A play of its times?The play reflects three cultural strands of the late Elizabethan era, which Shakespeare weaves into a narrative that can be played in a variety of ways:
- Since medieval times, there existed a rich seam of misogynistic stereotyping about women who defied the culturally desirable norm of female gentleness and obedience. Such women were branded ‘shrews’ or harridans
- Arriving from Europe, the Commedia dell’Arte stock plots and characters influenced the English theatrical world and resulted in farcical comedies where young lovers sought to thwart self-deluding and/or authoritarian old men
- Echoing late Elizabethan court life, upwardly-mobile young men dressed to impress so as to acquire status via marriage (or the personal attention of Elizabeth I). To succeed, elaborate versification and skillful social maneuvering were required.
- The ‘shrew’ becomes the most desirable wife
- The man seeking advancement is deliberately offensive in his wooing
- The knockabout farce places the innocent in genuine jeopardy and discredits the lovers.
Launched todayNow students have got an invaluable free guide to the play, accompanied by an online text: The Taming of the Shrew text guide. Targeting the many A Level English Lit. students who are studying The Taming of the Shrew (which appears on the AQA and Edexcel specifications), the new Crossref-it.info text-guide provides everything a student needs to help them enjoy the play and answer confidently when it comes to assessment.
As you might expect, it contains:
- Handy synopses and commentaries on every scene
- Character studies
- An exploration of the play’s language and the impact of its structure
- Summaries of the themes and recurring imagery of the play.
There are also sections detailing contextual aspects such as sport and marriage in Shakespeare’s era, the prevailing patriarchal culture and how critics have responded to the play – all vital to understand for success at A Level.
Make up your own mindThe Taming of the Shrew is regarded as one of Shakespeare’s most problematic dramas. As well as studying the text, why not try and see a live performance to help you make up your mind about how to interpret it? There’s still time to catch the current production of The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London, running until 6 August (020 7401 9919).
For an entertaining cultural spin-off, devised in the twentieth century, you might also check out the Welsh National Opera Company’s musical, Kiss Me Kate, which is touring from September 29th until December 10th 2016 (see www.wno.org.uk for details).
Will you want to laugh or cry?