Monday, June 26, 2006

Excuse to Expound

To start off the week, I thought I’d use the courteous and educational response from Ms. Liffick at RSF as an excuse to expound further on “Shrew.” I whole-heartedly agree with several of Cynde’s statements: 1) the script of “Shrew” allows for an assortment of interpretations, 2) it is this variety in possibilities of interpretation that make Shakespeare an enduring wonder and delight, and 3) I don’t think Kate is “tamed” in what might be considered the conventional sense.

I’ve seen versions of “Shrew” that play up the suffering Katherina has suffered, through insinuations of actual abuse or, at least, through constant unfavorable comparisons to Bianca. This suffering has turned her against the world and twisted things in her mind so that no one can ever be worthy of her. I like this interpretation because then Petruchio’s hijinks succeed because they parallel what Kate is doing emotionally. That is, Petruchio finds fault with any food brought to Kate so that she ultimately is nearly starving. Similarly, by finding fault with every potential suitor, Kate is starved for love.

I’ve also seen productions that have illuminated in many ways how Kate is actually a very honest and liberated woman. They’ve usually done this by focusing on the “shrewish” ways of Bianca and “the widow,” who by playing the courting game as was expected at the time, turn out to be much more manipulative and in some ways deceptive than Kate.

What I particularly liked about the current RSF production is that it is insinuated that Katherina and Petruchio are instantly attracted to each other, something I’ve never seen highlighted before. To me, that point reinforces both points above. Petruchio’s behaviors – which can come off as downright abuse in some productions – are underscored with affection. Kate is also more willing to cut Petruchio a break because she already loves him on some level. And in a core irony in “Shrew,” by playing through the bizarre charade both Kate and Petruchio come to a more honest and equitable relationship than any of the other new couples in the last scene.

I guess the only unfortunate thing to me is how completely subservient and unironic Kate’s last speech is. Maybe if Petruchio had one last opportunity to wax poetic on what a wife is to a husband, I would leave the show feeling like some mutuality had been established, rather than dominion confirmed.

Thanks a lot, BTW, Cynde for your insight. I hope you’ll weigh in on “MacB” when his time comes!

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