I have mixed reactions when it comes to The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare. The story is a framed as a play put on for the amusement of a drunkard that has been convinced he is a nobleman.

In the play, Baptisat Minola has two daughters, the older is Katherina, a shrew whose temper is notorious and it is assumed no one would want to marry her. The younger daughter, Bianca, is beautiful and gentle and has several suitors, but Baptista insists that the older daughter be married first.  Petruchio arrives in Padua and is recruited by one of Bianca’s admirers to woo and marry Katherina, holding up Kate’s money as a legimate reason to marry her.

Petruchio courts Kate with reverse psychology, pretending that every harsh thing she says or does is kind and gentle, while he himself is just mean and nasty to everyone but her. Kate and Petruchio are married in a ridiculous ceremony where he dresses like a clown, hits the priest, and then takes her home against her will. At home, Petruchio continues with his plan, refusing her food and clothing, stating nothing is good enough for her.

There’s a side plot involving those men wanting to marry Bianca that involves some pretending and promising, but to shorten the story Bianca marries Lucentia and Hortensio, one of the other suitors, marries a rich widow. The three men bet on whose wife is most obedient. Katherine is the only woman to ome when the husbands summon, so Petruchio wins the bet. Then Kate gives a speech talking about how women should obey their husbands, but I’m sure she’s not entirely tamed, just knows better how to get what she wants without appearing “shrewish” in the process. I think Kate and Petruchio would have a happy marriage, though, they fit each other well, both strong and determined, and actually in love. And I do think that KAte will be the one in  charge at home, inspite of her being “tamed.”

I can see where it’s funny and I liked the wordplay between Kate and Petruchio, but to be honest there is just too much hitting and general violence for me. I just don’t find that slapstick style of comedy funny, especially when it involves spouses hitting each other. I don’t think that Petruchio ever actualy slaps Kate, but I do think she hit him at least once, and Petruchio hit servants, the priest, Kate ties up her sister. It’s just lost on me, even though I know others do find it hilarious, hence the popularity of the Three Stooges or even some of Lucy Ball’s shows. I can recognize that it’s well-done for what it is, but I just don’t enjoy it.

And then there’s the fact that Petruchio agrees to marry Kate only for her money, as if he could put up with even the worst wife as long as she was rich. Granted, I think they do end up in love, but that’s not the start. Of course, that goes back to the time period too, but it just added a little to my annoyance. And then betting on their wives- just silly.

A quote I like, one that I think shows that they really are falling in love:

Kate: Husband, let’s follow to see the end of this ado.
Petruchio: First kiss me Kate, and we will.
Kate: What, in the midst of the street?
Petruchio: What, art thou ashamed of me?
Kate: No, sir, God forbid; but ashamed to kiss.
Petruchio: Why then let’s home again. (to Grumio) Come, sirrah, let’s away.
Kate: Nay, I will give thee a kiss.
She kisses him
Now pray thee, love, stay
Petruchio: Is not this well? Come, my sweet Kate.
Better once than never, for never too late.
(5.1.121-129)

Overall, this is not one I think I’d like to see on stage. Just not my style.

3 out of 5 stars (Yes, I know it’s Shakespeare, but it’s not one of my favorites.)

Category: Classics- Play

Amazon | IndieBound | Read on-line

First published 1590
224 pages

Book source: Library

Shakespeare Reading Month is hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey.