The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare's most ridiculous plays. I read part of it when I was a in a history of performance class as part of this heinous dramaturgy project that later got aborted. I never finished it, mostly out of the laziness of my heart, but also because I find reading Shakespeare plays really boring. Seeing a good production, however, is fun.

But The Taming of the Shrew is probably best seen live. I've never had that pleasure, but the play just cries for an audience to goad on the cruelty of both Katherina and Petruchio.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton spar in the 1967 film version of The Taming of the Shrew sporting great cleavage and a great beard, respectively.

I'm all for mutual insults. In fact, that's the backbone of many great romantic comedies (see: It Happened One Night, When Harry Met Sally). However, The Shrew takes a much discussed misogynist turn in which Katherina is "tamed" by physical, mental, and emotional torture by Petruchio. I can see that maybe being entertaining if done in a very joking and brash way since Petruchio seems to get genuine amusement out of the whole situation.

Physical domination: eeeeh. Please also note Elizabeth Taylor's intense eye shadow.

However, in a more faithful adaptation of the play seems to require a sudden and unexplained submission to by Katherina to her somewhat lunatic husband Petruchio. In that way, I wasn't quite sure I found Franco Zeffirelli's 1967 film version that amusing so much as mildly disturbing. I think there needed to be a bit more farce for it to be enjoyable, which the oft cut framing device seems to provide.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that it's a fairly outdated play that has always been a little creepy. However, the updated version part of the BBC's ShakespeaRe-told* in 2005 gives enough motivation behind both Katherine and Petruchio.

I find myself attracted to Rufus Sewell in his BAFTA nominated role as Petruchio. Mostly when he says "I want you to have all my babies." But I'm also impressed by how well he wears those boots on his wedding day.

Katherine (the pocked sized Shirley Henderson) is a politician who's goals to move up the ranks are threatened by her frighteningly temper and shrill yelling. Petruchio (Rufus "I'm actually quite endearing" Sewell) seems to have genuine affection for Katherine (in addition to his gold digging which he's rather upfront about), and his lunatic antics seem to be his crazy way to win her over.

That's about a foot difference in height. I find that endearing.

Plus, the ending speech where a woman's duties to her husband are enumerated are also applied to a man to his wife, thus making things more whimsical and less sexist. Although it's still odd.

I think I may be in love with this adaptation. Here's a little taste when our lid finds his pot:

Right? It's just ludicrously cheesy, but made for TV in Britain seems so much classier, right?

End notes: I didn't mention the Bianca and her many suitors storyline, but that's mostly because it's rather dull. Who wants to hear about the popular girl? Not me, unless you make her likable, like in the teen adaptation 10 Things I Hate About You (also, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt being one of the suitors makes that plot more endearing exponentially).

And for the curious both the 1967 and 2005 versions are found on YouTube here and here. Enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. OH. MY. GOSH. THANK YOU for this little gem of Rufus Sewell goodness--I kind of adore him. He always plays the most adorable deplorable characters... and yes, I am Dr. Seuss.