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The Taming Of The Shrew Essay

2535 words - 10 pages

The Taming of the Shrew

In taking on the task of directing The Taming of the Shrew, Gregory Doran followed in a long line of directors that were faced with the challenge of how to mount one of Shakespeare's problem plays. The main issue of the play is how to deal with the brutal treatment of Katharine by Petruchio. It is male domination of the female through violence and starvation that eventual breaks Kate's will and tames her. The interpretive gesture reserved to the director is to decide how completely Kate becomes obedient to Petruchio and if she actually falls in love with him. There is also the general attempt to soften the harshness of the text through performance, using irony to soften the painful action taking place on the stage.

Past productions have found varying ways of dealing with these issues to make the play digestible to modern audiences. Great liberty is usually taken with the text in order to justify the misogynistic overtones of the play. One major way of dealing with the issues of the play is done through the inclusion or exclusion of the induction. The play opens with the drunkard Sly being tricked to believe he is royalty, and the entirety of The Taming of the Shrew is a performance for his benefit. Its inclusion thus serves as a framing device that can distance the audience from the difficult parts of the show, as the audience is made conscious of the fact that they are only watching a performance. To exclude the induction makes the action on stage more real, it is not possible to disregard the story as mere theatrics. An example of the application of the induction is the John Barton production in 1960, with Peter O'Toole as Petruchio. The cut scenes featuring commentary from Sly from The Taming of a Shrew were integrated into the performance, highlighting the doubleness of perspective. The set for the play remained the inside of the tavern further showing the contrived nature of the play and soften the impact of the story.

The use of the induction to justify the action and the ability to cut lines to shape the reading of the play was taken further by Gale Edwards in 1995. She first used the induction to set up the rest of the play as Sly's dream, being controlled by the Lord to play out his fantasies of dominating Mrs. Sly. The dream soon got out of Sly's control and descended into a nightmare to justify the barbarity of the action on stage. What was more interesting about her production was that Petruchio's line of "Why there's a wench! Come on and kiss me, Kate." (5.2.180) was cut from the production. The dark interpretation of the play where Petruchio is so appalled by what has happened and how everything has slipped out of his control left no logical space for this line. He couldn't even condone his own actions and couldn't reasonably speak the line. In order to support this reading of the text, the text itself had to be edited to support the interpretation of the performance in relation to the text.

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