|The Taming of The Shrew 2010|
Directed by Stephanie Shine
Kate and Petruchio on Ice
The Taming of the Shrew, while retaining its audience appeal, is the subject of much debate and controversy. Taken at face value, the “taming” in question can easily disturb and offend. This 400-year-old play was certainly written at a different time and for a different audience, perhaps one that found little value in women.
And yet, the brilliant Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne when the play was written, and Shakespeare’s female characters would become the first of their kind, known for their intelligence, wit and soul—many equal to the male characters that share the stage with them. I would offer that Shakespeare’s women have not been matched, let alone surpassed, by any playwright since. So let’s think again about the play at hand.
e share with you tonight a love story about two specific people, Kate and Petruchio. Their experience is as unique as your own love stories: particular to them, suited to their needs, and intensely personal. Petruchio claims the privacy of his relationship immediately and asks a question that we should all remember if ever we be tempted to judge someone else’s love story: “If she and I be pleased, what’s that to you?”
Watching the Winter Olympics this past February, I was floored by the pairs ice-skating. I was stunned by the way the skaters moved seamlessly in and out of symmetry: perfectly in sync until they broke free of each other with complementary separate movements; coming together again for a lift or a throw; the male partner thrusting the female to heights she never could reach alone and he becoming part of her beauty through his service to her. It took my breath away. It appeared to me as a poetic physical manifestation of a fully realized, mature relationship between life partners.
The television audience was witnessing the culmination of years and years of back-breaking work. We were not privy to the journey that brought those skating partners to this Olympic moment. We saw no struggle, no despair, no bending of wills, no learning to work together. Only the end result: Exquisite Partnership.
If we were to see just the last scene of The Taming of the Shrew, perhaps it would seem as Olympian as the pairs iceskating. We would observe a couple working with great trust together, reveling in what their joint venture accomplishes. An Exquisite Partnership.
But Shakespeare gives us an entire play to participate in. He invites us to be a part of Kate and Petruchio’s singular relationship. We partake in their meeting and their wooing; we share in the self-discovery that each makes, the release of those parts of themselves that inhibit communion as a couple. We join in their ransformation.
If we are lucky, we will leave this play with a new consciousness and the eagerness to say to our partners Petruchio’s “Lay it on me” or Kate’s “My hand is ready, may it do him ease.” Exquisite Partnership. Fought for and achieved. For life.
May we all be so blessed.
The Duke of Vienna, Vincentio, reveals his plan to leave the city and entrust the power of his position to his deputy, Angelo. Known for his moral rectitude, Angelo cracks down on sexual improprieties. Mistress Overdone tells the licentious Lucio that young Claudio has been arrested and will be executed for impregnating his fiancée, Juliet, and then learns from Pompey that the city’s brothels have been closed, leaving her without an income. In a desperate attempt to save his life, Claudio sends his friend Lucio to the convent where his sister Isabella is preparing to become a nun, in hopes that she can persuade Angelo to be merciful. In the interim, the Duke disguises himself as a friar and returns to Vienna in order to see “If power change purpose, what our seemers be.” Prompted by Lucio, Isabella leaves her cloister to save her brother.
Despite his counselor Escalus’s plea for leniency, Angelo resolves to execute Claudio. The comic Elbow arrests Pompey and Froth; however, Angelo cannot determine the validity of the charges, and Escalus dismisses the pair with a warning. The Provost, in charge of the prison, appeals for Claudio but Angelo dismisses him and receives
Isabella. Rallied by Lucio, she argues persuasively for her brother’s release. Angelo’s libido is strangely stirred and he agrees again to meet her. The disguised Vincentio learns of Claudio’s fate from Juliet. Angelo makes Isabella an indecent proposal: her chastity for her brother’s life.
In prison, the Duke steels Claudio for death. Isabella reveals to her brother Angelo’s dastardly plot. Although Claudio initially rejects the idea, he succumbs to his fear of death and asks her to compromise. Isabella refuses. The Duke overhears the siblings, sends Claudio back to his cell, and submits his own plan to Isabella. He tells her to agree to sleep with Angelo under cover of darkness and then Mariana, Angelo’s discarded fiancée, will take her rightful place in Angelo’s bed. Again Elbow arrests Pompey, and then Lucio unknowingly libels the Duke to his face. The disguised Duke challenges Lucio to make these claims before the Duke when he returns. Escalus locks up Mistress Overdone for prostitution and unknowingly demonstrates his loyalty to the Duke.