Authors: William Shakespeare
The RSC Shakespeare
Edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen
Chief Associate Editors: Héloïse Sénéchal and Jan Sewell
Associate Editors: Trey Jansen, Eleanor Lowe, Lucy Munro, Dee Anna Phares
The Taming of the Shrew
Textual editing: Eric Rasmussen
Introduction and “Shakespeare’s Career in the Theater”: Jonathan Bate
Commentary: Charlotte Scott and Héloïse Sénéchal
Scene-by-Scene Analysis: Esme Miskimmin
In Performance: Karin Brown (RSC stagings) and Jan Sewell (overview)
The Director’s Cut (interviews by Jonathan Bate and Kevin Wright): Gregory Doran and Phyllida Lloyd Playing Kate: Michelle Gomez
Editorial Advisory Board
Gregory Doran, Chief Associate Director, Royal Shakespeare Company
Jim Davis, Professor of Theatre Studies, University of Warwick, UK
Charles Edelman, Senior Lecturer, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia
Lukas Erne, Professor of Modern English Literature, Université de Genève, Switzerland
Jacqui O’Hanlon, Director of Education, Royal Shakespeare Company
Akiko Kusunoki, Tokyo Woman’s Christian University, Japan
Ron Rosenbaum, author and journalist, New York, USA
James Shapiro, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, USA
Tiffany Stern, Professor and Tutor in English, University of Oxford, UK
2010 Modern Library Paperback Edition
Introduction copyright © 2007, 2009 by The Royal Shakespeare Company
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Modern Library, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
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“Royal Shakespeare Company,” “RSC,” and the RSC logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of The Royal Shakespeare Company.
The version of
The Taming of the Shrew
and the corresponding footnotes that appear in this volume were originally published in
William Shakespeare: Complete Works,
edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, published in 2007 by Modern Library, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
The Taming of the Shrew:
is Kate (or should we call her Katherina?) really a “shrew” and is she really “tamed”?
The novelist Vladimir Nabokov once wrote that “reality” is a word that only has meaning when it is placed between quotation marks. The physicist’s “reality” is not the same as the biochemist’s, the secular humanist’s as the religious fundamentalist’s. Dare one say that woman’s is not the same as man’s? In a culture where the conception of inherent sexual difference is regarded as a mere prejudice, as a forbidden thought (regardless of the “reality” revealed by molecular biology and neuroanatomy),
The Taming of the Shrew
is not likely to be one of Shakespeare’s most admired plays. Its presentation of female subordination presents the same kind of awkwardness for liberal sensibilities that the representation of Shylock does in the post-Holocaust world. At face value, the play proposes that desirable women are quiet and submissive, whereas women with spirit must be “tamed” through a combination of physical and mental abuse. Necessary tools may include starvation, sense deprivation, and the kind of distortion of “reality” that is practiced in totalitarian regimes.
Thus O’Brien to Winston Smith in George Orwell’s
“How many fingers am I holding up?” In this “reality” the correct answer is not the actual number but the number that the torturer says he is holding up. There is a precise analogy on the road back to Padua, after Kate has undergone her taming in the secluded country house where no neighbor will hear her cries:
I say it is the moon.
I know it is the moon.
Nay, then you lie. It is the blessèd sun.
Then, God be blessed, it is the blessèd sun.
But sun it is not, when you say it is not,
And the moon changes even as your mind.
What you will have it named, even that it is,
And so it shall be so for Katherine.
Petruchio, go thy ways, the field is won.
She has been bent to her husband’s will. She is now ready to demonstrate that she is prepared to love, serve, and obey him. She knows her place: “Such duty as the subject owes the prince / Even such a woman oweth to her husband.” She offers to place her hand beneath her husband’s foot. The shrew is tamed.
The younger dramatist John Fletcher, who was Shakespeare’s collaborator in his final years, clearly thought that this harsh ending needed a riposte. He wrote a sequel,
The Woman’s Prize; or, The Tamer Tamed,
in which Kate has died and Petruchio remarried, only to find his new wife giving him a taste of his own medicine by means of the time-honored device of refusing to sleep with him until he submits to her will. Kate’s sister Bianca plays the role of colonel in a war between the sexes which the women win, thus proving that it was an act of folly for Petruchio to tyrannize over his first wife in Shakespeare’s play.
