works. However, she notes that many critics have rejected the idea of A Shrew being a work of Shakespeare's, subscribing instead to the bad quarto theory. She states that the reason for this, apart from the many differences in the text, and some extremely sloppy writing in A Shrew, is "because it identifies the acting company with an audience of lowlifes like Sly." Marcus writes that this is seen by editors as out of character for Shakespeare and is therefore an indication that he did not write A Shrew. Wentersdorf also discusses the idea that Shakespeare penned both plays, and that A Shrew may have been either an early version of The Shrew written before it, or an abridged version written after it. Both theories would explain the differences between the two versions. Wentersdorf admits, though, that his theory is based primarily on speculation, and there is no real way of knowing for certain why Sly disappeared from The Shrew. Others, such as Mikhail M. Morozov, have maintained that Shakespeare may not have been entirely original in his writing of the play (whether The Shrew or A Shrew), suggesting that the ideas found in the story were those of another author. Kenneth Muir, for his part, believes that Shakespeare had a laissez-faire attitude to borrowing content from other authors in general, and he cites The Shrew as an instance of this.
One of the most extensive examinations of the question came in 1998 in Stephen Roy Miller's edition of A Shrew for the Cambridge Shakespeare. Miller argues that A Shrew is indeed derived from The Shrew, but it is neither a bad quarto nor an early draft. Instead, it is an adaptation by someone other than Shakespeare. Miller argues that Alexander's suggestion in 1969 that the reporter became confused, and introduced elements from other plays is unlikely, and instead suggests an adapter at work (whom he refers to as the 'compiler'), writing in the romantic comedy tradition; "the most economic explanation of indebtedness is that whoever compiled A Shrew borrowed the lines from Shakespeare's The Shrew, or a version of it, and adapted them." Part of Miller's evidence relates to Gremio, who has no counterpart in A Shrew. In The Shrew, after the wedding, Gremio expresses doubts as to whether or not Petruchio will be able to tame Katherina. In A Shrew, these lines are extended and split between Polidor and Phylema. As Gremio does have a counterpart in I Suppositi, Miller concludes that "to argue the priority of A Shrew in this case would mean arguing that Shakespeare took the negative hints from the speeches of Polidor and Phylema and gave them to a character he resurrected from Supposes. This is a less economical argument than to suggest that the compiler of A Shrew, dismissing Gremio, simply shared his doubts among the characters available." Miller argues that there is even evidence in the play of what the compiler felt he was doing, working within a specific literary tradition; "as with his partial change of character names, the compiler seems to wish to produce dialogue much like his models, but not the same. For him, adaptation includes exact quotation, imitation and incorporation of his own additions. This seems to define his personal style, and his aim seems to be to produce his own version, presumably intended that it should be tuned more towards the popular era than The Shrew."
As had Alexander, Houk, Duthie and Shroeder, Miller argues that the subplot in A Shrew and The Shrew holds the key to the debate, as it is here where the two plays differ most. Miller points out that the subplot in The Shrew is based on "the classical style of Latin comedy with an intricate plot involving deception, often kept in motion by a comic servant." The subplot in A Shrew however, which features an extra sister and addresses the issue of marrying above and below one's class, "has many elements more associated with the romantic style of comedy popular in London in the 1590s." Miller cites plays such as Robert Greene's Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay and Fair Em as evidence of the popularity of such plays. He points to the fact that in The Shrew, there is only eleven lines of romance between Tranio and Bianca, but in A Shrew, there is an entire scene between Kate's two sisters and their lovers. This, he argues, is evidence of an adaptation rather than a faulty report;
while it is difficult to know the motivation of the adapter, we can reckon that from his point of view an early staging of The Shrew might have revealed an overly wrought play from a writer trying to establish himself but challenging too far the current ideas of popular comedy. The Shrew is long and complicated. It has three plots, the subplots being in the swift Latin or Italianate style with several disguises. Its language is at first stuffed with difficult Italian quotations, but its dialogue must often sound plain when compared to Marlow's thunder or Greene's romance, the mouth-filling lines and images that on other afternoons were drawing crowds. An adapter might well have seen his role as that of a 'play doctor' improving The Shrew – while cutting it – by stuffing it with the sort of material currently in demand in popular romantic comedies."
Miller goes on to summarise his theory; "he appears to have wished to make the play shorter, more of a romantic comedy full of wooing and glamorous rhetoric, and to add more obvious, broad comedy." As such, Miller rejects the bad quarto theory, the early draft theory, the Ur-Shrew theory and the source theory in favour of his own adaptation theory.
Another aspect of the authorship question concerns the character of Hortensio. Building on the work of John Dover Wilson, W.W. Greg and Brian Morris, H.J. Oliver argues that the version of the play in the 1623 First Folio was most likely taken not from a prompt book, or a transcript, but from the author's own foul papers (probably with some annotations by the book keeper), which he argues bear signs of edits, primarily related to Hortensio. This is significant because some critics argue that in an original version of the play, now lost, Hortensio was not a suitor to Bianca, but simply an old friend of Petruchio (this is a modification of the Ur-Shrew theory, which instead of arguing that a play by someone other than Shakespeare served as a source, argues that an earlier draft by Shakespeare once existed). When Shakespeare rewrote the play so that Hortensio became a suitor in disguise (as Litio), many of Hortensio's original lines were either omitted or given to Tranio (disguised as Lucentio).
This theory was first suggested by P.A. Daniel in his 1879 book A Time Analysis of the Plots of Shakespeare's Plays, and subsequently elaborated upon by E.A.J. Honigmann in 1954. Daniel and Honigmann cite Act 2, Scene 1, where Hortensio is omitted from the scene where Tranio (as Lucentio) and Gremio bid for Bianca, despite the fact that everyone knows Hortensio is also a suitor. Daniel argues that Hortensio's absence suggests that Shakespeare forgot to change this part of the play after making Hortensio a suitor in a later draft. Another such omission is found in Act 3, Scene 1, where Lucentio, disguised as Cambio, tells Bianca that "we might beguile the old Pantalowne", saying nothing of Hortensio's attempts to woo her, and implying his only rival is Gremio. Additionally, in Act 3, Scene 2, Tranio is briefly presented as an old friend of Petruchio, who knows his mannerisms and explains his tardiness prior to the wedding, a role which, up until now, had been performed by Hortensio. Daniel argues that this is suggestive of the theory that some of Hortensio's original lines were transferred to Tranio because Hortensio was now occupied elsewhere in disguise as Litio. Another problem occurs in Act 4, Scene 3, where Hortensio tells Vincentio that Lucentio has married Bianca. However, as far as Hortensio should be concerned, Lucentio has denounced Bianca (in Act 4, Scene 2, Tranio (disguised as Lucentio) agreed with Hortensio that neither of them would pursue Bianca, because she obviously loved Cambio), and as such, his knowledge of the marriage of who he supposes to be Lucentio and Bianca makes no sense, and again seems to suggest some careless editing on Shakespeare's part. Daniel and Honigmann believe that an original version of the play existed in which Hortensio was simply a friend of Petruchio's, and had no involvement in the Bianca subplot, but wishing to complicate things, Shakespeare rewrote the play, expanding Hortensio's role, but not fully correcting everything to fit the presence of a new suitor.
The reason this is important is because it is theorised by supporters of the bad quarto theory that it is the original version of The Shrew upon which A Shrew was based; not the version which appears in the 1623 Folio. As Oliver argues, "A Shrew is a report of an earlier, Shakespearian, form of The Shrew in which Hortensio was not disguised as Litio." As such, this theory is something of a combination of the Ur-Shrew theory, the early draft theory and the bad quarto theory; A Shrew is a bad quarto of an early draft of The Shrew, and this early draft also performs the role traditionally assigned to Ur-Shrew. Oliver suggests that when Pembroke's Men left London in June 1592, they had in their possession a now lost version of the play. Upon returning to London, they published A Shrew in 1594, some time after which Shakespeare rewrote his original play. This means that in the early 1590s there were at least three versions of the same play in circulation: Shakespeare's original The Shrew, Shakespeare's edited The Shrew, and A Shrew.
In 1943, Duthie did hint at this possibility. Based upon the fact that all of the verbal parallels come in relation to the Induction and the main plot, none in relation to the subplot, he concluded that Ur-Shrew could in fact be an earlier version of The Shrew, of which A Shrew is a reported text. Duthie's arguments were never fully accepted, however, as critics tended to look on the relationship between the two plays as an either-or situation; A Shrew is either a reported text or an early draft. Recently however, the possibility that a text could be both has shown to be critically viable. For example, in his 2003 Oxford Shakespeare edition of Henry VI, Part 2, Roger Warren makes the same argument for The First Part of the Contention. Similarly, in relation to The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York, Randall Martin reaches the same conclusion in his 2001 Oxford Shakespeare edition of Henry VI, Part 3. This lends support to the theory that A Shrew could be both a reported text and an early draft. As Stephen Roy Miller argues in his 1998 edition of A Shrew (although he does so in support of his adaptation theory), "the differences between the texts are substantial and coherent enough to establish that there was deliberate revision in producing one text out of the other; hence A Shrew is not merely a poor report (or 'bad quarto') of The Shrew."
