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23) The Taming of the Shrew

Well, I knew there would be at least one of these: I really didn't like The Taming of the Shrew. The basic storyline is simply too unpleasant: Katherina, obviously a very unhappy person, is intimidated into submission by a bloke called Petruchio who appears out of nowhere and for no apparent reason decides to marry her. There is lots of beating of servants; how hilarious.

It's not totally awful. The suitors trying to court Katherina's sister Bianca are moderately funny, and the Katherina / Petruchio relationship, though generally very dodgy, is almost sweet in the penultimate scene. But it's not really enough to mask the general nastiness of the plot. I did wonder a bit to what extent the complex father-child relationships, and the difficulties of managing households in two different cities, were drawn from Shakespeare's own experience.

The Arkangel version is lifted a bit by Frances Barber as Katherina and especially Roger Allam, of whom I don't think I had previously heard, as Petruchio. But the rest I'm afraid tried to get by with comic accents and speech defects. My advice is to give this one a miss.

Henry VI, Part I | Henry VI, Part II | Henry VI, Part III | Richard III | Comedy of Errors | Titus Andronicus | Taming of the Shrew | Two Gentlemen of Verona | Love's Labour's Lost | Romeo and Juliet | Richard II | A Midsummer Night's Dream | King John | The Merchant of Venice | Henry IV, Part I | Henry IV, Part II | Henry V | Julius Caesar | Much Ado About Nothing | As You Like It | Merry Wives of Windsor | Hamlet | Twelfth Night | Troilus and Cressida | All's Well That Ends Well | Measure for Measure | Othello | King Lear | Macbeth | Antony and Cleopatra | Coriolanus | Timon of Athens | Pericles | Cymbeline | The Winter's Tale | The Tempest | Henry VIII | The Two Noble Kinsmen | Edward III | Sir Thomas More (fragment)

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
drasecretcampus
Sep. 27th, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure I saw Allam a couple of times at Stratford, tumpty-tump years ago - 1987? He was impressive in person, and I see he's done a couple of the animated Shakespeares.
sashajwolf
Sep. 27th, 2008 04:42 pm (UTC)
It's a notoriously awkward one for modern sensibilities. I've seen good productions of it, but they were all playing it against the text to varying extents.
nancylebov
Sep. 28th, 2008 01:56 am (UTC)
IIRC, Petruccio wants to marry Katherina for her money.
nwhyte
Sep. 28th, 2008 04:20 am (UTC)
That's certainly what he says; but he is already very rich, so I found it an unconvincing motivation.
liberaliser
Sep. 28th, 2008 07:35 am (UTC)
Now I'm wondering what you'll make of the Merchant of Venice...
davesangel
Sep. 28th, 2008 12:55 pm (UTC)
It's been a long time since I've read the play, but isn't it a case of the 'main' action (the Petruchio/Katherine plot) being a 'play within a play'? In other words, the play starts with the teasing of Christopher Sly and the staging of a play for him in which Petruchio tries to tame Katherine. I admit that that section of the plot is very uncomfortable to read, but when it's taken as a play within a play then it's not as harsh, because it's being performed for Sly and is more a reflection by Shakespeare upon perceived notions of how men and women should behave when married.
nwhyte
Sep. 28th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)
I considered that, and in the end it doesn't work for me as an explanation. Indeed, the whole Christopher Sly aspect fails on two counts: dramatically, because it simply isn't resolved; and morally, because it's entirely about making fun of the lower classes. From what we see of Sly, there's no particular lesson from the rest of the play that is terribly relevant for him. I'm afraid the framing narrative grated for me as badly as the rest.
redfiona99
Dec. 31st, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC)
I meant to say this earlier and your round up reminded me. I've only ever seen this done well once, and that was in the Shakespeare Re:Told thing that the BBC did last year. They managed to modernise it and make it palatable, without changing it overly much.

It did also feature Rufus Sewell in a skirt.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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