BB: Taming of the Shrew, Act III

Welcome Brawlers to our third Taming of the Shrew podcast.

Listen to the podcast – here

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Before we move on to this weeks show notes, just a reminder to everyone listening to us in the greater Montreal area: be sure to visit Stephanie’s art installation at the VAV Gallery. The “Finissage” will take place this Friday, November 9th from 7pm to 9pm. Several of the first and second line Brawlers, as well as sonneteers and artists, will be there. Now is your chance to meet the people behind the voices. Hope we’ll see you there!

For a sneak peek of the project, visit Stephanie’s Tumblr page.

Bard Brawlers are clockwise Andre Simoneau, Eric Jean, Miki Laval, Stephanie E.M. Coleman, and Jay Reid. Not pictured Daniel J. Rowe and David Wheaton

In Act II, Tranio (disguised as Lucentio, remember?) manages to convince to Baptista to agree to Lucientio’s marriage to Bianca. Baptista thinks Tranio is Lucientio but they’re planning to pull a bait and switch on old Baptista Minola so the real Lucentio gets the girl. That could be a problem though when the two schemers make their move. However, by getting Baptista to sign on the dotted line, Tranio and Lucentio plan to take shelter behind the letter of their contract: in the end Lucentio will indeed marry Bianca. It just won’t be the Lucentio Baptista was expecting. But more on that next week.

In the mean time, Lucentio (as the language tutor Cambio) and Hortesio (as the music teacher Licio), find themselves alone with Bianca in Baptista’s house at the start of act III, scene 1. While Hortensio is tuning his musical instrument, Lucentio shares his plan with Bianca: the two of them will get married in secret. As Tranio already has Baptista’s permission for Lucentio to marry Bianca, he’s confident it will all work out. Of course, Hortensio by this point strongly suspects that something is up between Bianca and ‘Cambio’ and watches them closely while they talk. Eventually, they swap places and it’s Lucentio’s turn to watch as Hortensio puts the moves on Bianca. He doesn’t get very far before a servant comes and calls Bianca away. Hortensio realises that Bianca might not prove as faithful as he’d like.

The next day, preparations are underway for Kate and Petruchio’s wedding at Baptista’s manor. However, when act III, scene 2 opens, Petruchio appears to be running late for his own wedding. Baptista and Kate are beginning to despair but Biondello arrives to tell them that he’s on his way. However, he’s dressed on old mismatched clothing and looks rather ridiculous. When Petruchio finally does arrive, the others in attendance try to convince him to change into something a little more suitable. He dismisses all of them and goes off to get married. The wedding happens off-stage, but Gremio gives us a pretty vivid description of the event. When the wedding party returns, Petruchio says he has no intention of sticking around but plans to take his bride home with him immediately. The others plead with him to stay but he refuses. When Kate asks, he answers that the others should all go inside and feast but Kate and Petruchio will leave.

Is any of this funny? Why do we laugh at this stuff? In the next post, I plan to talk about some of the aspects of the play which make us cringe but this week I wanted to raise the question of humour in the Taming of the Shrew.

I mentioned in my previous post that Calvino differentiates Shakespeare from someone like Boccaccio. The main difference he points to is how Shakespeare marks are turning away from the bodily humour which was such an important part of the medieval stories he uses as the source materials for many of his comedies. But is that what’s happening here?

In a lot of ways, The Taming of the Shrew is not a typical Shakespearean comedy. You’ll notice as you listen to the play that so much of this play relies on either physical comedy or jokes about sex (or bodily functions). Which means that, without the actors, a lot of the humour is lost. How many times does Petruchio beat Grumio? The first scene in which we are introduced to these characters hinges on a misunderstanding about ‘knocking:’ Pretruchio asks Grumio to knock (on the door) but Grumio thinks Petruchio is asking Grumio to ‘knock’ his master. Petruchio rewards him with a knock of his own.

Another example is in act II, where Petruchio and Kate are left alone for a few minutes. Petruchio tells Kate that he will rob her of her sting with his tongue (ie: he’ll outwit her). When she states that in order to do that he’ll need to find her sting, which, she states, a wasp keeps in its tail. He replies: “What, with my tongue in your tail? nay, come again, / Good Kate; I am a gentleman.”

Not exactly PG.

The Brawlers have mentioned that this is a difficult play to read. Part of this comes from the fact that, unlike many of Shakespeare’s other comedies, The Taming of the Shrew relies on the body (or bodies) for much of its effect: the sight of characters in disguise, the enactment of Petruchio striking Grumio, or even the effect of watching Petruchio walk on stage for his wedding dressed like a clown, are what ensure that this play gets staged again and again.

artwork – Leigh Macrae

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