Source of Confusion, Source of Controversy

Like Titus Andronicus last month, there is no obvious direct source for The Taming of the Shrew‘s main plot, or for its framing device (the Christopher Sly plotline) for that matter.  The shrewish woman is an archetype in literature: when Petruchio references both Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Tale and Gower’s Cofessio Amantis, as well as “Socrates’ Xanthippe” (I.ii.68 and I.ii.70, respectively), we see how the concept of the “curst and shrewd” (I.ii.69) wife has come down through the ages in literature.  The framing device, a simple story-within-a-story, is a time-honored trope, dating back to ancient Sanskrit texts (Panchatantra) and the Arabian Nights… though the first dramatic usage is from The Spanish Tragedy (see last month’s discussion of the sources for Titus).  The concept of the audience for that nested story being a man fooled into thinking he’s a lord . . . well, that too is a well-worn tradition (again, used in Arabian Nights [though that, interestingly, is a work that wasn’t available to Shakespeare, as it wouldn’t be translated into English until nearly a century and a half later]).  So while both elements are not original, there’s no direct lineage for these particular usages by Shakespeare.
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Act Four: Taming and Gaming

Act Four of The Taming of the Shrew is the longest in the play (unless you count the 277-line “Induction” as part of Act One), with much ground to cover.  So let’s get to it.
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An Apology: This Podcast Interrupted by…

Every week we have a podcast (on Sunday).

This Sunday we won’t.  It may happen on Monday.  Or it may not happen at all this week.

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Act Three: Worst. Wedding. Ever. (even if it’s offstage)

Act Three, Scene One of The Taming of the Shrew takes place a day before Petruchio and Kate’s nuptials.  In the Minola household, we find the two faux schoolmasters, Lucentio (disguised as “Cambio”) and Hortensio (disguised as “Litio”), tutoring Bianca.  And here we find that though Bianca may be the more pursued of the sisters, Kate doesn’t have a monopoly on forwardness: “I’ll not be tied to hours nor ‘pointed times, // But learn my lessons as I please myself” (III.i.19-20).  She is in charge and leaves no doubt about it.  She allows Lucentio/Cambio to tutor her in Latin while Hortensio/Litio spends much of the scene tuning his lute and biding his time (to comic effect).  Even more comical is the Latin lesson itself, where Lucentio/Cambio translates a passage from Ovid to Bianca:
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Act Two: Best. Wooing. Scene. Ever.

Act Two of The Taming of the Shrew is a single scene… 412 lines of zero-to-sixty wooin’ and weddin’ (OK, the wedding doesn’t actually take place in this scene, but it’s put into motion).
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Act One: False Starts

The Taming of the Shrew begins with a false start, as the play as we know it (or as we THINK we know it) is actually a play-within-a-play (kinda).  In the two-scene “Induction,” a Christopher Sly is introduced, shown to be a drunk and one who doesn’t pay for his drinks to boot, and promptly passes out in the street.  He’s found by an unnamed lord, who thinks it would be a great practical joke to take the unconscious Sly, set him up in the lord’s own manor, and see what happens when he wakes up not as Christopher Sly but a wealthy lord.

Some wackiness ensues as Sly does wake, does begin to think himself a rich man, and does begin to watch a play… our play.
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Attend the Tale of Bill Walthall (or Sweeney Todd, or Titus Andronicus)

As we end the bloodbath that is Titus Andronicus, as we end our second month of our three-year journey, I want to thank all of you.
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