Here’s my Taming Of The Shrew Soundtrack Album (and I make no apologies at all for my dubious and decidedly old taste in music: let me know what’s missing, you young whippersnappers …
Ponytail Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew, Act V
When I was about 8, I vividly remember having a competition with a lad called David, who shortly afterwards moved to Australia. The competition took place in school and could have been called: “Let’s see who can piss the highest against the wall.” David won. I moved on.
But many boys and men never really graduate from that game – they just play variations on it, like:
- I’ve got further with a girl than you have;
- the girls who like me are hotter than the ones who like you; then, once they’re older
- remind me what you drive again; and
- who’s your daddy?
I also get, by the way, the occasional sneering “But Shakespeare didn’t even write those plays.” Never backed up by evidence. Never by anyone who has actually read the plays themselves. But they drive better cars than me (not difficult, since I don’t drive), so they must be right, surely? You are NOT my daddy. But you ARE a ‘three-inch fool‘, to quote this play.
Overall, The Taming of the Shrew is in many places an embarrassing reminder that ‘laddishness’ hasn’t changed in at least 400 years – that men are constantly pissing up the wall against each other. No more obviously than in Act 5.
Ponytail Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew, Act IV
KATHERINA: ‘And be it moon or sun or what you please,
And if you please to call it a rush-candle,
Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me.
PETRUCCIO: I say it is the moon.
KATHERINA: I know it is the moon.
PETRUCCIO: Nay then, you lie; it is the blessed sun.
KATHERINA: Then God be blest, it is the blessed sun.’
I so often say to students (usually when we’re looking at poetry) that you should ‘bring your baggage’ to a work. It’s one of the things that makes re-reading an unexpected joy, as you arrive at a familiar work with fresh eyes. The ‘baggage’ can, of course, be life experiences, or other works that you’ve read: regular readers will already know that I have a habit of conflating Caliban, Richard III and Frankenstein’s monster, to talk through a sympathetic lens about those three characters and the nature vs. nurture argument.
Alan Futerfas: because being pictured with an enormous phallic symbol sends a powerful message to the world about you …
Please, pretty please, Mr Futerfas, leave Shakespeare out of things – it doesn’t lend you any gravitas: ‘they’ will NOT, in the words of Cole Porter, “all kow-tow” …
In fact, some might be tempted to suggest you are over-compensating, and use Curtis‘ words to Grumio in The Taming of the Shrew:
‘Away, you three-inch fool” (IV.i.23)
Or just a brilliant disguise?
… as The Boss might remark. A guy who, perhaps appositely in the light of this post, I admire for his authenticity as much as his music.
The Taming of the Shrew: Act III
By now, I wonder if anyone is who they say they are in this play. Poor old Christopher Sly‘s been conned into thinking he’s a Lord with a young, beautiful wife, remember: and that was BEFORE the play properly started … When I see the Stage Direction:
“Enter LUCENTIO [as Cambio], HORTENSIO [as Licio] and BIANCA”
(who I suspect is not as pure, dutiful, or even as nice as she seems), my heart sinks a little.
The Taming of the Shrew: Act II
Confession time …
I only ever wanted boys, and I have been lucky enought to have two fine sons. When my oldest son was born, I remember (despite it being half a lifetime ago) literally going weak at the knees for a moment, with joy at the big reveal. For the younger, the scan was, ahem, rather more obvious (sorry, Lewis!), resulting in a fist pump as soon as we left the room.
Why the preference?
The Taming Of The Shrew: Act 1
Boorish, brusque, bonkers …
… but brilliant!
It’s been a while since I expressed some mild distaste at the prank played on the admittedly unsympathetic Christopher Sly at the beginning of this play.
(the reading continues to schedule, by the way, but I can see myself having to catch up on the act-by-act commentaries over the summer holidays)
Doing a bit of research – perhaps on the back of my reluctance to engage with the comedies, I found that the play has plenty of detractors, but I’ve seen it once – several years ago, at the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival – and enjoyed the performance. The casting certainly seemed to back up Robert Atkins’ views: