Turn, Turn, Turn: A participant’s thoughts after reading Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare Allowed

I found Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival’s Shakespeare Allowed reading [of The Taming of the Shrew] really challenging (but still a ton of fun!).

I know it is always a mistake to bring too much of your own perspective to older art forms, but then that is one of the glories of Shakespeare to me—through the lens of 500 years of history, I always find myself thinking differently about things when I read or experience his words. But I couldn’t help feeling walls I couldn’t get past in this one.

I spent the afternoon working in the garden, and this play just kept turning in my mind. I finally sat down and re-read Katherine’s final speech. Suddenly one line jumped out at me:

“I am ashamed that women are so simple.”

But she isn’t, is she? That so flies in the face of everything we’ve seen about her that the author could never expect anyone to believe she has changed that much. Shame for being simple? I honestly don’t think so. And we have seen her change—there were a couple of instances where we see her feelings for old “man-boy” [Petruchio] evolve. But her wit remains constant.

As I re-read that line, I couldn’t imagine it without seeing her winking to him.

One more thing that really struck me here. I’ve also found myself questioning the possibility that some of Shakespeare’s plays actually need to be seen, and not just heard. I felt like the last two, reading them and savoring them like a really good single malt, was adding to my understanding and emotional feeling. But this one, I realized, left me thinking, “Wait. There is something else going on here that I actually need to SEE, on a STAGE.” There is something going on here that isn’t captured in text alone; it needs visual cues. Is this not actually a woman who has been broken, but who has, rather, found a co-conspirator? If so, this doesn’t come out in the actual lines (to me at least) but does in the feeling behind the lines.

Or might I be trying too hard to convince myself Shakespeare didn’t really mean to show her “broken”?

I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter that much, given my relationship with Shakespeare. Regardless of his motivations, he got me thinking again.

–Todd Barnell

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