Assessing The Taming of the Shrew

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Petruchio's elevated tone, with its assumption of control, order and majesterial presense, reinforces the farcical humour which truthfully accompanies Petruchio's and Katherina's turbulent, fickle and impetuous relationship. This implicit humour is exemplified through Petruchio's contradictory words, "my haste does called me hence," consciously blending impulsivity or hastiness of mind with a 'calling,' suggesting some important political, humanitarian or chivalric undertaking is drawing him away to sacrifice his own wedding, when in point of fact, his nerve to marry a shrew has abandoned him.

Petruchio's insistence to leave immediately before nightfall is conveyed in earnest, heart-felt tones, suggesting his decision to leave is shaped by a transcendent purpose. This is evident in 'I must away today, before night come" (Thompson 2003:p 180). The injunction, 'make it no wonder; if you knew my business, you would entreat me rather go than stay', is a pretentious way to discourage speculation about his impetuosity or failure of nerve. Petruchio's means of persuasion are extended by his use of epithets such as "honest company" (Thompson 2003: p 183). Petruchio's accolade for Katherina, in the form of this "most patient, sweet and virtuous wife" (Thomspon 2003: p185), functions rhetorically to distance himself from receiving criticism.

Furthermore, Petruchio's ironic self- assessment of his preparation to marry Katherina, namely to "give away myself", is an overblown estimate of his preparedness to change, when, in actuality, his only change if the marriage occurs, will be in external form only.

His direct injunction to his friends to "dine with my father", conveys a sense of composure and command amongst his friends, positioning Petruchio in a position of power relative to the others present.

Petruchio's employment of word puns as he finally enters into conversation with Katherina in this scene, shows his attempts to charm her, as well as the intellectual sparring match we can envisage between the two lovers. The battle of wills between Petruchio and the shrew is hinted at by the resonating repetition of whether Petruchio can be persuaded to stay, and just what constitutes the substance of his 'contentment.' The abbreviated sentence length in this exchange contrasts sharply with the previous section, where Petruchio evidently had the ear and authority over his friends, as he his words were foregrounded.

While together, Katherina speaks more frequently than Petruchio. The attribution of Petruchio as a 'jolly surly groom' (3:2:202) by Katherina is an exercise of witty insult, which diminishes Petruchio's self-aggrandisement, which we saw glimpses of earlier in his pronoucements to his friends that he departing imminently and could not stay for the feast. The juxtaposition of jolly surly belittles Petruchio's temperament, and indicates Katherina is easily a psychological match for him. Picking up the connotations of Petruchio's diatribe about contentment, Katherina insists she will not be gone "till I please myself", suitably ambiguous to emphasise her independence of mind that has earned her the reputation as the shrew. The epiphet "O Kate" shows some sincerity on Petruchio's behalf, using the more personal attribution to soothe her simmering temper

Petruchio's change of heart is leveraged by Kate's resolve . His faint heartedness overcome, Petruchio fills the vacuum with effusive praise for his wife to be. The use of exaggerated conceits with "She is my goods, my chattels: she is my house..." (3:2:219) emphasises Petruchio's intuitive sense that to avoid conflict living with such a feisty woman, he must please her with flattering words, to rein in her overactive spirit Petruchio's boastful claims to be Kate's saviour is an attempt to demonstrate he is characterised by a masculinity that can match her feminine wiles.

The wedding banquet of the noble couple (Petruchio and Katherina) in Padua, Italy, provides scope for engaging ceremony and festive celebration, each with dramatic potential for empathetic realisation on stage. McEvoy's reminder that Shakespeare's written plays are best viewed as working scripts for dramatic realisation in performance, rather than works of literature merely intended for literary deconstruction is a salutary reminder of how to enjoy the true value of Shakespeare (McEvoy: 2006, p77).

In this climactic moment prior to the wedding, the play's central question as to whether the spirited Petruchio has sufficient internal fortitude to domesticate Kate's independent spirit comes to the fore. The moment of realisation evokes a flight response in Petruchio, a poignant moment a director in which an astute director would aim to exploit the comic possibilities. The key to this is the tone and speed of Petruchio's enunciation of his intended imminent departure. This is an announcement made with false confidence, bravado and apparent poise to his docile and dotting friends, preserving the composed, steady rhythms with employment of iambic pentameter, later abandoned when Petruchio can converse with his wife to be. The actor playing Petruchio would dominate his friends early in the scene, who would be responsive to his every word and gesture, in spite of the superciliousness of some of Petruchio's melodramatic utterances. This superficial confidence will evaporate when Petruchio is met by Kate's gaze and intellectual equal. The verbal exchange between them would be rapid fire, with Kate adopting a sarcastic tone when she teases Petruchio's duplicitous motives through word pun. Spitting her words at the audience, Kate's dare for Petruchio to go, throws down the gauntlet and taunts Petruchio's hollow bravado. "Do what thou canst, I will not go today! No, nor tomorrow not till I please myself. The door is open, sir, there lies your way; You may be jogging whiles your boots are green" (3:2:200). Kate would move with ease around Petruchio, first within a hair's breath, then with the establishment of space between them to reflect the unresolved tension created by Petruccio's loss of nerve, Kate's determined challenge to not succumb to her suitor's demands, would be dramatised by bodily rigidity, and striking gesticulations with arms waving and tongue directing Petruccio to flaunt fate is he so desires, emphasising Kate's remaining fearlessness, which she will take into her marriage, intact beneath the domesticated trappings of the wedding's ceremonious conventions, displayed by the gathered courtiers and nobles of Padua.

McEvoy's reminder of Elizabethan views concerning gender and sexuality (2006:69-70), should inform a director's casting and realisation of Kate's character. The prevalent views that women at best were merely half a man, should be aggressively challenged through the comic enjoyment of Kate's vituperative language registers and the rapidity of her replies to the bravado of Petruchio, conveying the accompanying meaning to an audience that Petruchio's intention is to please Kate, as part of his strategy to tame her. The thrust stage in a modern setting, would be complemented by the use of rear projection on a large white backdrop screen, casting larger than life images of Kate to reinforce her towering undomesticated spirit. Furthermore, the rear stage projection of a shrinking torso of Petruchio when Kate stands defiantly in response to Petruchio's claims that he will retract his marriage commitment; will convey Kate's dominance over Petruchio to the modern audience. When Kate utters the above mentioned dare to Petruchio, her restrained formal wedding attire will give way as her brazen wilfulness surfaces, revealing a shock of long thick red hair, and knee length black boots, signalling power, hints of the femme fatale arcyhetypal figure. To support this, larger than life poster size images of familiar Hollywood femme fatale stills will be projected to the rear of the Kate and Petruchio, with accompanying sound bites from the corresponding films which feature the femme fatale characters.

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