The Taming of the Shrew is a play by William Shakespeare, written in the late 16th century. The story follows Petruchio, a wealthy bachelor from Verona, who sets out to “tame” the shrewish Katherine, the elder daughter of Baptista Minola. Petruchio uses various techniques, including withholding food and clothing, and depriving her of sleep, to break Katherine’s stubborn will and make her a suitable wife. The play is often criticized for its depiction of gender roles and the treatment of women. However, it is also noted for its witty and fast-paced dialogue and its exploration of power dynamics in relationships.
I love this idea for a list, courtesy ScreenRant – Top Julia Stiles Shakespeare Movies. Of course, she only made 3, so it’s a very short list – Hamlet, O (Othello), and 10 Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew). The math geek in me wants to say that only leaves 6 possible combinations, but who are we kidding – nobody’s making O their number 1. I love that I can just italicize a single letter like that as a title.
I like to remind people, though, that Ms. Stiles may have been having a bit of fun with us during her Shakespeare period.
She portrayed Ophelia to Ethan Hawke’s Hamlet in 2000 … but she also starred in Down to You with Freddie Prinze Jr. the same year. Is that a Shakespeare adaptation? Well, no. But she does play a character named Imogen – who shares a name with a character from Cymbeline. Which Ethan Hawke also starred in, in 2014! But we’ll call that one a coincidence, the girl’s not from the future.
Then, in 2004, she starred in The Prince and Me. Oh, and she was named the same as a Shakespeare character? Not this time. She just played the love interest to the Prince of Denmark. And they fall in love bonding over Shakespeare sonnets.
I’m a little tempted to stage a Julia Stiles movie marathon just to see how many Shakespeare references we can spot in the strangest places.
It feels weird still telling geeklet stories when one of the geeklets is in college, but traditions must be followed! It’s fascinating to look at how the conversations and stories have evolved over the years.
So my daughter’s off to college (second year, actually) and last night she got to hang out with the Shakespeare club. Naturally, I had to speak with her this morning and get the scoop.
“We actually didn’t talk much about Shakespeare,” she told me. “It was a lot more getting to know each other stuff. Oh, but I did learn, the production this year is Hamlet.”
I’m of two minds. “Really?” I start with, “Of all the plays? What are they going to say about Hamlet that hasn’t been said a million times already?” But, reconsidering, “If you want to get immersed in Shakespeare, Hamlet’s going to be one of the best choices. Sometimes they’ll go off and do a Comedy of Errors or a Two Gentlemen of Verona or something, but all you get out of those is the laughs. Something like a Hamlet is where you can really spend all the time getting into the details of how you’re going to tell it, and why.”
We talk briefly about “gender-bent” productions and the difference between “a woman playing Hamlet” and “playing Hamlet as a woman.”
“I’ll send you resources,” I continue. “Sarah Bernhardt famously played Hamlet back in the 1800s. There’s even video.”
The conversation continues, and then she drops a bomb on me. “Last night I was reading Taming of the Shrew, and that ending is just …”
“Hold on,” I say, “Pause. Back up. You were doing what?”
“Reading Taming of the Shrew?”
“Before or after you met with the Shakespeare club? Something came up in conversation?”
“I wanted to refresh myself on the story.”
I’m momentarily speechless, a rare event in this Shakespeare-related universe. “You’re telling me that, of your own accord, you said hey I think I’ll catch up on my Shakespeare and decided to re-read Shrew?”
“Well, yeah. Not the whole thing, not in one night. Mostly the ending.”
We then talk so long about the ending of that one, the ending of Midsummer, the ending of Merchant, that I eventually have to go to a meeting and put a halt to the conversation.
I think it was probably fourteen years ago? That I was tucking in a cute little curly-headed five-year-old girl who needed a bedtime story and I thought, “What the heck, never too young to learn about Shakespeare.”
Look how far we’ve come. I can’t wait to see what comes next. But I tell you right now, documented for the record, that if any of my kids end up on a stage delivering lines, I’m not sure my heart will be able to take it.
So I proposed a question on Twitter the other day:
Which Shakespearean character is most associated with tremendous wealth? Nothing symbolic or metaphorical, I’m talking about good old-fashioned net worth. Shylock’s not really what I’m looking for.
I don’t particularly think of Shylock as wealthy, but I do think of him as being “all about the ducats.” In theory, somebody who’s very … careful? … with their money is a potential candidate for someone who is very wealthy. But I wasn’t looking for technicalities, I was looking for a character that just screamed, “Look how rich I am.”
The responses on Twitter were intriguing, and much more varied than I would have expected! There was one in particular I assumed would win (do you have the same one in mind?) so I was pleasantly surprised to see the other contenders…
Each Receiving One Vote
Orsino and Olivia from Twelfth Night each got a vote (in two separate responses from two separate people).
Lord Capulet from Romeo and Juliet and Baptista from Taming of the Shrew each got a vote, because if you’re going to woo a young Shakespearean lady, make sure she’s got a rich dad.
Speaking of Shylock, Antonio from Merchant of Venice got a vote, with the caveat that he basically lost it all.
Julius Caesar was emperor of Rome, and you have to figure that’s a pretty wealthy position to be in, even if it’s not explicitly discussed in the play.
