Taming of the Shrew - Director's Notes

Let Me Be Absolutely Clear About Something:

I am a feminist. This is not an admission, or an apology, or an attempt to start an argument. It is a fact. I believe gender does not determine someone’s worth or abilities, nor should it have anything to do with how they are treated. I believe in equality, plain and simple. And that is the definition of a feminist.

Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is commonly thought of as antithetical to feminist ideals. In fact, I have been flatly told that it is a misogynist play and, as a woman, I should refuse to direct it. My usual response is, “Have you read it?” Because Katherine, the main female character in this play, is quite clearly a feminist. She refuses to accept the lower status society assigns to her based on her gender. Her tenacity, her wit, and her intelligence shine through in everything she does. She is both inspiring and empathetic. Katherine’s existence is all the proof I need that Shakespeare believed women are equal to men in every way.

But this is entirely irrelevant. Because this is not a political play.

The Taming of the Shrew is not about feminism. It is about love. In contemporary parlance, this is a rom-com. Katherine’s fight to establish herself as equal to the men around her comes wrapped in the story of what happens when we fall in love. This is a play about how we change ourselves for others, both by choice and unknowingly. It looks at the ways in which we all perform for each other. (The story of Katherine and Petruchio is, in fact, the longest play-within-a-play that Shakespeare wrote).

Shakespeare uses comedy to make us look closely at how many of the compromises we make –– to fit in, to attract others, to get what we want, to find happiness –– are worth it, and how many are utterly ridiculous. He doesn’t single out the women. He doesn’t single out the men. Like a true feminist, he points the finger at all of us in equal measure.

Jemma Alix Levy