Theses Master's

A Pre-production Dramaturgical Casebook For William Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew

Martin, Danya Gee

Few of Shakespeare’s plays engender such charged responses as The Taming of the Shrew. Heavily influenced by Italian learned comedies and English folk tales, The Shrew tells the story of Katherine and Petruchio, the daughter of a wealthy merchant and a bachelor out to seek his fortune. Despite its comic origins, The Shrew’s sexual and gender politics can prove troubling rather than humorous to modern audiences.
In the U.S. today, women account for 57 percent of the workforce, 15 percent of the military, and 58 percent of enrollment at colleges and universities; in addition, roughly 82 percent of Americans believe “men and women should be social, political, and economic equals” (“Data”; Wood; “Table”; Swanson). Despite these tremendous gains, one in three women in the U.S. “have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime” and “nearly half of all women in the United States have experienced at least one form of psychological aggression by an intimate partner” (“Statistics”; “Intimate”).
Furthermore, while feminism has empowered women in the public realm, the rise of internet porn and the commodification of sexuality teach teenage girls in intimate relationships that “they have to be pleasing, they have to be submissive, that their sexual pleasure is dependent on that of the male partner” (Leive qtd. in Orenstein). Given the confusing state of modern gender politics, critics express concern that by portraying Petruchio’s taming tactics “as laughable and Kate’s affectionate bondage as harmless, the play does the cultural work of figuring a husband’s control over his wife as artful, heroic, and pleasurable for both” (Detmer 289). This begs the question: should we continue to produce a play that can seem not just outdated but even harmful?


More About This Work

Academic Units
M.F.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 14, 2016