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BOOK REVIEW – WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE – THE TAMING OF THE SHREW

 

The Bard’s famous battle of the sexes comedy.  Katherina (Kate), is a formidable, fiercely independent woman, who argues, and throws pots and pans about, causing many would be husbands to flee in terror. Her distraught father, Baptista Minola, himself fearful of the wildcat, struggles to get rid of her.  His more conventional daughter, Bianca, has many suitors, but her father refuses to offer her in marriage until her older sister is offloaded to a husband first.

 

One day, a drunken nobleman, Petruchio rides into town. He seduces Kate despite her efforts to throw him aside and escape him. His lack of gentlemanly behaviour is a perfect weapon. He pursues her relentlessly, and eventually insists that he will marry her despite herself.

 

The wedding is a farce, with Petruchio arriving in absurd jester clothes and rags, and being disruptive and rude to all, but he secures the Shrew’s hand despite her protests and takes her away to his own estate. Here, he half starves her, buys her clothes, but rips them up before she can put them on, and insists that she does not contradict him if he seems to mistake day for night and visiting men for passing women.  He seems to have similar control over his servants.

 

Travelling back home for Bianca’s wedding, Petruchio shows off his now utterly obedient wife, who makes use of her powers to make Bianca and other women obedient to their husbands too. Her transformation into dutiful obedient, slavish devotion is total. She is brainwashed rather than tamed.

 

Filmed by Severely with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the roles, and also the basis of the Cole Porter musical comedy Kiss Me Kate, the story can be seen as a misogynistic study of male domination by many feminists, though it remains a classic comedy.

 

Arthur Chappell

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