The history of the analysis of The Taming of the Shrew is saturated with controversy almost from its inception, something Stevie Davies summarises when she writes that response to The Shrew "is dominated by feelings of unease and embarrassment, accompanied by the desire to prove that Shakespeare cannot have meant what he seems to be saying; and that therefore he cannot really be saying it." The play seems to be a harshly misogynistic celebration of patriarchy and female submission, and as such, it has generated heated debates about its true meaning.
Some critics argue that even in Shakespeare's own day the play was controversial due to sexist elements. Oliver, for example, believes that Shakespeare created the Induction so that the audience wouldn't react badly to the inherent misogyny in the Petruchio/Katherina story, in effect defending himself against charges of sexism. Dana Aspinall also suggests that an Elizabethan audience would have been similarly taken aback by the play's harsh, misogynistic language: "Since its first appearance, some time between 1588 and 1594, Shrew has elicited a panoply of heartily supportive, ethically uneasy, or altogether disgusted responses to its rough-and-tumble treatment of the 'taming' of the 'curst shrew' Katherina, and obviously, of all potentially unruly wives." He further explains that "arranged marriages began to give way to newer, more romantically informed experiments," and thus people's views on women's position in society and their relationships with men were in the process of shifting at the time of the play, so audiences may not have been as predisposed to tolerate the harsh treatment of Katherina as is often thought.
Evidence of at least some initial societal discomfort with The Shrew is found in a contemporary alternative version that has Christopher Sly being "[thrashed] by his wife for dreaming here tonight" at the end of the play, suggesting that there was a market for an audience who were comfortable with the women 'winning'. More evidence is found in the fact that John Fletcher, Shakespeare's successor as house playwright for the King's Men, wrote The Woman's Prize, or The Tamer Tamed as a sequel to The Shrew, telling the story of Petruchio's remarriage after Katherina's death. In a mirror of the original, his new wife attempts (successfully) to tame Petruchio – thus the tamer becomes the tamed. Although Fletcher's sequel is often downplayed as merely a farcical mockery of The Shrew, some critics acknowledge the more serious implications of such a reaction. Linda Boose, for example, writes, "Fletcher's response may in itself reflect the kind of discomfort that Shrew has characteristically provoked in men and why its many revisions since 1594 have repeatedly contrived ways of softening the edges."
With the rise of feminist movements in the twentieth century, reactions to the play changed: "In short, Kate's taming was no longer as funny as it had been for some readers and spectators; her domination became, in George Bernard Shaw's words 'altogether disgusting to modern sensibility'."
Others believe that the play argues against mistreatment of women by exaggeration. For example, director Conall Morrison writing in 2008 argues that
I find it gobsmacking that some people see the play as misogynistic. I believe that it is a moral tale. I believe that it is saying – 'do not be like this' and 'do not do this.' 'These people are objectionable.' By the time you get to the last scene all of the men – including her father are saying – it's amazing how you crushed that person. It's amazing how you lobotomised her. And they're betting on the women as though they are dogs in a race or horses. It's reduced to that. And it's all about money and the level of power. Have you managed to crush Katharina or for Hortensio and Lucentio? Will you be able to control Bianca and the widow? Will you similarly be able to control your proto-shrews? It is so self-evidently repellent that I don't believe for a second that Shakespeare is espousing this. And I don't believe for a second that the man who would be interested in Benedict and Cleopatra and Romeo and Juliet and all these strong lovers would have some misogynist aberration. It's very obviously a satire on this male behaviour and a cautionary tale [...] That's not how he views women and relationships, as demonstrated by the rest of the plays. This is him investigating misogyny, exploring it and animating it and obviously damning it because none of the men come out smelling of roses. When the chips are down they all default to power positions and self-protection and status and the one woman who was a challenge to them, with all with her wit and intellect, they are all gleeful and relieved to see crushed. It's interesting that we can't watch the play because the gender and fault line is still so strong in terms of women's awareness or a liberal going audience, their guilt. We are so quick to rush and judge the play rather than say this is what's really going on."
Elizabeth Kantor similarly argues that the play is a farce, improbably exaggerated to make points about human nature:
It's in the nature of a man to value a woman he wins only with difficulty. [...] Shakespeare isn't trying to "domesticate women"; he's not making any kind of case for how they ought to be treated or what sort of rights they ought to have. He's just noticing what men and women are really like, and creating fascinating and delightful drama out of it. Shakespeare's celebration of the limits that define us – of our natures as men and women – upsets only those folks who find human nature itself upsetting.
On the other hand, Jonathan Miller, director of the 1980 BBC Television Shakespeare adaptation, and three separate theatrical productions, argues that although the play is not misogynistic, neither is it a pro feminist treatise;
I think it's an irresponsible and silly thing to make that play into a feminist tract: to use it as a way of proving that women have been dishonoured and hammered flat by male chauvinism. There's another, more complex way of reading it than that: which sees it as being their particular view of how society ought to be organised in order to restore order in a fallen world. Now, we don't happen to think that we are inheritors of the sin of Adam and that orderliness can only be preserved by deputing power to magistrates and sovereigns, fathers and husbands. But the fact that they did think like that is absolutely undeniable, so productions which really do try to deny that, and try to hijack the work to make it address current problems about womens' place in society, become boring, thin and tractarian.
A vital component of the misogynistic argument is the Induction, and its purpose within the larger framework of the play. Critics have argued about the meaning of the Induction for many years, and according to Oliver, "it has become orthodoxy to claim to find in the Induction the same 'theme' as is to be found in both the Bianca and the Katherine-Petruchio plots of the main play, and to take it for granted that identity of theme is a merit and 'justifies' the introduction of Sly." For example, Geoffrey Bullough argues that the three plots "are all linked in idea because all contain discussion of the relations of the sexes in marriage." Oliver disagrees with this assessment however, arguing that "the Sly Induction does not so much announce the theme of the enclosed stories as establish their tone."
This point becomes important in terms of determining the seriousness of Katherina's final speech. Oliver argues that the Induction is used to remove the audience from the world of the enclosed plot – to place the ontological sphere of the Sly story on the same level of reality as the audience, and to place the ontological sphere of the Katherina/Petruchio story on a different level of reality, where it will seem less real, more distant from the reality of the viewing public. This, he argues, is done so as to ensure the audience does not take the play literally, that it sees it as a farce; "The drunken tinker may be believed in as one believes in any realistically presented character; but we cannot 'believe' in something that is not even mildly interesting to him. The play within the play has been presented only after all the preliminaries have encouraged us to take it as a farce [...] the main purpose of the Induction was to set the tone for the play within the play – in particular, to present the story of Kate and her sister as none-too-serious comedy put on to divert a drunken tinker." If one accepts this theory, then the Induction becomes vital to interpretation, as it serves to undermine any questions of the seriousness of Katherina's closing sentiments. As such, if the Induction is left out of a production of the play (as it very often is), a fundamental part of the inherent structure of the whole has been removed. Along these lines, Graham Holderness argues that "the play in its received entirety does not propose any simple or unitary view of sexual politics: it contains a crudely reactionary dogma of masculine supremacy, but it also works on that ideology to force its expression into self-contradiction. The means by which this self-interrogation is accomplished is that complex theatrical device of the Sly-framework [...] without the metadramatic potentialities of the Sly-framework, any production of Shrew is thrown much more passively at the mercy of the director's artistic and political ideology." Speaking of Jonathan Miller's BBC Television Shakespeare adaptation of 1980, which omitted the Induction, Stanley Wells wrote "to omit the Christopher Sly episodes is to suppress one of Shakespeare's most volatile lesser characters, to jettison most of the play's best poetry, and to strip it of an entire dramatic dimension. In a series announcing itself as "The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare", this leaves a serious gap."
If one agrees with Oliver, Wells and Holderness, not only does the Induction prove that Katherina's speech is not to be taken seriously, it removes even the need to ask the question of its seriousness in the first place. In this sense then, the Induction has a vital role to play in the controversy of the play, especially as it relates to misogyny, as, if Oliver's argument is accepted, it serves to undercut any charges of misogyny before they can even be formulated – the play is a farce, it is not to be taken seriously by the audience, so questions of seriousness regarding the play within the play simply aren't an issue.
Language is not simply a carrier of meaning in the play, but is itself a major theme. Katherina is described as a shrew because of her sharp tongue and harsh language to those around her, often causing offence. For example, speaking of herself in the third person, Katherina tells Hortensio and Gremio,
Iwis it is not halfway to her heart.
But if it were, doubt not her care should be
To comb your noodle with a three-legged stool,
And paint your face and use you like a fool.
Petruchio, for his part, attempts to tame her – and thus her language – with rhetoric that specifically undermines her tempestuous nature;
Say that she rail, why then I'll tell her plain
She sings as sweetly as a nightingale.
Say that she frown, I'll say that she looks as clear
As morning roses newly washed with dew.
Say she be mute and will not speak a word,
Then I'll commend her volubility
And say she uttereth piercing eloquence.
If she do bid me pack, I'll give her thanks,
As though she bid me stay by her a week.
If she deny to wed, I'll crave the day
When I shall ask the banns, and when be marri'd.
Here Petruchio is specifically attacking the very function of Katherina's language, vowing that no matter what she says, he will purposely misinterpret it, thus undermining the very basis of the linguistic sign, and disrupting the relationship between signifier and signified.
