The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare’s so-called “problem plays”, a term coined in the mid-twentieth century. The play itself is often polarizing, with some calling it anti-feminist, while others believe the opposite. With depictions of patriarchal ideologies and domestic violence, it is clear that there are issues within the text of the play. So, why should you come and see ASC’s summer production, you might be asking yourself? Well, it is my hope that this blog post will answer just that!
1. The play is a play-within-a-play!
The induction scene, which is often cut from productions of the play, introduces a trick played upon Christopher Sly by a lord and his friends. This lord has told a very drunk Sly that he has been asleep for fifteen years and that Sly is actually a lord himself. Sly of course believes it, and is then presented with a “pleasant comedy” which happens to be the main story of The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare loved writing plays-within-plays, the most notable of which being in Hamlet (which you can see this Fall as well). This allows for two audience groups throughout the course of the show, but also allows the audience to question what they are meant to believe within the play itself.
2. Kate and Petruchio
Shakespeare’s original “Enemies to Lovers”…or are they? Every production has to ask itself a variety of questions when it comes to the relationship between its two main characters. Are they in love? Or are they not? Are they working together to fool everyone into thinking that Kate can be “tamed”? Or is Petruchio playing a game by himself? These questions drive the concept of the play, which is why The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. The answers to these questions are endless, and each cast and company approaches them in a different way.
3. The Language
Shakespeare’s use of language throughout the play is truly remarkable. The verbal sparing between Kate and Petruchio is fast paced and witty. Here’s one great example:
Come, come, you wasp, i’ faith you are too angry.
If I be waspish, best beware my sting.
My remedy is then to pluck it out.
Ay, if the fool could find it where it lies.
– Taming of the Shrew, Act II, scene i
The way in which characters use language to best each other is what makes this play special. Another key component is the direct address that is written throughout the course of the play. Petruchio’s “Thus have I politicly begun my reign” speech, which brings the audience into his plot, and Kate’s final monologue about a woman’s role in her marriage could both be key moments where a production can make a stand with these characters. Do Kate and Petruchio really believe the things that they are saying or are they playing a game where only the two of them know the rules?
4. 10 Things I Hate About You
I would be amiss to not bring up the 90s classic, 10 Things I Hate About You staring Julia Styles and Heath Ledger. This teen rom-com is based on Shakespeare’s Taming, using the play as the basis for the plot. And while there is no paintball fight or huge declaration of love in Shakespeare’s play, Shrew stands on its own as a potential “rom-com”.
These are my top 4 reasons as to why you should see The Taming of the Shrew. The play is full of laugh-out-loud and thought-provoking moments that everyone will enjoy. And while each production faces the story’s problems in different ways, it is within these so-called solutions that theatre magic can be made. It is my hope that you come to the Blackfriars Playhouse this summer to see this deeply rich comedy and answer these questions for yourself.
2023 is ASC’s 35th Anniversary and we’ve got an incredible artistic year planned. This summer, join us for three epic Shakespeare comedies, starting with The Taming of the Shrew which performs at the Blackfriars Playhouse from June 16-August 12. Pair it with tickets to Measure for Measure, beginning June 23, or Much Ado About Nothing, beginning July 21. Visit our website for a full calendar of events!