Summer Shakespeare I

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2015: Wednesdays, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time
June 17 - Aug. 19

June 17:
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Conventions

June 24:
Romeo and Juliet
Language

July 8:
The Taming of the Shrew
Themes

July 15:
Richard II
History

July 22:
As You Like It
Comedy

July 29:
Julius Caesar
Tragedy

August 5:
The Merchant of Venice
Structure

August 12:
King Lear
Symbolism

August 19:
Twelfth Night
Ambiguity

The Taming of the Shrew

Things to consider while reading The Taming of the Shrew

This is probably the second-most politically incorrect of Shakespeare’s plays — after only The Merchant of Venice. It has drawn fire, and will doubtless continue to do so, from feminist critics for its treatment of women; it has also gathered impassioned defenses from aficianados.

A few things ought to be made clear. Whether one subscribes to the opinions voiced in the play about the “place” of women in Shakespeare’s culture or our own, there is certainly more to the story than just the position any of the characters hold. Like most works of dramatic art, it expresses contrary opinions through the mouths of different people, and one of the advantages of that approach is precisely that it does not lay down a single position as the only right one.

It also embodies the very old theme — going back at least to ancient Greece — of the so-called “War of the Sexes.” As such, it is given very much to boisterous partisan rhetoric, without necessarily coming down, in neutral narrative terms, on any side in particular. You can make your mind up about that for yourself.

A narrative retelling of The Taming of the Shrew from Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb is linked here at the Eldritch Press Site.


The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet (and also A Midsummer Night’s Dream).

As in both Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of the central issues is marriage, and one of the central facts of marriage in the Renaissance (especially in Italy, and, oddly, more in the upper classes than the lower) is the status of women as effectively a variety of property to be disposed of by men (chiefly their fathers) as they like. This is emphasized in the two previous plays, but also is explicitly stated here by Petruchio. This is not to say that Shakespeare was championing this position in its simple form, but he is certainly examining it as a theme in his play. Consider:


Shakespeare’s Themes


Themes that emerge in the play (only a few of the many)


Symmetries in the play


Inconsistencies or problems in the play