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
Other Shakespeare plays reviewed in this blog include (productions mentioned in parentheses; RSC = Royal Shakespeare Company; NT = National Theatre):
- Timon of Athens (RSC 2019)
- As You Like It (RSC 2019)
- Antony and Cleopatra (NT 2019)
- Richard II (NT 2019)
- Merry Wives of Windsor (RSC 2018)
- Romeo and Juliet
- Macbeth (RSC 2019)
- A Midsummer Night's Dream (Lazarus, 2018)
- Hamlet (RSC 2013, RSC 2018)
- Pericles, Prince of Tyre (George Players, Huntingdon 2017)
- Cymbeline (RSC 2016)
- King Lear (RSC 2016, BBC 2018)
- A Winter's Tale (RADA 2016, Branagh 2019)
- The Tempest (RSC 2017, Royal Northampton 2016, Lazarus 2019)
- Othello (Tower Theatre 2015)
- Measure for Measure (Young Vic 2015; RSC 2019)