Taming Of The Shrew (The)

By William Shakespeare
June 1 2003
directed by Robin McKee

A nobleman and his friends chance upon a drunken Christopher Sly. For their amusement, they decide to fool Sly into believing he is actually a nobleman himself. As part of the charade, Sly is entertained by a troupe that puts on a show about Baptista, a wealthy gentleman with two fair daughters. Baptista's younger daughter Bianca already has two suitors, Gremio and Hortensio, vying for her hand in marriage. His older daughter Katherina, due to her unladylike behavior, has none. Lucentio, with his servant Tranio, enters town just in time to catch a glimpse of Bianca, with whom he immediately falls in love. Baptista informs Bianca's suitors that until his elder daughter is wed, he shall allow no man to see Bianca, unless he be a learned man who can instruct her in music and languages. Lucentio and Tranio switch clothes; Tranio pretends to be his master Lucentio, and Lucentio disguises himself as a language teacher. Petruchio, who seeks a wealthy wife, arrives with his servant Grumio to visit his friend, Hortensio. Hortensio suggests that Petruchio consider marrying Katherina. While his friend is courting Baptista's eldest daughter, Hortensio plans to gain access to Bianca by posing as a music master. Several suitors arrive at Baptista's house. Petruchio inquires after Katherine; Gremio, Lucentio (as a language teacher), Hortensio (as a music master), and Tranio (as Lucentio) are there to court Bianca. While Lucentio and Hortensio vie for Bianca's attention, Petruchio attempts to woo Katherine in a contest of wit and words. Baptista, delighted that a man is willing to marry his daughter, agrees to a swift wedding. The wedding day arrives. Petruchio makes a late entrance, dressed not in matrimonial finery, but in roguish attire. Gremio describes the unconventional wedding to the other servants. Petruchio then departs with Katherine before the wedding feast even begins. An already fatigued and disoriented Katherine arrives at her new home. Her seemingly erratic and irrational husband expresses displeasure with everything, and subjects her to further torments by denying her food and rest. Meanwhile, Baptista decides to marry his younger daughter to the wealthy Lucentio (Tranio in disguise), but expresses a desire to meet Lucentio's father, Vincentio. Tranio hires a passerby to pose as the old man. Bianca, however, shows a preference for the real Lucentio. A disgusted Hortensio, watching the two lovers depart, resolves to marry a wealthy widow instead. Hortensio, newly married, joins Petruchio and Katherine on their journey to Baptista's house. Katherine, wearied by being denied food, rest, and new clothes, obeys her husband's bidding to greet the true Vincentio, whom they chance to meet, as a young virgin. Vincentio is on his way to visit Lucentio. Greeted by a false son (Tranio) and an imposter of himself, Vincentio fears for his son. Lucentio arrives, reveals himself, and announces his marriage to Bianca. At a feast, the three married men trade barbs over the worthiness of their wives. This leads Petruchio to propose a wager: each man shall send for his wife. They all appear confident of the outcome but the results are surprising.

Date Time
Sunday June 1 12:00 am
Closed

A nobleman and his friends chance upon a drunken Christopher Sly. For their amusement, they decide to fool Sly into believing he is actually a nobleman himself. As part of the charade, Sly is entertained by a troupe that puts on a show about Baptista, a wealthy gentleman with two fair daughters. Baptista's younger daughter Bianca already has two suitors, Gremio and Hortensio, vying for her hand in marriage. His older daughter Katherina, due to her unladylike behavior, has none. Lucentio, with his servant Tranio, enters town just in time to catch a glimpse of Bianca, with whom he immediately falls in love. Baptista informs Bianca's suitors that until his elder daughter is wed, he shall allow no man to see Bianca, unless he be a learned man who can instruct her in music and languages. Lucentio and Tranio switch clothes; Tranio pretends to be his master Lucentio, and Lucentio disguises himself as a language teacher. Petruchio, who seeks a wealthy wife, arrives with his servant Grumio to visit his friend, Hortensio. Hortensio suggests that Petruchio consider marrying Katherina. While his friend is courting Baptista's eldest daughter, Hortensio plans to gain access to Bianca by posing as a music master. Several suitors arrive at Baptista's house. Petruchio inquires after Katherine; Gremio, Lucentio (as a language teacher), Hortensio (as a music master), and Tranio (as Lucentio) are there to court Bianca. While Lucentio and Hortensio vie for Bianca's attention, Petruchio attempts to woo Katherine in a contest of wit and words. Baptista, delighted that a man is willing to marry his daughter, agrees to a swift wedding. The wedding day arrives. Petruchio makes a late entrance, dressed not in matrimonial finery, but in roguish attire. Gremio describes the unconventional wedding to the other servants. Petruchio then departs with Katherine before the wedding feast even begins. An already fatigued and disoriented Katherine arrives at her new home. Her seemingly erratic and irrational husband expresses displeasure with everything, and subjects her to further torments by denying her food and rest. Meanwhile, Baptista decides to marry his younger daughter to the wealthy Lucentio (Tranio in disguise), but expresses a desire to meet Lucentio's father, Vincentio. Tranio hires a passerby to pose as the old man. Bianca, however, shows a preference for the real Lucentio. A disgusted Hortensio, watching the two lovers depart, resolves to marry a wealthy widow instead. Hortensio, newly married, joins Petruchio and Katherine on their journey to Baptista's house. Katherine, wearied by being denied food, rest, and new clothes, obeys her husband's bidding to greet the true Vincentio, whom they chance to meet, as a young virgin. Vincentio is on his way to visit Lucentio. Greeted by a false son (Tranio) and an imposter of himself, Vincentio fears for his son. Lucentio arrives, reveals himself, and announces his marriage to Bianca. At a feast, the three married men trade barbs over the worthiness of their wives. This leads Petruchio to propose a wager: each man shall send for his wife. They all appear confident of the outcome but the results are surprising.