Apart from undermining her language, Petruchio also uses language to objectify her. This is perhaps seen most clearly in Act 3, Scene 2, where Petruchio explains to all present that Katherina is now literally his property:
I will be master of what is mine own.
She is my goods, my chattels, she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my any thing.
Tita French Baumlin also discusses Petruchio's objectification of Katherina, emphasising the role of his rhetoric in his taming machinations, and using his puns on her name as an example. By referring to Katherina as a "cake" and a "cat" (2.1.185–195), he objectifies her in a more subtle manner than the above quotation. A further notable aspect of Petruchio's taming rhetoric is the repeated comparison of Katherina to animals. In particular, Petruchio is prone to comparing her to a hawk (2.1.8 and 4.1.188–211), often adhering to an overarching hunting metaphor ("My falcon now is sharp and passing empty,/And till she stoop she must not be full-gorged"). Katherina, however, appropriates this method herself, leading to a trading of insults rife with animal imagery, such as in Act 2, Scene 1 (l.194ff.), where she compares Petruchio to a turtle and a crab.
Language itself has thus become a battleground, with Petruchio seemingly emerging as the victor. The final blow is dealt towards the end of the play, in Act 4, Scene 5, when Katherina is made to switch the words moon and sun, and she acknowledges that she will agree with whatever Petruchio says no matter how absurd:
And be it the moon, or sun, or what you please;
And if you please to call it a rush-candle,
Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me
Sun it is not, when you say it is not,
And the moon changes even as your mind:
What you will have it named, even that it is,
And so it shall be so for Katherine.
- (ll.12-15; ll.19–22)
From this point, Katherina's language drastically changes from her earlier vernacular; instead of defying Petruchio and his words, she has apparently succumbed to his rhetoric and accepted that she will use his language instead of her own – both Katherina and her language have, seemingly, been tamed.
Petruchio's rhetoric is not reserved solely for Katherina, however. By denying that she is a shrew to others, such as to Baptista in Act 2, Scene 1 (ll.290–298), he effectively changes her reputation. The Katherina of the past (her reputation) is changed as well as the Katherina of the present (her actual self). Katherina's reputation as a shrew is a result of her language and the public perception of her, and Petruchio uses rhetoric to change both.
The important role of language however, is not confined to Petruchio and Katherina. For example, Joel Fineman suggests that the play draws a distinction between male and female language, and further subcategorises the latter into good and bad, epitomised by Bianca and Katherina respectively. Language is also important in relation to the Induction. Here, Sly speaks in prose until he begins to accept his new role as lord, then switching into blank verse and adopting the royal 'we'. Language is also important in relation to Tranio and Lucentio, who appear on stage speaking a highly artificial style of blank verse full of classical and mythological allusions and elaborate metaphors and similes, thus immediately setting them aside from the more straightforward language of the Induction, and alerting the audience to the fact that we are now in an entirely different milieu. Another important use of language occurs in relation to the Pedant. When he is speaking as himself, his dialogue has a strong metre, but when he impersonates Vincentio, the metre suddenly begins to limp, thus suggesting he is having difficulty playing this new role. It is examples such as this which illustrate that subtle modulations in a character's speech can in fact have profound implications for that character.
In productions of the play, it is often a director's interpretation of Katherina's final speech that defines the tone of the entire production, such is the importance of this speech and what it says, or implies, about female submission. Many critics have taken the final scene literally: G.I. Duthie argues that "what Shakespeare emphasises here is the foolishness of trying to destroy order." In a modern society with relatively egalitarian perspectives on gender, such a view presents a moral dilemma. Two methods are most commonly employed when attempting to perform The Shrew while still remaining faithful to the text. The first is to emphasise the play's farcical elements, such as Sly and the metatheatrical nature of the Katherina/Petruchio play, thus suggesting that what happens is not to be taken in any way seriously. The second strategy is to steep the play in irony, "such as Columbia Pictures' 1929 Taming of the Shrew where Kate winks as she advocates a woman's submission to her husband."
Critically, five distinct theories have emerged as regards interpretation of the final speech;
If one accepts the theory that the speech is sincere, then the final scene must be interpreted literally. The final speech then appears to indicate that Katherina willingly accepts her newly submissive role, agreeing with the social and physical differences between a husband and wife and emphasising that the role of a wife is to support and obey a husband in all things. Phyllis Rackin argues that the speech is a recapitulation of contemporary Elizabethan social norms. Rackin also sees the language of the speech as politically and sociologically rationalising the submission of wives to husbands.
Some critics believe that as the speech and play were written by a man, performed by men, and viewed by a predominantly male audience, what is represented in the speech is the patriarchal ideal of female compliance. Some even view the language of the speech as a completely sincere change of heart: John C. Bean writes that Katherina has been "liberated into the bonds of love" and highlights the speech's mentions of women's warmth and beauty rather than their stereotypical sinfulness.
Other critics detect irony at play in the final speech. They view the physical description of women as evidence of a more farcical intention when considered alongside both the historical context of the Elizabethan theatre (where female characters were always played by prepubescent boys) and the Induction in which Sly is attracted to the page disguised as his wife; thus Shakespeare is satirising gender roles. Harold Bloom reads Katherina's final speech as ironic, proposing that she is explaining that in reality women control men by appearing to obey them. Coppélia Kahn similarly argues that the scene is really about Katherina showing how little she has been tamed; "she steals the scene from her husband, who has held the stage throughout the play, and reveals that he has failed to tame her in the sense he set out to. He has gained her outward compliance in the form of a public display, while her spirit remains mischievously free."
The fourth school of thought, that the play is a farce, is based upon attributing a great deal of importance to the Induction. Oliver argues that in the speech, there is no clear evidence of either seriousness or irony but instead "this lecture by Kate on the wife's duty to submit is the only fitting climax to the farce – and for that very reason it cannot logically be taken seriously, orthodox though the views expressed may be [...] attempting to take the last scene as a continuation of the realistic portrayal of character leads some modern producers to have it played as a kind of private joke between Petruchio and Kate – or even have Petruchio imply that by now he is thoroughly ashamed of himself. It does not, cannot, work. The play has changed key: it has modulated back from something like realistic social comedy to the other, 'broader' kind of entertainment that was foretold by the Induction."
The fifth theory claims that the speech simultaneously belittles women while also explaining the essential and central place of women in relationships with men. The play manages to both lampoon chauvinistic behaviour while simultaneously reaffirming its social validity; it celebrates the quick wit and fiery spirit of its heroine even while revelling in her humiliation.
Nevertheless, despite the formulation of these theories and others, there is little critical consensus as to the inherent 'meaning' behind Katherina's speech.
One thing that critics do seem to agree on is that gender relations are a hugely important part of the play. Emily Detmer, for example, explains that "rebellious women" were a point of concern for men during the late 16th and early 17th century and thus the presentation of the issue of gender relations, and therefore domestic violence, comes as little surprise. Petruchio's treatment of Katherina may well have the effect of making the domination of one's wife seem tolerable, as long as physical force is not used. The psychological cruelty may be intended to be seen as a more civil way to dominate one's wife, though to a modern audience at least it is viewed as an equally oppressive form of abuse. David Beauregard has argued that the play can be interpreted in traditional Aristotelian terms. Petruchio, as the architect of virtue (Politics, 1.13), brings Kate into harmony with her nature by developing her "new-built virtue of obedience," (5.2.123), and she, in turn, brings to Petruchio in her person all the Aristotelian components of happiness - wealth and good fortune, virtue, friendship and love, the promise of domestic peace and quiet (Nicomachean Ethics, 1.7-8). The virtue of obedience at the center of Kate's final speech is not what Aristotle describes as the despotic rule of master over slave, but rather the statesman's rule over a free and equal person (Politics, 1.3, 12-13). Recognising the evil of despotic domination, the play holds up in inverse form Kate's shrewishness, the feminine form of the will to dominance, as an evil that obstructs natural fulfillment and destroys marital happiness.
In the sixteenth century it was permissible for men to beat their wives. Rebellious women were a concern for Englishmen because they posed a threat to the patriarchal model of a good household upon which Elizabethan society was built. Some see The Shrew as novel because, although it does promote male dominance, it does not condone violence towards women per se; the "play's attitude was characteristically Elizabethan and was expressed more humanly by Shakespeare than by some of his sources." However, although Petruchio never strikes Katherina, he does threaten to and he also uses other tactics to physically tame her and thus exert his superiority. Many critics, including Detmer, see this as a modern view on perpetuating male authority and "legitimizing domination as long as it is not physical." George Bernard Shaw was of a similar mind, condemning the play in a letter to Pall Mall Gazette as "one vile insult to womanhood and manhood from the first word to the last."
Although Petruchio is not characterised as a violent man, he still embodies the subjugation and objectification of women during the 16th century as manifested in many stories of this nature; "The object of the tale was simply to put the shrew to work, to restore her (frequently through some gruesome form of punishment) to her proper productive place within the household economy." Other critics, such as Natasha Korda, believe that even though Petruchio does not use force to tame Katherina, his actions are still an endorsement of patriarchy; Petruchio makes Katherina his property. Two examples present themselves while Katherina and Petruchio are courting. First, Petruchio offers to marry Katherina and save her from an impending spinsterhood because she has a large dowry. In Elizabethan society, a woman of age was expected to become a wife. Second, Katherina is objectified when they are first introduced; Petruchio wishes to physically judge Katherina and asks her to walk for his observation. Subsequently, he announces that he is pleased with her "princely gait" and that she has passed the 'test'. Indeed, the objectification of Katherina isn't only carried out by Petruchio. For example, Tranio refers to her as "a commodity" (2.1.330).
