Welcome to the speeches podcast for The Taming of the Shrew!
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We had a hard time finding worthy speeches for our Coriolanus speeches podcast because there was so much to choose from. In The Taming of the Shrew we have the opposite problem. Except for the passages we’ve picked out below, there just isn’t that much that just wants to stand up and be quoted. That’s because so much of the comedy in the play is physical: a lot of servants being slapped and pulled by the ears. Three Stooges kind of stuff.
All of the speeches for this podcast are from the Petruchio & Katharine subplot, because we’ve found that most of the memorable lines of the play belong to either Petruchio or Katharine. The other main plotline, the courtship and secret marriage between Lucentio & Bianca, just doesn’t have the depth and inventiveness that is so characteristic of Shakespeare. This subplot is just so… well, plot-heavy. Most of the fun is in tracking all of the characters as they swap clothing and identities on stage. Good for a laugh but not quite up to Shakespeare’s best.
“Such wind as scatters young men through the world…” Act I, Scene 2 lns. 48-74
Speakers: Petruchio, Hortensio
Petruchio runs into his friend Hortensio who asks him what brings him to Padua. He’s hoping to find a rich wife here in Padua. It’s not clear how rich Petruchio is but he clearly doesn;t think himself rich enough. Hortensio mentions Katharine to Petruchio who sees himself as up to the challenge of taming her so long as she comes with a rich dowry. While Petruchio is explicit that he’ll be happy with any wife so long as she’s rich, how sincere is he being? Wouldn’t Petruchio – based on what we learn about him over the course of the play – be bored out of his mind if he had married someone like Bianca instead? Isn’t there something ‘right’ about the Petruchio-Katharine match?
“Signior Petruchio, will you go with us…” Act II, Scene 1 lns. 164-196
Speakers: Baptista, Petruchio, Katharine
This is the first meeting between Petruchio and Kate and is one of the few times where these two characters are completely alone on stage. Petruchio tells us first how he plans to flatter Kate no matter what she does in order to win her over despite herself. When Katharine does arrive, she and Petruchio start trading insults and when Baptista returns, Petruchio declares that he’s won her over. When Katharine denies this, Petruchio just says that they’ve worked out a deal; Katharine will be kind and loving when she’s alone with him, but as shrewish as she wants when other people are around. What do you make of Petruchio’s courtship? Despite her denial, is some part of Kate won over despite what she says?
We’ve cut the exchange short but it’s worth listening to the whole thing. It’s one of the funniest exchanges in the play.
“Peter, didst ever see the like?” Act IV, Scene 1 lns. 159-192
Speakers: Nathaniel, Peter, Grumio, Curtis (Petruchio’s servants), Petruchio
This is where Petruchio outlines the final phase of his plan to tame Katharine. He describes how he’s going to “kill her [spirit] with kindness” by taking issue with everything that is done for her: nothing will be good enough for his darling Kate. He’s already sent away her supper and now he’s telling us how he’ll continue to starve her and deny her sleep until she’s reformed. How cruel is Petruchio’s plan? How far do we think he’d actually be willing to go to change Kate’s behaviour?
“Fie, fie! Unknit that threatening unkind brow…” Act V, Scene 2 lns. 140-183
Petruchio and the men have placed a wager on their wives: the one with the most obedient wife will win 100 crowns from the other two men. Lucentio and Hortensio call for their wives, but they refuse to come. When Petruchio calls for Kate, she arrives right away. He then asks her to fetch the other wives and when they return, Petruchio asks her to give them a sermon on the duties of a wife. This launches Katharine into the longest uninterrupted speech of the play. Does Petruchio actually manage to change Kate or is she just playing along? Does she mean what she says or is she and Petruchio just enjoying getting one over on everybody else? Is this something the audience is expected to take seriously or are we supposed to be laughing when she delivers her sermon?
Did we miss anything? Are there any passages you feel we’ve overlooked? Send us your hate mail / loving criticism!
Also, get your historian hats ready because next week the Brawlers read through part of Shakespeare’s take on the War of the Roses! (Go ahead and bookmark that page. You’ll thank us later.)
Bonus sonnet 26 read by Laura Pellicer.
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