Tamora (Titus Andronicus) made the list as well, though I don’t know enough about the play to speak to why.
How about Falstaff (Henry IV)? Anybody ever think of him as wealthy? He got a vote.
Receiving Two Votes
Portia, from Merchant of Venice, gets more votes than Antonio for being in the “super-rich tier” where suitors are bankrupting themselves wooing her.
“Any of the English kings” was mentioned, though Richard II specifically was called out twice.
Speaking of kings, King Lear got three votes. At the beginning, maybe, sure.
The Runner Up with Five Votes
Guesses? Anybody? Cleopatra (Antony and Cleopatra) garnered much praise, what with her “poop of beaten gold” and everything.
And the Winner is …
With a whopping ELEVEN votes, more than double any other contender, our winner for “Shakespearean character most associated with tremendous wealth” is …
Timon of Athens! Exactly who we thought it would be when we asked the question :). “Easy,” said one response. “Definitely the most obvious,” said another.
But there was a reason why I asked in the first place, too. People also commented “at least on paper” and “maybe in principle”, too. “At least in the beginning,” several responses noted. I was curious whether he’s generally regarded as wealthy, or as someone who lost it all. Now I guess we know the answer!
A false memory is a psychological phenomenon where a person recalls something that did not happen or differently from the way it happened.
You ever have that thing where you have a very strong memory of something, and other people say, “Yeah, yeah, me too!” Only it turns out that it never happened? And your memory – even though other people claim to have the same memory – is entirely false? That’s called the Mandela Effect.
So I may have mentioned, my daughter is studying Taming of the Shrew. And last night she was working on an assignment where she was supposed to discuss how an all female or all male production might change the interpretation and performance. She was supposed to pick a scene and talk about different ways it could be interpreted in this context.
I said, “Well, let’s think about it. Kate puts on this nasty exterior, but maybe down inside, hidden from everybody, she *wants* to like one of these guys. She *wants* to get married. It’s supposed to be a good, happy thing. So along comes this guy and she turns on the shrew and she gives him everything she’s got, and he stands toe to toe with her and takes it. And maybe she comes away from that meeting thinking, interesting, maybe this guy’s different…”
Here I even dropped in that god awful “If you can’t handle me at my worst you don’t deserve me at my best” quote that floats around social media. “But then she sees Petruchio talking about money with her father, and she’s dejected again, she realizes that they’re all the same, he’s just in it for the money.”
“Wait, that happens?” my daughter asks, grabbing her text.
No, it apparently doesn’t. I checked the text and could not find the scene I’m talking about. I asked my resources and people confirm, no such scene.
So now I’m fascinated by where I got that idea. It’s not like I’ve seen many versions of Shrew. I assumed it must be in the Taylor/Burton movie, because that’s the most well known and the most likely candidate, since I would have seen that one back in high school and formed such a memory. But again, it doesn’t seem to be in there.
It’s a scene easily inserted at the end of Act II, after they’ve met and before Petruchio goes off to arrange the wedding. Doesn’t even need any words. Just show Baptista’s people loading up Petruchio’s horse with a big bag of gold or something, and let Kate see it. But I can’t find video evidence of such a scene. (Kind of reminds me of all the kids who think that there’s a wedding scene in Romeo and Juliet. No, there’s not. There’s a wedding scene in the Romeo+Juliet movie, though.)
My daughter’s in an honest to goodness 100% full-time Shakespeare class now. It’s been a long time coming. They’re starting right out with Taming of the Shrew, and already she’s lost.
“I have to annotate the Induction,” she tells me.
I’d completely forgotten about the Induction. In all the times I’ve told them the story, I don’t think I’d ever mentioned it.
“Oh yeah,” I reply. “So there’s this dude, Christopher Sly, who is the drunk at the local bar. It starts out with him arguing with the hostess about breaking some glasses, then he promptly passes out. A lord comes back from the hunt, sees him sleeping in the street, and says, ‘Hey, you know what would be fun? Let’s take him home and dress him in my clothes and tell him he’s actually the lord of the house.’ Have you ever heard the term gaslighting? They totally gaslight him. Anyway, he’s not really buying it, until they tell him he’s married, so his first reaction is to say Great! Wife? Let’s go to bed!”
“Exactly. They talk him out of it, though. Meanwhile, there are these roving players who run into the original lord and ask if he wants to see a show, so he sends them over to his house to put a show on for Christopher Sly. That show is Taming of the Shrew. And, then, basically, Christopher Sly is never heard from again. Well, he comes back briefly after the first scene or something, but that’s about it. You’re probably going to get tested on why he wrote it, and that’s a good question. There’s a variety of theories. He didn’t write like that for any other play.”
“Yeah, well,” she says, flipping through her copy, “I didn’t get any of that from this.” Reading, “I’ll feeze you in faith? A pair of stocks you rogue?” She pronounces it “rouge,” like makeup. “How am I supposed to get from that that he’s arguing with the lady at the bar?”
Slowly but surely she works her way through the induction, which she first thinks goes 20 pages until I insist that she read it again and she realizes that every other page is vocabulary, so it’s only 10 pages of content.
So today at dinner she fills me in on how well she fared on that assignment.
“So it turns out,” she says, “that while I was out of class one day last week, she gave out this packet that was an introduction to the play. We were supposed to annotate THAT!”