Male perception of women is also addressed albeit through a comedic situation in the Induction, as the Lord explains to his serving man how to act like a woman:
With soft low tongue and lowly courtesy
And say, 'What is't your honour will command
Wherein your lady and your humble wife
May show her duty and make known her love?'
And then, with kind embranchments, tempting kisses,
And with declining head into his bosom,
Bid him shed tears, as being overjoyed
To see her noble lord restored to health,
Who for this seven years hast esteem'ed him
No better than a poor and loathsome beggar.
And if the boy have not a woman's gift
To rain a shower of commanded tears...
- (Induction I.110–21)
This represents the Lord's view of how a woman ought to behave; she should be courteous, humble, loyal, and obedient. He also believes that females are emotional – crying is a "woman's gift." The Induction thus acts as suitable preparation for Katherina's character and her disgust for such stereotyping as well as her rebellion against Elizabethan society's gender values.
Some critics, such as Marvin Bennet Krims, believe that cruelty permeates the entire play, including the Induction, and is therefore a major theme. The Sly frame, with the Lord's spiteful practical joke, is seen to prepare the audience for a play willing to treat cruelty as a comedic matter. A modern audience may find the cruel actions of the main characters comical, but should they consider the situation in reality, they would very likely be appalled. While Katherina displays physical cruelty on stage – in the tying together of her sister's hands, the beating of Hortensio with his lute, and the striking of Petruchio – Petruchio utilises cruelty as a psychological weapon; he purposely misunderstands, dismisses, and humiliates Katherina, while all the time attempting to project his own wishes onto her. Krims believes such treatment makes Katherina's final speech seem a forced camouflage of pain as well as a final humiliation. He believes that cruelty is a more important theme than the more often debated controversy surrounding gender, as the play portrays a broad representation of human cruelty rather than merely cruelty between the sexes.
The theme of money is mentioned numerous times throughout the play, but is especially noticeable in the early stages of the story. Of particular importance is not so much money per se, but the motivation money can give to men. For example, when speaking of whether or not someone may ever want to marry Katherina, Hortensio says "Though it pass your patience and mine to endure her loud alarums, why man, there be good fellows in the world, and a man could light on them, would take her with all faults and money enough" (1.1.125–128). Later, Petruchio confirms that Hortensio was right in this assertion;
If thou know
One rich enough to be Petruchio's wife-
As wealth is burden of my wooing dance-
Be she as foul as was Florentius' love,
As old as Sibyl, and as curst and shrewd
As Socrates' Xanthippe, or a worse,
She moves me not.
Grumio is even more explicit a few lines later; "Why give him gold enough and marry him to a puppet or an aglet-baby, or an old trot with ne're a tooth in her head, though she have as many diseases as two and fifty horses. Why, nothing comes amiss, so money comes withal" (1.2.77–80). Furthermore, Petruchio is urged on in his wooing of Katherina by Gremio, Tranio (as Lucentio) and Hortensio, all of whom vow to pay him if he wins her, on top of Baptista's sizeable dowry ("After my death, the one half of my lands, and in possession, twenty thousand crowns"). Later, Petruchio corrects Baptista when he speculates that love is all-important;
When the special thing is well obtained,
That is, her love; for that is all in all.
Why that is nothing.
Similarly, Gremio and Tranio literally bid for Bianca. As Baptista says, "'Tis deeds must win the prize, and he of both/That can assure my daughter greatest dower/Shall have my Bianca's love" (2.1.344–346).
Petruchio's decision to marry is based almost wholly on his desire to accrue money; he vows to marry Katherina knowing next to nothing about her, other than the fact that she is a shrew and comes with a sizeable dowry. As such, Katherina's dowry is enough to convince Petruchio to marry her; similarly Tranio's (as Lucentio) dower is enough to convince Baptista that Bianca should marry him. Marriage is treated like a business transaction, something which involves great sums of money 'behind the scenes', and is often looked on as a father selling a "commodity" to a suitor. Lucentio and Bianca are the only characters in the play who seem motivated by genuine love, yet even they are only given permission to marry after Vincentio confirms that his family is rich.
The earliest known performance of the play is recorded in Philip Henslowe's Diary on 13 June 1594, as The Tamynge of A Shrowe at the Newington Butts Theatre. This could have been either A Shrew or The Shrew, but as the Admiral's Men and the Lord Chamberlain's Men were sharing the theatre at the time, and as such Shakespeare himself would have been there, scholars tend to assume that it was The Shrew. The canonical Shakespearean version was definitely performed at court before King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria on 26 November 1633, where it was described as being "liked".
That the play was successful in Shakespeare's day is evidenced by the existence of The Woman's Prize, or The Tamer Tamed, John Fletcher's pseudo-sequel, perhaps written around 1611. Additionally, the title page of the 1631 quarto states that the play had been acted by the King's Men both at the Globe and Blackfriars, and as the King's Men had only been performing at Blackfriars since 1610, it suggests that the play was still popular enough to be performed at least sixteen years after its debut.
Drury Lane's 1663-1664 production appears to be the only staging of the original play in the latter half of the 17th century. For the remainder of the 17th century, its place in the repertoire was taken by John Lacy's Sauny the Scot. The original play was not performed at all during the 18th century, and instead a range of adaptations held the stage.
After over 200 years of adaptations, Shakespeare's original text returned to the stage in 1844 in a Benjamin Webster production, under the direction of J.R. Planché, with Louisa Cranstoun Nisbett as Katherina. In this production, the Induction was included in full, with Sly remaining at the front of the stage after Act 1, Scene 1, and slowly falling asleep over the course of the play. At the end, as the final curtain falls, the Lord's attendants came and carried Sly off-stage. Major productions then took place in 1847 and 1856, both directed by Samuel Phelps. Phelps left Sly on stage until the end of Act 1, having him carried off between Acts. However, although the play did use Shakespeare's original text, Phelps cut much of Katherina's final speech in both productions.
In the United States, Shakespeare's original play returned to the stage in 1887, under the direction of Augustin Daly, with Ada Rehan as Katherina. This production was hugely successful and ran for over 120 performances. However, as with Phelps, whilst the play again used Shakespeare's text, changes were made. Specifically, Daly reorganised Act 4 so that Act 4, Scene 2 (the arrival of the pedant in Padua) comes before Act 4, Scene 1 (Petruchio and Katherina arriving at his house), and Act 4, Scene 4 (the pedant confirms the dowry for Bianca) precedes Act 4, Scene 3 (Petruchio's taming of Katherina). Some of Katherina's final speech was also cut.
Lily Brayton was a noted Katherina in the Edwardian era, playing the part in a number of productions, sometimes opposite her husband Oscar Asche, and in the 1907 Oxford University Dramatic Society production opposite Gervais Rentoul. In 1913, Martin Harvey staged a major production at the Prince of Wales Theatre, as did William Bridges Adams in 1919, where the Induction was completely omitted. In 1923, Max Reinhardt included the Induction and concentrated on the farcical nature of the play, presenting it as a type of commedia dell'arte. Barry Jackson also kept the Induction in his 1928 modern dress production at the Royal Court Theatre, with Sly moving from the front of the stage to one of the boxes after the first act. In 1931, Harcourt Williams used the conclusion of A Shrew (in which, after the Petruchio/Katherina story is finished, the Lord returns the now sleeping Sly to the inn where he was found, and who, upon waking up, announces he has had a dream in which he has learned how to tame his own wife). The longest running Broadway production was the 1935 Theatre Guild adaptation with husband and wife Alfred Lunt (who also directed) and Lynn Fontanne, which ran for 129 performances. Presented as a rollicking farce involving circus animals, dwarfs, acrobats and clowns, the production also toured the United States after its run on Broadway. According to some reports, Kiss Me Kate, a 1953 filmic adaptation of the Cole Porter musical Kiss Me, Kate was inspired by the backstage antics of Lunt and Fontanne, who continually fought both on and off stage, but who always reconciled, both on and off stage.