Director Robin McKee considers The Taming of the Shrew a "wonderful and difficult play" to produce today, particularly by a female director. What should the audience think of the lively and intelligent Katherina's submission to her husband Petruchio? The key to the play for McKee lies in the genuine relationship that grows between the couple. Coming to know one another, they exchange the roles they played at the start of the action--Kate the spoiled rich girl and Petruchio the unfeeling fortune-hunter--for a reality of mutual love and respect. McKee underscores the role/reality idea by placing the action in a drive-in movie theatre. It is a hot night in 1950s Miami, a place and time that helps make sense of Katherina's limited options. In Bruce Bergner's fanciful scene design, palm trees swing in the wind and lovers cuddle in parked automobiles. Suddenly players leap from the silver screen and begin performing the story of Baptista and his daughters. It is the world of Father Knows Best until Petruchio arrives with the revolutionary force of Brando in The Wild Ones. Costume designer Don Mangone uses familiar movies like these as inspiration for the characters' clothing, and adds clever inventions of his own like a Hawaiian tuxedo shirt. The atmosphere on stage is hot and lively, accentuated by sparkling marquee lights designed by Julie Mack and the rocking beach tunes of sound designer Kevin Dunayer. For director McKee, The Taming Of The Shrew is not about submission but about surprise, the surprise that two strong people experience when they meet-and fall in love with-their match.

Past productions of The Taming of the Shrew, such as the well-remembered 1978 RSC production directed by Michael Bogdanov, have emphasized the rigid structures of a patriarchal society and Petruchio's abusive treatment of Katherine. An investigation into the cultural tradition out of which The Taming of the Shrew arose, however, shows that Shakespeare has transformed his subject matter from a common folktale into a humane, refined and sophisticated comedy. Folklorists have amassed from both oral and literary traditions around the world over four hundred texts of The Taming of the Shrew story. The different sources vary in detail, but the central plot elements remain surprisingly consistent: the wealthy man with a shrewish daughter, the suitor who is warned to stay away, a bizarre wedding, and a trip to the husband's home as well as a return trip in which the husband wagers his wife's subservience are found in nearly all the sources. Shakespeare wrote The Taming of the Shrew between 1591 and 1594. At this time, there were several popular ballads, poems, and a few earlier Tudor plays with which the contemporary audiences would have been familiar. "A Merry Jest of a Shrewde and Curste Wife, Lapped in Morrelle's Skin, for Her Good Behavyour," a ballad a little over 1100 lines, and published around 1550, is most frequently cited by scholars. While The Taming of the Shrew ends with the promise of marriage finally to be consummated, in this ballad, the husband strikes and proceeds to brutally consummate the marriage with his unprepared wife. When the wife continues to be disobedient, the husband swears that he "shall coil [beat] both back and bone,/ And make her blue and also black,/ I will make her bones all to crack,..." He then proceeds to have his old horse, Morelle, which had served him well, killed, flayed, and the horsehide salted and preserved. The wife again refuses to serve her husband; he takes her to the cellar, strips her clothes off, and beats her with "sharp rods" until "on the ground the blood was seen" and she "swoons." To ensure that she has truly learned her lesson, the husband wraps his wife in the salted horsehide of Morelle. The wife promises to obey her "dear husband/in [the] presence of people, and eke alone." In other versions of the tale, the husband kills a cat or wraps the wife in sheep's skin. Only traces of the plot of the brutal and bawdy old ballads can be found in Shakespeare's comedy. One scholar sees the witty sparring between Petruchio and Kate as a verbal representation of the traditional English courtship dances. Another scholar sees in that same repartee a parallel to ceremonies of aggression, in which the apparent attack of the other is actually a gesture of appeasement. In Shakespeare's hands, the ritual of courtship has displaced violent misogyny. The physical beatings of the folktales have been transformed into a witty contest of words and wit between two equals who are secretly delighted to discover that each can outdo, yet also succor, the other.