Actors' Renaissance Season 2005

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Stuff that Happens
Stuff that happens in the induction
  • A Lord finds a drunken tinker, Christopher Sly, asleep in the street.
  • The Lord decides to play a trick on him by telling him that he has had amnesia for fifteen years and that he’s really a Lord.
  • Sly eventually accepts his new role as a Lord and all of the amenities that come with it.
  • Traveling players arrive to present a “pleasant comedy” set in Italy for the “Lord” Christopher Sly.
stuff that happens in the pleasant comedy
  • Lucentio, with his servant Tranio, arrives in Padua to study.
  • Baptista, a merchant from Padua, has two daughters eligible for marriage: Kate, “of devilish spirit,” and Bianca, “sacred and sweet.” Baptista decrees that no one can marry Bianca until Kate is wed.
  • Lucentio falls in love with Bianca, who is also being wooed by Hortensio and old Gremio.
  • To win Bianca, Lucentio disguises himself as a Latin teacher; Hortensio disguises himself as a music teacher.
  • Lucentio’s servant, Tranio, disguises himself as Lucentio to woo Bianca openly for his master (who is now disguised as a Latin teacher).
  • Petruchio arrives in Padua to find a rich wife. Hearing of the shrewish Kate and her generous dowry, Petruchio vows to marry her.
  • Petruchio meets Kate; after a noisy exchange, Petrucio announces that they will be married on Sunday.
  • Petruchio, dressed in ridiculous clothes, arrives late on the wedding day. After the ceremony, he refuses to stay for the wedding feast. Instead, he whisks Kate off to his home in Verona.
  • Tranio (disguised as Lucentio) outbids old Gremio for Bianca’s hand in marriage while the real Lucentio (still disguised as a Latin teacher) wins Bianca’s love.
  • Tranio finds an old man to impersonate Lucentio’s father, Vincentio; this imposter meets with Baptista and consents to the marriage of Lucentio and Bianca.
  • The real Vincentio then shows up.
  • Chaos, weddings, and wagers ensue.
Notes from the Executive Director
shakespeare, the liberator

The Taming of the Shrew: 1592-3

The reputation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew has had a rough time surviving the sexual politics of the last forty years. like The Merchant of Venice, which could just as easily be titled The Taming of the Jew, Shrew deals with an ugly prejudice of Shakespeare’s society, a prejudice that we can still see all around us. The problem both plays pose for us is the matter of where Shakespeare’s sympathies lay: Was he a misogynist and an anti-Semite? Or was he, in fact, trying to show us the ugliness of his paternalistic and xenophobic society?

Imagine how we would think about Taming of the Shrew today if he had left behind and essay in which he says something like: “I wrote this play to show my fellow Elizabethans the stupidity of imagining that men are in any way superior to women. I wrote it to remind them that we are called ‘Elizabethans’ in honor of a woman who was our wisest monarch. Petruchio, far from being a misogynist, hates the paternalistic fools who have made Kate’s life so miserable. Knowing that no man or woman can change an entire society, he decides to free Kate from the prison of her anger by teaching her the fun of my profession – acting. I even wrote a special ‘induction’ to the play to show how the poorest outcast, Christopher Sly, can get the best of the smug and the powerful by doing a little playacting.”

But Shakespeare forgot to write us such an essay. He did what dramatists do: he let his play and the characters in it speak for themselves, and he left it to his audiences where they would attach their sympathies and even whether or not they would notice that his comedy raised some serious issues.

Perhaps his audience would notice how much disdain Petruchio has for Kate’s father, sister, and suitors, but probably not. Perhaps they might see Petruchio’s close relationship with his servant Grumio and Grumio’s obvious affection for his master as subversive and expect his marriage to be as unconventional, but probably not. Perhaps they would notice that Petruchio, like his creator, is deeply suspicious of appearances – “to me she’s married, not unto my clothes” – but probably not. Perhaps they would notice how Kate learns to play the game, how her final speech is the longest in the play, and how she handles male rhetoric better than any of the men around her, but probably not.

His audience might even notice that at the end of the play, when Hortensio (one of the dullest tools in the shed) tries to apply the ugly name of the play to the relationship between Kate and Petruchio, Lucentio (who you will remember has gone to Padua to get an education) calls that interpretation into question:

Hortensio: Now go thy ways, thou hast tamed a cursed shrew.
Lucentio: ‘Tis a wonder, by your leave, she will be tamed so.

Probably not.

Ralph Alan Cohen

Executive Director
Director of Education