Notable later 20th century productions include the Hilton Edwards' 1959 production at the Gate Theatre in Dublin, starring Milo O'Shea and Anna Manahan; John Barton's 1960 Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) production at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, starring Peter O'Toole and Peggy Ashcroft, which included both the complete Induction, the epilogue from A Shrew and additional material for Sly written by Barton himself (for example, when Lucentio is about to be arrested, Sly runs onstage in disgust and has to be dragged away), and which utilised the recently installed revolving stage; Maurice Daniels' 1962 RSC production at the Aldwych Theatre (a revival of Barton's 1960 production; premiered on 23 April, to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday), starring Derek Godfrey and Vanessa Redgrave; Trevor Nunn's 1969 RSC production also at the Aldwych, starring Michael Williams and Janet Suzman; Clifford Williams' 1973 RSC production at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, starring Alan Bates and Susan Fleetwood, which included the Induction, but which replaced the lord and his men with a group of travelling players who encounter Sly by chance and decide to stage the play for his amusement; William Ball's 1976 commedia dell'arte-style production at the American Conservatory Theater; Wilford Leach's 1978 production at the Delacorte Theater for the Shakespeare in the Park festival, starring Raúl Juliá and Meryl Streep; Barry Kyle's 1982 RSC production at the Barbican Centre, starring Alun Armstrong and Sinéad Cusack; Toby Robertson's 1986 production at the Clwyd Theatr Cymru, starring Timothy Dalton and Vanessa Redgrave; Jonathan Miller's 1987 RSC production at the Barbican, starring Brian Cox and Fiona Shaw, which was essentially a restaging of his 1980 BBC television production; A.J. Antoon's 1990 production at the New York Shakespeare Festival, starring Morgan Freeman and Tracey Ullman, which was set in the old west; Bill Alexander's 1992 RSC production at the Barbican, starring Anton Lesser and Amanda Harris, in which the Induction was rewritten in modern language, and the play-within-the-play featured actors carrying scripts and continually forgetting lines; Delia Taylor's 1999 production at the Clark Street Playhouse, which featured an all female cast, with Diane Manning as Petruchio and Elizabeth Perotti as Katherina; Phyllida Lloyd's 2003 production at the Globe, again with an all female cast, starring Janet McTeer as Petruchio and Kathryn Hunter as Katherina; Gregory Doran's 2003 RSC production at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, where the play was presented with Fletcher's The Tamer Tamed as a two-part piece, with Jasper Britton and Alexandra Gilbreath (playing both Katherina in The Shrew and Maria (Petruchio's second wife) in The Tamer Tamed); Edward Hall's 2006 Propeller Company production at the Courtyard Theatre as part of the RSC's presentation of the Complete Works, featuring an all-male cast, with Dugald Bruce Lockhart as Petruchio and Simon Scardifield as Katherina; Conall Morrison's 2008 RSC production at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, starring Stephen Boxer and Michelle Gomez, which included the Induction, with Stephen Boxer playing both Sly and Petruchio, but with the Lord changed to a Lady, and both she and Katherina played by Michelle Gomez. The play was then presented as a "Big Brother type social experiment", in which the Lady plays Katherina and allows Sly (as Petruchio) to dominate where the action goes, all the while attempting to gauge how the male mind works under a given set of circumstances; Lucy Bailey's 1940's dress 2012 RSC production at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, starring David Caves and Lisa Dillon, in which the entire set was designed to look like a giant bed, Haissam Hussain's 2012 Urdu production at the Globe as part of the Globe to Globe Festival, starring Omair Rana as Rustum (Petruchio) and Nadia Jamil as Kiran (Katherina), and Joe Murphy's 2013 all-female production at the Globe (and subsequently on tour across Europe and Asia), starring Leah Whitaker as Petruchio and Kate Lamb as Katherina.
Two especially well known productions are Michael Bogdanov's 1978 RSC production at the Aldwych, starring Jonathan Pryce and Paola Dionisotti and Gale Edwards's 1995 RSC production at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, starring Michael Siberry and Josie Lawrence. In the Bogdanov modern dress production, after the house lights go down, nothing happens on stage for a moment. Then, a commotion rises from within the audience. The house lights go on, and a member of the audience (Pryce) is seen to be in altercation with an usherette. After pushing the usherette to the ground, the man then clambered onto the stage, and began to smash parts of the set before being restrained by actors and theatre staff, stripped and thrown into a bath. The subsequent play is then presented as his dream, with Pryce doubling as Petruchio. At several performances of the play, audience members were duped into thinking the fight between the man and the usherette was real, and several times, other audience members attempted to intervene in the conflict. The subsequent play within the play is then presented as Sly's dream of how to tame his wife.
In Edwards' production, the play opens with a woman (Lawrence) dressed in rags trying to get her drunk husband (Siberry) to come home. He refuses, and falls asleep outside the tavern. His wife leaves, whereupon the Lord and the hunting party enter. As with the Bogdanov production, the 'play within the play' is then presented as Sly's dream, and as such, the main plot is set in a surreal landscape, with Siberry and Lawrence doubling as Petruchio and Katherina. The Shakespeare text is cut at the end of Katherina's speech (which is not delivered seriously, and by which time Petruchio has become bowed with shame). At this point, the play returns to the Induction setting. Sly has been deeply moved by his dream, and the play ends with him condemning the subjugation of women and embracing his wife.
The first known adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew was entitled The Woman's Prize, or The Tamer Tamed, a sequel and reply written by John Fletcher around 1611. In Fletcher's play, the recently widowed Petruchio is remarried to a bride who "tames" him with the help of her friends, driving him from his house and refusing to consummate their marriage until he promises to respect her and endeavours to satisfy her. When the two plays were revived together in 1633, Fletcher's play proved more popular than Shakespeare's. This is evidenced by the fact that on 28 November, Fletcher's play was performed for King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria. Two nights previously, the Shakespearian text had been performed and was "liked," but Fletcher's was "very well liked."
In the 1660s, The Shrew was adapted by John Lacy, an actor for Thomas Killigrew's King's Company, to make it better match with Fletcher's sequel. Originally performed under the title The Taming of a Shrew, it was published in 1698 as Sauny the Scot: or, The Taming of the Shrew: A Comedy. This version somewhat inconsistently anglicised the character names and recast the play in prose. Most significantly, Lacy expanded the part of Grumio into the title role Sauny (who speaks in a heavy Scottish brogue), which he played himself. Sauny is an irreverent, cynical companion to Petruchio, comically terrified of his master's new bride. Lucentio becomes Winlove, who has travelled from Warwickshire to London to study. Baptista becomes Lord Beaufoy. Petruchio is much more vicious in this version, threatening to whip Katherina if she doesn't marry him, then telling everyone she is dead, and tying her to a bier. The play ends with her thoroughly tamed, and with a dance. The Induction was also removed. Lacy's work premiered at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1667. Samuel Pepys saw Lacy's adaptation on 9 April 1667 and again on 1 November, enjoying it on both occasions. The play was popular enough that it was still being performed as late as 1732, when it was staged at Goodman's Fields Theatre.
In early 1716, two rival adaptations, both named The Cobbler of Preston, opened in London. One, by Christopher Bullock, opened at Lincoln's Inn Fields in January 1716, and the other, by Charles Johnson, opened at Drury Lane the following month. Both concentrated on the Induction and omitted entirely the Petruchio/Katherina story.
The most successful adaptation was David Garrick's Catharine and Petruchio, which was introduced in 1756 and dominated the stage for almost two centuries, with Shakespeare's play not returning until 1844 in England and 1887 in the United States, although Garrick's version was still being performed as late as 1879, when Herbert Beerbohm Tree staged it. In Garrick's version, the subplot is entirely omitted, Bianca is married to Hortensio when the play opens. Consequently, it is not a full length play, and was often performed with Garrick's shorter version of The Winter's Tale. Much of Shakespeare's dialogue is reproduced verbatim. Much of the plot is also similar; Petruchio vows to marry Catharine before he has even seen her, she smashes a lute over the music tutor's head, Baptista fears no one will ever want to marry her; the wedding scene is identical, as is the scene where Grumio teases her with food; the haberdasher and tailor scene is very similar; the sun and moon conversation, and the introduction of Vincentio are both taken from Shakespeare. At the end, however, there is no wager. Catharine makes her speech to Bianca, and Petruchio tells her,
Kiss me Kate, and since thou art become
So prudent, kind, and dutiful a Wife,
Petruchio here shall doff the lordly Husband;
An honest Mark, which I throw off with Pleasure.
Far hence all Rudeness, Wilfulness, and Noise,
And be our future Lives one gentle Stream
Of mutual Love, Compliance and Regard.
The play ends with Catharine stating that she is unworthy of Petruchio's love. Garrick's play was a huge success, and major productions took place in North America in 1756 (with Hannah Pritchard as Catharine), in 1788 (with Sarah Siddons and John Philip Kemble), in 1810 (again with Kemble and his real life wife, Priscilla Hopkins Brereton), and in 1842 (with William Macready as Petruchio).
A more recent adaptation is Charles Marowitz' acclaimed 1975 production The Shrew, which was performed at The Studio in the Sydney Opera House. Refashioned as a gothic tale, the adaptation removed all the comedy, and instead concentrated on examining the themes of sadism and brain washing. Petruchio was played by Stuart Campbell as a savage and vicious misogynist, who rapes and beats Katherina (Elaine Hudson), ultimately driving her mad. At the end of the play, as Katherina delivers her speech, she does so as if she has learned it, without any emotion or inflection. In this version, the happy ending of Shakespeare's play thus takes on a disturbing irony. Due to the extreme nature of the performance, the play divided critics, but those who did enjoy it celebrated it as a genuinely original and relevant treatment of a difficult Shakespeare text.
The first opera based on the play, Il duca di Atene, was an opera buffa with a libretto by Carlo Francesco Badini and music by Ferdinando Bertoni. The opera was first performed in London in 1780.
Another operatic version came in 1828, when Frederic Reynolds adapted Garrick's Catherine and Petruchio, adding an overture by Rossini and songs from Shakespeare's plays and sonnets set to music by tenor John Braham and T. Cooke. Starring J.W. Wallack and Fanny Ayton, the opera was staged at Drury Lane, but it was not successful, and closed after only a few performances.
In 1927, Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari wrote a verismo opera called Sly, or The Legend of the Sleeper Awoken, based on the prologue of the play, with a libretto by Giovacchino Forzano. First performed at La Scala in Milan, the opera starred Aureliano Pertile as Sly (tenor) and Mercedes Llopart as Dolly (soprano).
