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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 10, No. 12. August 20, 1947

The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew

The first impression of a play is received when one reads the written introduction of the programme, before the playing of the piece. In the case of "The taming of the Shrew" this is somewhat inaccurate historically and [unclear: trStttaRy miiieadieg]. As far as the written introduction goes there seems to be a [unclear: misecj] about the nature of the play. The characters are described as "real, [unclear: elaborating], attractive, and thoroughly complex people." On the contrary, the play is a complete farce, in which the characters are [unclear: mast] to be neither real nor complex, hut simply exaggerated conceptions of real life for the farcical end of provoking laughter. Katherina is the [unclear: serew] women and Petruchio the dominating male who overcomes her [unclear: threwise]—pure black and white figures of farce without the redeeming qualities of the mediocre attributes of true humanity. The very fact that the main plot is a play within a play to provoke Sly to mirth and merriment shows its farcical nature.

The principal novelty of the introduction to the play, however, is the reference to the emendation of J. P. Coilier in 1849. Collier claimed to have found the copy of the 1632 Folio, emended by a contemporary actor. This was not the only MS. however, which he "discovered." and it has been subsequently proved that he forged many of the MSS which he claimed to have discovered. As a result, the Shakespeare Society, of which he was a leading member, failed in 1863.


Mrs, Priestley, then, is not strictly accurate when she says, "the evidence for their authenticity is good." Her real attitude is summed up in the words "they feel right." In other words, she is exercising a personal preference, as Pope and later editors of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries did where a word offended their aesthetic sense. It is perfectly logical from an acting point of view to use Collier's emendations, provided that it is realised that these are not Shakespeare's. Shakespearean scholars would strongly object if these were presented as what Shakespeare wrote. It is purely a personal matter whether such emendations are "clearing up the meaning, filling out the limping lines, and lighting up the poetry." It is also a personal matter whether "beside them the solemn guesses of other editors look like pompous nonsense."

Mr. Wadman's decor was very suitable for a farce. It did not try to convey any illusion of reality as he intended, and maintained the general spirit of the play by suggestion. His costumes, however, showed the imagination let loose a little too much, though in this particular play they were not of very great importance.


Nevertheless, although there are anomalies in the written introduction of the programme, the play itself was very well produced, for an amateur production, and "got across" to the audience from the beginning, although the tempo was a little slow until Petruchio got things moving. He showed fine acting ability as did the shrew Katherina, although she became tame rather quickly. Her last long speech particularly showed individual interpretation. She did not burlesque domesticity, but made it serious in contrast with the other domestic references of the play. Shakespeare may have meant it seriously when we consider the position of women in the unenlightened Elizabethan age. It is certainly a possible interpretation.

Of the other characters, Bianca seemed a little colourless for her part, and Tranto perhaps effeminate. Grumio. as he usually does, overacted, and became more a down than his part intended. The real Vincentio was very convincing, and the Lord acted capably. Altogether the play was a success, and was especially helped by the touch of reality throughout which Sly and his wife gave on the stage. As one newspaper has remarked, the novel curtain call gave the play a neat ending, which otherwise might have been a difficulty. Other productions of "The Taming of the Shrew" have omitted the induction as unnecessary, or else have not left Sly and his wife on the' stage; but it was a very great help to the success of the play that these were included, especially since a great deal of the best poetry of the play is found in the introduction.

Dorothy Bennett.