As a modern audience, we must remember to be mindful of the society in which Shakespeare wrote The Taming of the Shrew when we analyze it. This was a time when marriages were made for the convenience of the fathers far more often than for a love already existing between the bride and groom; people often were married without having known each other for very long, and sometimes without ever having met. Instead, one hoped to find love within the marriage once it was in place, to learn to love one's partner--there really were no "better" options. It is also doubtful that acting upon "love at first sight," in any society, necessarily brings greater happiness in marriage than does the slowly-developed, consistent love of a married couple who have learned how to live with and for each other. These are the two contrasting relationships that we see in the play, the former between Lucentio and Bianca, and the latter between Petruchio and Kate.
Thus the "ideal" married relationship presented by the play does not concern the "match made in heaven," in which the man and woman are perfectly suited for each other from the beginning. Rather, and much more realistically, it deals with the proper dispositions that a man and woman might arrive at in order to form a more peaceful, if not perfect, union. The question is not whether Petruchio is Italy's most eligible bachelor--certainly, he is at times grossly misogynistic, possessive, and condescending. However, at the beginning of the play, Kate is by disposition Padua's most ineligible maid. After all, as the title suggests, the play is fundamentally about a shrew, and Kate's transformation is its primary dramatic element. So the question becomes, is Petruchio the right man to bring about this transformation, and the answer is a resounding "yes." Only the carefree, persistent, self-assured manner of a man like Petruchio could break through the barriers of words that Kate has put up between herself and marriage.
Furthermore, Kate gradually reveals throughout the play that she does not truly wish for these barriers to remain standing; when Petruchio is late in arriving to the wedding, she fears the loneliness of an old maid far more than the constrictedness of a marriage. It would hardly have done her any good to have married a malleable man who would alway consent to her headstrong will and endure her tongue-lashings, for that marriage could never have been anything but a dichotomy. Though Petruchio stifles and at times humiliates her, the result is that Kate in the end can enjoy her married life, and, as she finally reveals near the end of the play, can love her husband in that life.
The play is about a young woman, Catherine, her sister, Claire, and a young man, Hal, who studied under her father, Robert and their search for the truth about a mathematical proof. The main character, Catherine, is a confused and disturbed young woman who gave up her own dreams to care for her dying father. Catherine has spent the past five years taking care of her mentally ill father, and when he dies her sacrifices are completely under appreciated. Her sister, Claire, wants Catherine to come to New York where she can keep an eye on Catherine. Then there is Hal who plays Catherine romantic interest. With Hal, Catherine gets a change to claim herself as a mathematician of her father's statue. The conflict comes when she generates a mathematical proof that might revolutionize mathematics. Yet Claire and Hal do not believe her and question whether she is trying to pass off her father's work as her own.
John Lee Beatty's back-porch set indicates Robert and Catherine's living space through windows and screen doors. You could fell fall on the stage with a few leaves on the porch and some naked trees of to the side. Pat Collins' lighting is especially effective in the play. To fit the Walter Kerr stage, the porch appears to have been stretched out with neighbors' houses on either side.
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