The earliest musical adaptation of the play was an anonymous ballad farce based on Charles Johnson's Cobbler of Preston (1716). This ballad farce was performed by a children's company at Madame Violante's booth in Dame Street, Dublin in 1731, and featured a young Peg Woffington. Like Johnson's adaptation, the ballad farce concentrated on the Induction, omitting entirely the Petruchio/Katherina story.
Another ballad opera version followed with James Worsdale's A Cure for a Scold which was performed at Drury Lane in 1735 and subsequently in Dublin, and was itself an adaptation of Lacy's Sauny the Scot. Lucentio becomes Gainlove, Petruchio is Manly, Katherina becomes Margaret (nicknamed Peg) and Baptista is Sir William Worthy. At the end, there is no wager. Instead, Peg pretends she is dying, and as Petruchio runs for a doctor, Peg reveals that she is fine, and that she has been tamed. The Drury Lane production starred Kitty Clive as Peg and Hannah Pritchard as Flora (Shakespeare's Bianca).
The most famous musical adaptation is Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate (1948). Porter wrote the music and lyrics. The book was written by Samuel and Bella Spewack. The musical opened on Broadway at the New Century Theatre, where it ran for nineteen months before transferring to the Shubert Theatre and running for a total of 1,077 performances. Directed by John C. Wilson with choreography by Hanya Holm, it starred Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison. As well as being a box office hit, the musical was also a critical success, winning five Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Author. Since its debut, it has been revived twice: in 1999 at the Martin Beck Theatre on Broadway (which won five Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical), and in 2007 at the Teatro delle Celebrazioni in Bologna, Italy. Both the original Broadway production and the 1999 revival also played the West End: at the London Coliseum (1951) and at the Victoria Palace Theatre (2001).
Another musical adaptation is the ballet by John Cranko (1969), which played at Staatstheater Stuttgart. Performed by the Stuttgart Ballet, with music by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, it was directed by Bernard Kontarsky, and starred Richard Cragun and Marcia Haydee.
The Taming of the Shrew has been adapted for cinema many times. The earliest known adaptation is the eleven minute 1908 The Taming of the Shrew directed by D.W. Griffith and starring Arthur V. Johnson and Florence Lawrence. Also released in 1908 was the seven minute La bisbetica domata (La bisbetica domata was also the name under which the 1967 Franco Zeffirelli version would be released in Italy), directed by Azeglio Pineschi and Lamberto Pineschi. There is no known cast list for this film. The next production was the twelve minute 1911 silent version directed by F.R. Benson, starring Benson himself and his wife Constance Benson. A filmed extract from Benson's Shakespeare Memorial Theatre production, the film presented a short pantomime version of the play, with pieces of Shakespeare's original text used as intertitles throughout. This film is now believed lost, although several stills survive in the library archives of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Another silent version made in 1911 was the French production La mégère apprivoisée, directed by Henri Desfontaines and starring Romauld Joubé and Madeleine Barjac. It is thought to be the first version to show scenes which take place off-stage in the play; in this case, the wedding and the journey to Petruchio's house. A 1913 Italian version, the twenty-two minute La bisbetica domata, was directed by Arrigo Frusta and starred Eleuterio Rodolfi and Gigetta Morano. This version also shows scenes not in the play. Another adaptation took place in 1915, directed by and starring Arthur Backner. The scene where Petruchio and Katherina first meet was shot using a primitive sound process known as Voxograph, where the actors spoke the complete text during filming. Then, when the film was played at the theatre, "the same actors, one at each side of the screen but unseen, repeated the words in what was supposed to be synchronisation. It was expected that the operator, after rehearsal, would be able to project the film so that picture and voice would jibe."
The first American cinematic adaptation of the play was the 1915 film The Iron Strain (released in the UK in 1917 under the title The Modern Taming of the Shrew). Written by C. Gardner Sullivan and directed by Reginald Barker, the film tells of the love affair between high society girl Octavia van Ness (Enid Markey) and the loutish Chuck Hemingway (Dustin Farnum). Octavia lives in New York with her grandfather (Charles K. French), a retired mining entrepreneur, but fearing that she is not getting enough real life experience, he sends her to Alaska. There she meets Hemingway, a man unconcerned with social niceties. She instantly dislikes him, but he decides he is going to woo her, simply because it seems impossible he would be able to do so. Octavia believes Hemingway is her social inferior and will not have anything to do with him. But with the grandfather's blessing, Hemingway kidnaps and forcibly marries Octavia. They maintain a chaste relationship with Octavia reluctantly keeping house for Hemingway, until he becomes attracted to cabaret star Kitty Molloy (Louise Glaum). Octavia finds herself becoming jealous and realises that she loved him all along. She successfully woos him away from Kitty, and at the end of the film, it is revealed that he is actually a wealthy prospector and very much of her class. The film features no intertitles from the play text, although it is credited as being based on Shakespeare's play.
Another loose silent American adaptation came in 1919, under the title Impossible Catherine. Written by Frank S. Beresford and directed by John B. O'Brien, the film tells the story of John Henry Jackson (William B. Davidson) and Catherine Kimberly (Virginia Pearson). Catherine is the daughter of a wealthy banker but she is much too wild for him to control. At a Yale University dinner, she meets Jackson, who, having just read The Taming of the Shrew, decides that he can tame her. Imprisoned by him on his aeroplane, she eventually agrees to marry him, and which point he abducts her and takes her to a remote log cabin where he imposes domestic duties on her. Distraught at her situation, Catherine hires a local man to attack Jackson so she can escape, but the man is a friend of Jackson's and instead he starts to beat Catherine. At this point, Jackson comes to her aid, and is wounded when saving her. Upon learning he put himself at risk for her, Catherine realises she has fallen in love with him, and they happily return to the cabin together.
The next significant film version was the twenty-two minute silent version made in 1923. Directed by Edwin J. Collins, adapted by Eliot Stannard, and starring Lauderdale Maitland and Dacia Deane, it was one of a series of forty minute adaptations of classic texts released under the banner Gems of Literature. Only the second half of the film survives, and the final scene is incomplete as a result of print damage. The print is owned by the BFI and is not available for public viewing. This version very much adopts Petruchio's perspective, and one of the intertitles reads "by noon the next day, though famished and weary for want of food and rest, the Shrew deep in her heart admired the man whose temper is greater than her own."
The first sound version on film is the sixty-eight minute 1929 film The Taming of the Shrew starring Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks and adapted and directed by Sam Taylor. This version was simultaneously shot as a silent film, and, depending on whether a given theatre was equipped to screen sound films, was released both as a "talkie" and a silent. It is primarily known for how Pickford delivers Katherina's last speech. As she moves though the litany of reasons why a woman should obey her husband, she faces the camera and winks toward Bianca (Dorothea Jordan), unseen by Petruchio. Bianca smiles in silent communication with Katherina, thus acknowledging that Katherina has not been tamed at all. Pickford and Fairbanks' marriage was breaking down even before filming began, and animosity between the couple increased during filming. In later years, Pickford stated that working on the film was the worst experience of her life, although she also acknowledged that Fairbanks' performance was one of his best. After many years out of circulation, the film was re-released in 1966 in a new cut supervised by Pickford herself. New sound effects were added throughout, much of the voice dubbing was enhanced with newly available technology, and seven minutes were cut from the initial print. This re-released version is the only version now available on DVD or VHS.
In 1930, the play featured in Elstree Calling, a revue-style film featuring a serious of sketches by British variety stars. An ongoing joke during the film involves Donald Calthrop attempting to present Shakespeare in an "interesting and modern manner" but continually being prevented by the producers of the film. Eventually, the filmmakers relent, and allow him to present one scene - the initial meeting between Katherina and Petruchio from The Taming of the Shrew. Calthrop plays Petruchio as an imitation of Douglas Fairbanks in the 1929 film. He arrives on a motorcycle, and Katherina (who cannot speak English; played by Anna May Wong) begins to throw furniture and food at him. Eventually William Shakespeare himself (played by Gordon Begg) arrives, lamenting the quality of the production, before he too is hit by a custard pie flung by Katherina. The Taming of the Shrew section was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by Adrian Brunel.
The 1967 The Taming of the Shrew directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton is the most widely seen version of the play. This version omits the Induction; however, some critics have commented that the title sequence offers a modern 'replacement' for the Induction. The film begins with Lucentio and Tranio arriving in Padua in the middle of what appears to be a funeral. However, after a moment, the funeral suddenly transforms into a colourful party which moves from the church through the streets as the credits for the film play. Graham Holderness argues of this scene,
the collapse of an ecclesiastical service into a merciless parody, unrestrained revelry and orgiastic release is Zeffirelli's attempt to reconstruct the carnivals of the Middle Ages [...] in the course of the opening sequence, framed as an "induction" by the superimposition of the film titles, we observe the barbaric anti-ceremony of clerics wearing grotesque animal masks, sacred music giving way to obscene and cacophonous chants and a blasphemously parodic image of the Virgin. This ritualistic subversion of hierarchy and orthodoxy is a visually powerful and historically detailed dramatization of those medieval festivals of misrule conjecturally derived from the Saturnalian rituals of Rome [...] the elements of parody and subversion, the substitution of license for restraint, obscenity for virtue, the orgiastic celebration of the material body for the metaphysical rituals of the Mass, are here correctly identified as a form of drama [...] by jettisoning the Sly-frame, Zeffirelli may in the opinion of some observers have been indicating his contempt for the original. But [...] Zeffirelli has sought and found an alternative establishing context which is at once an educated and intelligent historical reconstruction and brilliant exposé of the production's principles of interpretation.
