Lecture 1 The Taming of the Shrew

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Lecture 1 The Taming of the
Shrew
All Paper 5 students note
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CJC recommended text edition of the play
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Oxford School Shakespeare
THE TAMING of the SHREW
by William Shakespeare
Women in Literature
From Tess Durbeyfield
to our new Woman in Literature—
Katherina Minola
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The nature of Drama
Drama as Literature; Drama and Theatre
Shakespearean Drama
The Taming of the Shrew
Women in Drama
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‘Theatre’ from the Greek word “theatron’—
a place for seeing
Larger meaning: Theatre is pretending, make
believe, dress-up games; Theatre is “play”
Theatre makers and audiences have always
understood the vital part make-believe plays
in our lives and our societies
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In its largest sense, theatre is the human arena for
our understanding of the human condition;
It reveals human truth by showing truth on stage;
For over 2000 years, theatre has thrown a powerful
spotlight on the actions, shapes, sounds and
meaning of human existence;
In the theatre, audiences gather to view and witness
thoughts and emotions, shapes and sounds
Two Texts
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Dramatic Text Dialogue Stage Directions
To read dialogue alone is to see how one character
attempts to persuade another;
Theatrical Text Character(s) Dialogue
Space Action Actor’s body Costume
Special Effects + Audience
 But what is happening visually on stage is something
more than reading on the page
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‘The Woman in Black’ staged in
Fortune Theatre, Covent Garden
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Based on the novel by Susan Hill
It is the magic of theatre, made possible only
by that most precious and under-used of
commodities—
The audience’s imagination
The play relies extremely heavily on this,
as all good theatre should
Reading a Play?
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A play is not really a piece of literature for reading;
a true play is three dimensional;
it is literature that walks and talks before our eyes
Essentially drama is written to be seen on the stage
rather than read on the page;
Performance on stage is the ultimate goal;
To learn to read a play is to come to understand its
potential for performance in the theatre;
We must keep in mind audience impact; Effects
Drama is a Performing Art
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Drama, strictly speaking, is not a branch of
Literature;
The essence of drama is live performance in front of
a live audience;
Theatre has an immediacy, a ‘here-and-now’ impact
that can create a unique bond between performers
and audience;
Playwrights write plays for audiences who have
assembled in a public place to watch a theatrical
performance; theatrical effects / dramatic effects
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The ‘audience’ for novelists like Hardy or
Forster, are individuals sitting by themselves
reading words printed on pages;
‘Live’ theatre audiences affect the way actors
interpret the dramatists words and actions on
stage;
Plays thus cannot be analyzed in the same
way as novels and short stories, as the
though the text on the page is the play
Drama and Conflict
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At the centre of all drama is conflict;
Conflict is the essence of drama
Conflict as physical or emotional, personal or
universal, spiritual, moral or romantic;
Realism? Some plays intend to portray real life as it
really is, warts and all;
Non-Realism: Others plays encourage the audience
to “willingly suspend disbelief” (Samuel Coleridge),
and believe what they see and hear on stage
Conflict in Shakespeare
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In Shakespeare, conflict can take different
forms
In Shakespeare’s romantic comedies—
Love is the source of conflict;
Money (dowry), Power, and beautiful women;
Fathers and their daughters; Baptista seeks
to dominate and control choices of husbands
Conflict and strife of rivals in love
Dramatic Convention, Language,
and Shakespeare
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All drama depends on the acceptance of a
number of dramatic conventions;
Shakespeare: Non-realist, non-naturalistic,
relying on theatrical conventions shared by
actors and audiences;
Few props; elaborate costumes
But above all, relying on language and the
power of the human voice
Stage conventions and language
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Of heightened, rather than everyday language, often
blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter);
Elizabethan audiences accepted conventions far
less used in drama at the present time
Long speeches (copia verborum), soliloquies, the
aside to the audience, patterned dialogue, prologues
and epilogues, complex imagery, antithesis, puns;
theatrical illusion, rhyme; noble characters speak in
verse; lower status characters speak in prose
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Dramatic characters
Characters in a play are only another form of
image, (though the most complex)
Projections of the dramatist’s inner vision,
Interpreted by directors and actors
And re-formed within the minds of audiences
of spectators
Shakespeare: Words, words, words
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Atmosphere and setting was achieved
through language;
Scene painting done in words;
Lighting effects achieved through language;
For Elizabethan audiences, the fullest
experience of any play was created through
language, through the spoken word;
Dramatic effects achieved through language;
The Taming of the Shrew
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Written 416 years ago, probably 1593? 1594? in
fairly early modern English, during the reign of
Queen Elizabeth the First;
Genre / Type of Play
Romantic Comedy? or Romantic Farce?
Farce, a dramatic genre that presents for comic
effect highly improbable situations, stereotyped
characters, and extravagant exaggeration;
The play, as much a romantic comedy as it is a farce
Setting: rural England, and Padua in Italy
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A fast-moving comic play exploring various kinds of
romance, and fulfillment in marriage;
A tale of wife taming; the wooing of Katherina
The two opening scenes bring together three of the
play’s principal concerns
Hunting, acting (disguise and deceit), and the
creation of an illusion of a powerfully rich world;
The subject matter: The endless battle of the sexes
as to which gender outperforms the other;
A sense of Plot Structure
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The audience is in a theatre watching a play about a
Lord who makes a play for a tinker, Christopher Sly,
Who watches actors perform a play,
The Taming of the Shrew,
Inside which is a play about the wooing of Bianca,
by a love-sick hero, Hortensio, and his rival Bianca
worshippers Lucentio and Gremio;
Inside that, is another play about, by contrast, the
very blatant wooing of Bianca’s older sister,
Katherina by Petruchio
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The first play within a play is Sly as Lord
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Second, Hortensio and Lucentio are caught
up in the business of wooing of Bianca
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Inside the dramatic action, is the third
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That of Katherina and Petruchio
New Woman in Literature; new woman
in drama (Women in Drama)
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Katherina Minola (daughter of Baptista)
Presented as a shrew
Shrew?
Bad-tempered, nagging, and unruly type of
woman
A type especially common in England
Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath
Feminist criticism and Shakespeare
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Literature and Drama have always played an
important role in defining gender;
How female experience is portrayed in literature; or
in Drama
Such criticism attempts to expose how in plays, in
novels and other kinds of writing
Patriarchal ideology, often stereotypes, distorts,
ignores or represses that experience,
misrepresenting how women feel, think, act;
Women characters have no part in financial deals
affecting their lives; women, symbols of male power
But…
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Feminist criticism also acknowledges and
celebrates how women contest male power;
Shakespeare’s plays also present women as
resourceful, self-confident, who create their
own space, and achieve spirited
independence;
Women of very different personalities: Lady
Macbeth, Cleopatra, Goneril and Regan,
Beatrice, and our Katherina
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The idea of male superiority is not that
apparent in much of Shakespeare
It is said, women characters are in fact not
only portrayed favorably in all of
Shakespeare and most especially in the
comedies
But are almost invariably presented to be
smarter, and more capable, than male
characters
The Taming of the Shrew, a problem
play for feminist literary critics
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It is a play that has been perceived as being a stark,
savage attack on the rights of women
That the play is disgusting and barbaric;
Several feminist critics assert that Katherina marries
Petruchio against her will; (conflict)
GB Shaw: ‘The last scene is almost disgusting to
modern sensibility. No man with any decency of
feeling can sit out in the company of a woman
without being extremely ashamed…’
For American Shakespeare scholar, Harold Bloom,
that is simply untrue
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