One of Shakespeare’s earliest and more popular comedies, The Taming of the Shrew bursts with disguise, deception and devilment. A playfully provocative battle of the sexes pits the shrewish Kate against the fortune-seeking Petruchio. But just who is taming whom? Unlike other romantic comedies, the play does not stop with the wedding. Shakespeare considers the institution of marriage, the rifts between men and women, and the rough journey toward love.Read more
The Taming of the Shrew, while retaining its audience appeal, is the subject of much debate and controversy. Taken at face value, the “taming” in question can easily disturb and offend. This 400-year-old play was certainly written at a different time and for a different audience, perhaps one that found little value in women.
The Duke of Vienna, Vincentio, reveals his plan to leave the city and entrust the power of his position to his deputy, Angelo. Known for his moral rectitude, Angelo cracks down on sexual improprieties. Mistress Overdone tells the licentious Lucio that young Claudio has been arrested and will be executed for impregnating his fiancée, Juliet, and then learns from Pompey that the city’s brothels have been closed, leaving her without an income. In a desperate attempt to save his life, Claudio sends his friend Lucio to the convent where his sister Isabella is preparing to become a nun, in hopes that she can persuade Angelo to be merciful. In the interim, the Duke disguises himself as a friar and returns to Vienna in order to see “If power change purpose, what our seemers be.” Prompted by Lucio, Isabella leaves her cloister to save her brother.
Despite his counselor Escalus’s plea for leniency, Angelo resolves to execute Claudio. The comic Elbow arrests Pompey and Froth; however, Angelo cannot determine the validity of the charges, and Escalus dismisses the pair with a warning. The Provost, in charge of the prison, appeals for Claudio but Angelo dismisses him and receives Isabella. Rallied by Lucio, she argues persuasively for her brother’s release. Angelo’s libido is strangely stirred and he agrees again to meet her. The disguised Vincentio learns of Claudio’s fate from Juliet. Angelo makes Isabella an indecent proposal: her chastity for her brother’s life.
In prison, the Duke steels Claudio for death. Isabella reveals to her brother Angelo’s dastardly plot. Although Claudio initially rejects the idea, he succumbs to his fear of death and asks her to compromise. Isabella refuses. The Duke overhears the siblings, sends Claudio back to his cell, and submits his own plan to Isabella. He tells her to agree to sleep with Angelo under cover of darkness and then Mariana, Angelo’s discarded fiancée, will take her rightful place in Angelo’s bed. Again Elbow arrests Pompey, and then Lucio unknowingly libels the Duke to his face. The disguised Duke challenges Lucio to make these claims before the Duke when he returns. Escalus locks up Mistress Overdone for prostitution and unknowingly demonstrates his loyalty to the Duke.
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