Regarding other omissions, the Bianca subplot is heavily cut, and the film spends much more time with Petruchio and Katherina (spelt Katharina). Dialogue is also cut from every scene of the play, and lines are moved from one scene to another throughout. Some dialogue is also changed (for example, Katherina's "Is it your will to make a stale of me amongst these mates?" is changed to "Is it your will to make a whore of me amongst these mates?"). The bidding scene from Act 2, Scene 1 is almost entirely absent, as is the whole of Act 3, Scene 1, where Lucentio and Hortensio reveal their true identities to Katherine. The film was both a box office and a critical success. In this version, Katherina delivers her final speech seemingly without irony. Zeffirelli and Burton both wanted Elizabeth Taylor to deliver the speech ironically, a la Mary Pickford in the 1929 adaptation, but Taylor felt it would be better to speak seriously, and then undermine that seriousness by leaving the banquet without Petruchio, thus subverting his apparent authority over her.
An animated feature length adaptation was made in 2004, directed by Roberto Lione, called Kate-La bisbetica domata. Featuring the voices of Neri Marcorè and Daniela Cavallini, the film used stop motion animation techniques but featured construction paper puppets rather than clay or graphics - a technique Lione invented, to which he refers as "papermotion". In the film, Petruchio is ruined by gambling and plans to get out of debt by marrying a rich woman – Kate, the daughter of a successful industrialist (Carlo Reali). Kate however is a fiercely independent woman and doesn't tolerate any kind of masculine posturing. Nevertheless, she agrees to court Petruchio as she is curious to see how things turn out. After a stormy courtship (which makes up the majority of the film), Kate finally decides to marry Petruchio. However, prior to their wedding, she has to protect him from the Mafia boss, Don Sarago (Pino Amendola), to whom he owes money. Upon her successful completion of this task, Petruchio realises that he has found a good woman, and he vows to be obedient to her for the rest of their lives.
Other film versions (which are loose adaptations as opposed to straight translations from stage to screen) include:
The earliest screening of the play is often thought to have been broadcast on BBC 1 in 1939, directed by Dallas Bower and starring Austin Trevor and Margaretta Scott. However, this was an adaptation of Garrick's Catharine and Petruchio, not Shakespeare's original text.
The first television performance of the Shakespearean text was broadcast live in the United States on CBS in 1950 as part of the Westinghouse Studio One series. A heavily edited sixty minute modern-dress performance, written by Worthington Miner and directed by Paul Nickell, it starred Charlton Heston and Lisa Kirk. Many of Katherina's soliloquies are delivered in the form of voice-overs, which was unusual at the time. The production is also notable insofar as during her climactic speech, Katherina winks at the camera behind Petruchio's back, much as Mary Pickford had done in the 1929 filmic adaptation. A BBC 1 adaptation was screened in 1952 as part of the BBC Sunday Night Theatre series, directed by Desmond Davis and starring Stanley Baker and Margaret Johnston. In 1956, another American adaptation aired as part of NBC's Hallmark Hall of Fame series. Adapted by Agnes Nixon and directed by George Schaefer, starring Maurice Evans (who also produced) and Lilli Palmer. This particular adaptation was heavily influenced by the commedia dell'arte tradition. The initial script, written by Michael Hogan included the Induction, and kept Sly on stage for the entire production, which culminated with him 'taming' his own wife. This script, however, was heavily rejected. The final version opens with Grumio addressing the camera directly, using lines from the Induction and inviting the audience to view the "antic players". Katherina and Petruchio first meet in a boxing ring, with their initial encounter, literally, turning into a boxing match. Although the Bianca subplot was almost completely eliminated, in the final scene, Bianca speaks the Widow's lines.
Also in America, in 1976, PBS broadcast a videotaped version of William Ball's 1976 American Conservatory Theater production for their Great Performances series, starring Marc Singer and Fredi Olster. This production was also set against a commedia dell'arte backdrop.
In 1980, the BBC produced a version of the play for their BBC Shakespeare series, directed by Jonathan Miller and starring John Cleese and Sarah Badel. As with all of the episodes Jonathan Miller directed, he allowed the work of celebrated artisans to influence his design concepts. In the case of Shrew, the street set was based on the work of architect Sebastiano Serlio, as well as the Teatro Olimpico, designed by Andrea Palladio. Baptista's living room was modelled closely on Johannes Vermeer's The Music Lesson. The casting of John Cleese as Petruchio was not without controversy at the time. Cleese had never performed Shakespeare before, and was not a fan of the first two seasons of the BBC Television Shakespeare, and he took some persuading from Miller that the BBC Shrew would not be, as Cleese feared "about a lot of furniture being knocked over, a lot of wine being spilled, a lot of thighs being slapped and a lot of unmotivated laughter." As such, Miller told Cleese that the episode would interpret Petruchio as an early Puritan more concerned with attempting to show Kate how preposterous her behaviour is ("showing her an image of herself" as Miller put it), rather than bullying her into submission, and as such, the part was not to be acted along the traditional lines of the swaggering braggart a la Richard Burton in Franco Zeffirelli's adaptation. According to Cleese, who consulted a psychiatrist who specialised in treating "shrews", "Petruchio doesn't believe in his own antics, but in the craftiest and most sophisticated way he needs to show Kate certain things about her behaviour. He takes one look at her and realises that here is the woman for him, but he has to go through the process of 'reconditioning' her before anything else. So he behaves just as outrageously as she does in order to make her aware of the effect that her behaviour has on other people [...] Kate needs to be made happy - she is quite clearly unhappy at the beginning of the play, and then extremely happy at the end because of what she has achieved with Petruchio's help." Miller also researched how troublesome children were treated at the Tavistock Clinic, where imitation was often used during therapy; "there are ways in which a skilful therapist will gently mock a child out of a tantrum by giving an amusing imitation of the tantrum immediately after it's happened. The child then has a mirror held up to it and is capable of seeing what it looks like to others." In his review of the adaptation for the Financial Times, Chris Dunkley referred to this issue, calling Cleese's Petruchio "an eccentrically pragmatic social worker using the wayward client's own doubtful habits to calm her down." Actress Sarah Badel had a similar conception of the psychology behind the production. She constructed an "imaginary biography" for Katherina, arguing "She's a woman of such passion [...] a woman of such enormous capacity for love that the only way she could be happy is to find a man of equal capacity. Therefore she's mad for lack of love [...] he feigns madness, she is teetering on the edge of it. Petruchio is the only man who shows her what she's like." Miller was determined that the production not become a farce, and in that vein, two keys texts for him during production were Lawrence Stone's The Family, Sex and Marriage in England: 1500-1800 and Michael Walzer's The Revolution of the Saints, which he used to help ground his interpretation of the play in recognisably Renaissance-esque societal terms; Petruchio's actions are based on accepted economic, social and religious views of the time, as are Baptista's. In tandem with this interpretation, the song sung at the end of the play is a musical version of Psalm 128 ("Blessed is everyone that feareth the Lord"), which was often sung in Puritan households at the end of a meal during Shakespeare's own day, and which praised a peaceful family life. Speaking of the addition of the psalm, Miller states "I had to give [the conclusion] an explicitly religious format, so people could see it as not just simply the high-jinks of an intolerantly selfish man who was simply destroying a woman to satisfy his own vanity, but a sacramental view of the nature of marriage, whereby this couple had come to love each other by reconciling themselves to the demands of a society which saw obedience as a religious requirement." The production was at least partially based on Miller's own 1972 Chichester Festival stage production starring Joan Plowright and Anthony Hopkins. This episode premiered the new opening title sequence, and the new theme music by Stephen Oliver.
In this adaptation, the induction and all subsequent references to Sly are absent. Speaking of the somewhat controversial decision to remove the induction, director Jonathan Miller wrote "I find [it] terribly hard to do in any other format but the stage: it is a stage device, and it's frightfully hard to see it on television. It's a device that brings the audience into close identification with some person who is like them. It would be on television a little extra programme tagged on before the programme proper begins. On the stage, it's possible to make it work much better: it's a folk style which sits rather uncomfortably in this very twentieth-century medium of domestic viewing." Similarly, the textual editor for the BBC Shakespeare, David Snodin wrote
Jonathan Miller and I decided after considerable discussion to omit the whole of that curious, lengthy, and disappointingly unresolved opening known as the "Induction". We made this decision for the following reasons: firstly, because we felt that it may confuse the viewer coming to the play for the first time, very possibly to the detriment of his enjoyment of the play as a whole; secondly, because it is an essentially theatrical device which, while it has been known to work well in a theatre before a live audience, would not come across successfully in the very different medium of television; and lastly, because it is a device which presents the play's characters as 'actors', and we felt that this would hinder the attempt, in this production, to present them as real people in a real, and ultimately quite serious situation.
