The Taming of the Shrew is similar in style and narrative to “Taming of a Shrew” which was anonymously registered at the Stationer’s Office on the 2nd of May 1594. The former being the original and must have been written much earlier (1591-2). The major literary sources include George Gascoigne (1525-1577) a play entitled “Supposes” (first performed at Gray’s Inn 1567). While his poems “A Hundreth Sundry Floweres”, which he presumably wrote or conversely were written anonymously by the Earl of Oxford. Translation of an Italian drama, Aristo’s “I Suppositi” (1474-1533). Anonymous ballad which was circulating earlier in London “A Merry Jest of a Shrewede and a Curste Wyfe” (printed 1550) and another Anonymous play: “The Taming of a Shrew” (1594) entered in the Stationer’s Register in 2nd May, 1594 with some of the influence of the Italian Commedia dell’arte. A similar version was performed at court in January 1579 entitled “A Moral of the Marriage of Mynde and Measure” written by Edwarde Vere. For comparison one should also examine John Fletcher’s own response to the marriage problem posed by the Queen “The Tamer, Tamed” (The Woman’s Prize-1611) whose alternative text attempts to set the record straight at least from a feminist perspective. I suggested he published this satire in order to lampoon and parody the numerous suitors, (namely Sir Christopher Hatton) and the potentiality of a marriage of Queen Elizabeth Ist to an English aristocrat.
The Virago Queen
A young gentleman by the name of Lucentio has arrived in Padua with his servant Tranio in order to advance his studies. However, he quickly falls in love with Baptista’s daughter, Bianca. Her elder sister, Katerina is something of a virago and it has been decided that the young daughters await the marriage of Katerina before they can be successfully wed. Bianca’s rival suitors, Hortensio and the pantaloon Gremio decide to forget their differences and instead seek a husband for Katerina. Meanwhile Lucentio is safely appointed in disguise as tutor to Bianca. Then Hortensio’s friend, the affluent and dynamic Petruchio arrives at the capital looking for a rich wife and is immediately made aware of Katerina’s eligibility but he also warns of her extreme shrewishness and frigid defiance of men.
In act II Petruchio is advancing his suit to Katerina and asks Baptista for her hand in marriage and also presents Hortensio as a suitable music teacher for his younger daughter Bianca. Matters are further complicated when Tranio, disguised as Lucentio, presents himself as a suitor for Bianca. Discovering that Katerina is highly spirited Petruchio finds her the more attractive, and woos her with charm, wit and sardonic humour. Meanwhile Tranio/Lucentio and Gremio proceed to advance their suit for the hand of Bianca, with Baptista favouring the former. In act III Lucentio and Hortensio vie with each other in teaching Bianca, and Lucentio cannot resist the temptation to reveal his true identity to her. The following Sunday Petruchio arrives deliberately late for the appointment of his arranged wedding, ill-clad and rebellious. He rushes the ceremony on and with wild impropriety whisks the bemused Katerina away without attending the marriage feast. After a rough and disastrous ride on the back of his horse Petruchio deposits his new wife in her new home. To curb her headstrong ways he then sends her to bed without supper. Back in Padua we discover that Hortensio and Tranio/Lucentio are resolved that Bianca favours Lucentio. Then, in order to advance his suit, Lucentio has to get his servant, Biondello to find someone who can impersonate his “rich” father. Old Baptista is therefore deceived by a Pedant that he is Vincentio – the father of Lucentio and guarantees Bianca’s substantial dowry. Meanwhile, Petruchio continues to torment Katerina, promising to give her new clothes and a clean apartment when her ill-temper has cooled down. Then she dutifully becomes more placid and accepting and they being resolved journey to Padua and meet the real Vincentio and hear of Lucentio’s successful suit to Bianca.
Act V concludes with Lucentio and Bianca slipping away to be wed by Biondello, while Vincentio, Petruchio, and Katerina arrive in Padua to attend the marriage feast. Lucentio’s deception is therefore discovered when the real Vincentio is introduced to the disguised pedant and Tranio, still dressed in his master’s clothes only adds to the confusion. The play however ends in harmony when the truth is revealed and celebrated by a grand banquet.
|The links to my publications “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”, a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry, “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:|