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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 19 March 2017

"The Taming of the Shrew" by William Shakespeare

Baptista's younger daughter Bianca has many suitors but the father decrees that the older daughter Katherina, a notriously bad-tempered woman with a sharp tongue, shall marry first. So when Petruchio comes along, seeking a rich wife, he determines to marry Katherina and then to tame her like one of his falcons and break her like a horse. Which, in Shakespeare's monument to male chauvinism, he proceeds to do. Meanwhile the other suitors do their best by trickery, guile and most of all disguise, to get into Bianca's good books while at the same time persuading her father to part with a substantial dowry. To do this Hortensio pretends to be music teacher Cambio while Lucretio pretends to be a philosophy teacher, Lucretio's servant Tranio pretneds to be Lucretio and a passing Merchant pretends to be Lucretio's father Vincentio. Meanwhile Gremio, a rich but old suitor for Bianca is all too easily confused, at least on the page, with Grumio the servant of Petruchio. Add a lot of what the Elizabethan's would have thought to be side-splitting word play and you have a farce with a massively sexist subtext.

Bizarrely, the Taming of the Shrew begins with a two scene 'Induction' in which a drunken tinker named Christopher Sly is pranked by a Lord who persuades his servants to treat Sly like a Lord when he wakes and to tell him he has been asleep for fifteen years and been lunatic believing he is not a lord but a poor tinker named Christopher Sly ... A company of wandering actors are persuaded to put on a play for the 'Lord'. Unfortunately after the Induction, and a brief comment after Act One Scene One, Shakespeare forgot about these characters! This is an indication the Shrew is a very early play while the Swan was still honing his craft. The Induction also starts with two references to the Elizabethan box office smash The Spanish Tragedy which also uses a structure in which characters from an introduction comment on the play throughout.

"Think you a little din can daunt mine ears?
Have I not in my time heard lions roar?
Have I not heard the sea, puff'd up with winds, 
Rage like an angry boar chafed with sweat?
Have I not heard great ordnance in the field,
And heaven's artillery thunder in the skies?
Have I not in a pitched battle heard
Loud 'larums, neighing steeds, and trumpets' clamg?
And do you tell me of a woman's tomgue
That gives not half so great a blow to hear
As will a chestnut in a farmer's fire?
Tush, tush, fear boys with bugs!"
It is interesting to see how Shakespeare's early verse had lots of end-stopping, little enjambment, and almost no caesuras nor weak endings. Perhaps Shakespeare didn't feel weak (also called feminine) endings were appropriate in a play devoted to the supremacy of the male!

"What, is the jay more precious than the lark
Because his feathers are more beautiful?"

I saw this at the Globe with an all woman cast. Not an easy play to perform to modern audiences.

March 2017; 113 pages

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