Apart from the removal of the induction however, the adaptation is almost word-for-word the 1623 First Folio text. Minor differences include; the omission of Tranio's "Well said, master. Mum, and gaze your fill" (1.1.74) and Gremio's "A proper stripling and an amorous" (1.2.141). Additionally, much of the conversation between Grumio and Curtis at the start of Act 4, Scene 1 is absent, as is the brief conversation between Biondello and Lucentio which opens Act 5, Scene 1. Perhaps most significantly, Act 5, Scene 2 ends differently to the play. The last line spoken is Petruchio's "We three are married, but you two are sped;" thus omitting Petruchio's comment to Lucentio "'Twas I won the wager, though you hit the white,/And being a winner, God give you good night," as well as Hortensio's line, "Now go thy ways, thou has tamed a curst shrew," and Lucentio's closing statement, "'Tis a wonder, by your leave, she will be tamed so." Additionally, Petruchio and Katherina do not leave the banquet prior to the end of the play, but remain, and engage in a song with all present.
In 1982, CBC broadcast Peter Dews's production from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario. Directed for television by Norman Campbell, it starred Len Cariou and Sharry Flett. Also in 1982, the play inaugurated the Channel 4 series Shakespeare Lives! where it was used as the basis of a two-part National Theatre workshop run by Michael Bogdanov, and starring Daniel Massey and Suzanne Bertish. The main theme of the workshop was whether or not the play demeans women, or simply depicts how they are demeaned.
In 1986, the television series Moonlighting produced an episode entitled "Atomic Shakespeare", written by Ron Osborn and Jeff Reno (with a writing credit for William 'Budd' Shakespeare), and directed by Will Mackenzie. The episode recast the show's main characters in a self-referential comedic parody of The Taming of the Shrew. The episode opens with a boy who is annoyed that he has to read The Shrew for his homework, rather than watching his favourite programme, Moonlighting itself. He goes to his room and begins reading, and the episode then takes place in his mind as he imagines the members of the cast of Moonlighting in an adaptation of the play itself (Bruce Willis plays Petruchio, Cybill Shepherd plays Katherina).
Another production from the Stratford Shakespeare festival aired on CBC in 1989. Directed by Richard Monette, and directed for television by Norman Campbell, the production was set in the 1950s with sets and costumes designed to recall the TV show Happy Days. The production starred Goldie Semple and Colm Feore.
In 1990, an episode of the third season of Garfield and Friends featured a section titled "Much Ado About Lanolin", in which the U.S. Acres characters attempt to put on a performance of The Taming of the Shrew, with Lanolin the sheep as Katherina. Directed by Jeff Hall, and written by Mark Evanier and Sharman DiVono.
In 1994, the Shakespeare: The Animated Tales series screened a version of the play which adapted the end of A Shrew to round out the Induction, but it also added a new element. After Sly announces he now knows how to tame a shrew, he proudly walks back into the tavern to confront the hostess, but almost immediately, he is flung back out, in exactly the same way as the episode began. Directed by Aida Ziablikova and adapted from Shakespeare by Leon Garfield, it was voiced by Nigel Le Vaillant and Amanda Root.
The 2000 Brazilian soap opera O Cravo e a Rosa was also based on the play (this title means "The Carnation and the Rose" and comes from a children's song about a couple of engaged flowers who had a serious "fight" – which, in Portuguese, may mean either an awful argument or some physical confrontation).
In 2002, the television series One on One produced an episode entitled "Tame me, I’m a Shrew". Written by Kenny Buford and directed by Dana De Vally Piazza the episode depicts the main character, Breanna (Kyla Pratt) getting the leading part in a school performance of The Taming Of The Shrew. Upon finding Shakespeare's language difficult and out of date however, she decides to liven it up into a rap version. However, she allows her ego to get the better of her, and unconsciously attempts to take over the production from the director, who ultimately fires her, and hires her best friend for the role instead.
In 2005, BBC One broadcast an adaptation for the ShakespeaRe-Told series, written by Sally Wainwright and directed by Dave Richards, which set the story in modern-day Britain, with Katherine (played by Shirley Henderson) as an abrasive career politician who is told she must find a husband if she wants to become the party leader. Meanwhile, her sister Bianca (Jaime Murray) has fallen in love with Lucentio (Santiago Cabrera) and wants to marry him, but Bianca's manager, Harry (Stephen Tompkinson), has long held that she is engaged to him. To put him off, Bianca announces that she will not marry until her sister is married (as she believes Katherine will never marry). Harry arranges a meeting between his friend Petruchio (Rufus Sewell) and Katherine. Harry bets Petruchio that he will not be able to woo Katherine, so, determined to prove him wrong, Petruchio sets out to win her over. Their courtship goes well until he shows up at the wedding drunk, and dressed as a woman, starting their marriage out tempestuously. Katherine's climactic speech is triggered when Bianca is surprised and annoyed that Lucentio refuses to sign a pre-nuptial agreement. This version still has Katherine stating it is a woman's duty to love and obey her husband, but with the requirement that he do precisely the same for her.
In 2009, ABC Family adapted the play for a new television situation comedy entitled 10 Things I Hate About You, stretching out and modernising the plot of the 1999 film. It starred Lindsey Shaw as Kat Stratford, Meaghan Jette Martin as Bianca Stratford, Larry Miller as Dr. Walter Stratford (reprising his role from the film) and Ethan Peck as Patrick Verona. 10 episodes were produced for the first season. A second season of 10 episodes aired in March 2010.
There have also been numerous international adaptations over the years. For example, the 1961 Russian adaptation Ukroshchenie stroptivoy directed by Sergei Kolosov; the 1964 French adaptation La mégère apprivoisée, directed by Pierre Badel, which aired on RTF; the 1971 Polish adaptation Poskromienie złośnicy, directed by Zygmunt Hübner, which aired on TVP1; the 1990 Polish adaptation Poskromienie złośnicy, directed by Michał Kwieciński, which also aired on TVP1; and the 1991 Dutch adaptation De getemde feeks, directed by Berend Boudewijn and Dirk Tanghe, which aired on KRO.
The play has been adapted for radio many times, especially in the early 20th century. In 1924, extracts were broadcast on the BBC Regional Programme, performed by the Cardiff Station Repertory Company as the eight episode of a series of programs showcasing Shakespeare's plays, entitled Shakespeare Night. Extracts were also broadcast in 1925 as part of Shakespeare: Scene and Story, with William Charles Macready and Edna Godfrey-Turner, and in 1926 as part of Shakespeare's Heroines, with Edmund Willard and Madge Titheradge. In 1927, a forty-three minute truncated version of the play written by Dulcima Glasby was broadcast on the Regional Programme, with Barbara Couper and Ian Fleming. Another Glasby adaptation aired in 1932 on BBC National Programme, this time running eighty-five minutes, and again starring Couper. Petruchio was played by Francis James. In 1935, a Peter Creswell adaptation aired on National Programme, under the title The Witty and pleasant conceited Comedy called The Taming of the Shrew, starring Godfrey Tearle and Mary Hinton. Another Creswell adaptation aired on BBC Home Service in 1941, again with Tearle, and with Katherina played by Fay Compton. In 1947, BBC Light Programme aired an episode of their Theatre Programme which featured an analysis of the play by Ralph Richardson and scenes recorded from John Burrell's Edinburgh Festival production starring Trevor Howard and Patricia Burke. In 1954, a full-length version of the play aired on BBC Home Service, directed and adapted for radio by Peter Watts, and starring Joseph O'Connor and Mary Wimbush. BBC Radio 4 aired another full length broadcast in 1973 as part of their Monday Night Theatre series, directed by Ian Cotterell and starring Paul Daneman and Fenella Fielding. In 1989, BBC Radio 3 aired an adaptation of the play directed by Jeremy Mortimer and starring Bob Peck and Cheryl Campbell. In 2000, Radio 4 aired another full-length production as part of their Shakespeare for the New Millennium series, directed by Melanie Harris and starring Gerard McSorley and Ruth Mitchell.
In America, the first major radio production was in 1937 on NBC Radio, when John Barrymore adapted the play into a forty-five minute piece, starring Barrymore himself and Elaine Barrie. Another 1937 adaptation was a sixty minute piece by Gilbert Seldes, with Edward G. Robinson and Frieda Inescort, which aired on CBS Radio. In 1940, a thirty minute musical version of the play written by Joseph Gottlieb and Irvin Graham aired on CBS as part of their Columbia Workshop series, with Carleton Young and Nan Sunderland. In 1941, NBC Blue aired a sixty minute adaptation of the play as part of their Great Plays series, written by Ranald MacDougall and directed by Charles Warburton, starring Herbert Rudley and Grace Coppin. ABC Radio aired an adaptation in 1949, directed by Homer Fickett and starring Burgess Meredith and Joyce Redman. In 1953, NBC broadcast an adaptation of the play by Philip Hanson, based on William Dawkins' production for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Directed by Andrew C. Love, the cast list has been lost, but it is known that George Peppard appeared in the play, probably as Petruchio, although that cannot be categorically determined. In 1960, NBC Red aired a sixty minute version adapted by Carl Ritchie from Robert Loper's stage production for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, starring Gerard Larson and Ann Hackney.
All references to The Taming of the Shrew, unless otherwise specified, are taken from the Oxford Shakespeare (Oliver, 1982), which is based on the 1623 First Folio. Under this referencing system, 1.2.51 means Act 1, Scene 2, line 51.
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