In the kitchen at work the other day, a coworker tells me that he’s just returned from London, where of course he had to stop by The Globe. I ask if he saw a show, and his response is, “I wasn’t really on a schedule that allowed time for a show, and besides, it was Taming of the Shrew. Maybe if it was Hamlet or something, but Taming of the Shrew?”
We generally agree that Taming of the Shrew is, at best, “nothing special” Shakespeare. I refer to it as a Shakespearean sitcom, and compare it to a Seinfeld re-run that you see on the hotel room tv when you’re channel surfing. Maybe you’re all “Oh yeah, this is a good one” or maybe you’re more, “Eh, seen this one a thousand times.”
But! A coworker hears our conversation and comes to Shrew’s defense. He calls it a vicious takedown of masculine roles in Shakespeare’s time, and that it is only the fault of modern directors who want to “move it along” and tend to skip or de-emphasize key scenes that cause the play to appear like the “battle of the sexes” romantic comedy it’s known as. He says that when played properly, you completely empathize with Katherina because you see the kind of men that she’s expected to put up with. When I push him for specific examples of key scenes he refers to the line of suitors that are introduced early in the play, by which I assume he’s referring to Act II, Scene i for anyone that needs a refresher.
Where do you stand on Taming of the Shrew? Is it completely misogynistic? A silly romantic comedy with a happy ending? Or should it be taken more seriously? How deep does it go?