In Shakespeare’s time, it was absolutely orthodox to believe that a man was head of the household, as the monarch was head of state and God was head of the cosmos. “My foot my tutor?” says Prospero in
when his daughter, Miranda, presumes to speak out of turn: if the man was the head, the girl-child was the foot, just as in
a plebeian is nothing more than the “big toe” of the commonwealth. Kate’s readying of her hand to be trodden upon turns the analogy between social and bodily hierarchy into a stage image. But she is going much further than she should: the wife was not supposed to be beneath the foot, she was supposed to be the heart of the household. Instead of crowing in his triumph, Petruchio says “kiss me, Kate” for the third time, giving Cole Porter a title for his reimagining of the story in the cheerful mode of a musical.
Nabokov placed the word “reality” in quotation marks not because he was a cultural relativist, but because he was an aesthete. That is to say, he did not believe that art was merely a reflection, a mirror, of a preexistent “reality.” Art shapes the way in which we perceive
ourselves and the world. “Falling in love” is not only the work of molecular change in the brain, but also a set of behaviors learned from the romantic fictions of page, stage—now screen—and cultural memory. One of the tricks of great art is to draw attention to its own artificiality and in so doing paradoxically assert that its “reality” is as real as anything in the quotidian world of its audience. Shakespeare’s taste for plays-within-the-play and allusions to the theatricality of the world, Mozart’s witty quotations of the clichés of operatic convention, and Nabokov’s magical wordplay all fulfill this function.
Sometimes, though, the opposite device is used: an artist puts quotation marks around a work in order to say “Don’t take this too seriously, don’t mistake its feigning for ‘reality.’ ”
The Taming of the Shrew
is such a work: the opening scenes with Christopher Sly place the entire play within quotation marks. The “induction” presents a series of wish-fulfillment fantasies to a drunken tinker: the fantasy that he is a lord, that he has a beautiful young wife, that scenes of erotic delight can be presented for his delectation, and that a company of professional players will stage “a kind of history” for his sole benefit, in order to frame his mind to “mirth and merriment” while teaching him how to tame a shrewish wife. But Sly is not a lord and the “wife” who watches with him is not a woman but a crossed-dressed boy—which reminds us that in Shakespeare’s working world the Kate who is humiliated by Petruchio was also not a woman but a cross-dressed boy-actor. The effect of the frame is to distance the action and so to suggest that it does not present the “reality” of proper marital relations. If Sly is not a lord and the pageboy not a wife, then this is not how to tame a shrew.
In the surviving script of the play, Sly and the pageboy disappear after the first act, presumably because Shakespeare’s acting company was not large enough to waste several members of the cast sitting in the gallery as spectators all the way through. But in an anonymously published play of 1594 called
The Taming of a Shrew,
which is a source, adaptation, reconstruction or variant version of Shakespeare’s play, the Christopher Sly “frame” is maintained throughout the action by means of a series of brief interludes and an epilogue. This version ends with the tinker heading for home with the claim
that the play has taught him how to tame a shrew and thus to handle his own wife. But the tapster knows better: “your wife will course [thrash] you for dreaming here tonight.” The hungover Sly is in no position to tame anybody; he will return home and be soundly beaten by his wife. Kate’s speech propounds the patriarchal ideal of marriage, but in
the union of Sly and his wife reveals this ideology’s distance from “reality.” Its implied resolution, with the woman on top, intimates that “real” housewives are not silent and obedient, and plays cannot teach husbands to tame them into submission.
We do not need the epilogue of the anonymously published play to see that Shakespeare’s ending is more complicated and ironic than first appears. Having been outwitted in his courtship of Bianca, Hortensio marries the widow for her money. The latter shows signs of frowardness and has to be lectured by Kate. The first half of Kate’s famous submission speech is spoken in the singular, addressed specifically to the widow and not to womankind in general: “
husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, / Thy head, thy sovereign: one that cares for thee.” The contextual irony of this is not always appreciated: in contradistinction to Kate’s prescriptions, in the particular marriage to which she is referring it will be the wife, the wealthy widow, who provides the “maintenance.” Hortensio will be spared the labors of a breadwinner. According to Kate, all a husband asks from a wife is love, good looks, and obedience; these are said to be “Too little payment for so great a debt.” But the audience knows that in this case the debt is all Hortensio’s. Besides, he has said earlier that he is no longer interested in woman’s traditional attribute of “beauteous looks”—all he wants is the money. Kate’s vision of obedience is made to look oddly irrelevant to the very marriage upon which she is offering advice.
Then there is Kate’s sister. Petruchio’s “taming school” is played off against the attempts by Lucentio and Hortensio to gain access to Bianca by disguising themselves as schoolmasters. In the scene in which Lucentio courts her in the guise of a Latin tutor, the woman gives as good as she gets. She is happy to flirt with her supposed teacher over Ovid’s erotic manual
The Art of Love
. This relationship offers a model of courtship and marriage built on mutual desire and
consent. Bianca escapes her class of sixteenth-century woman’s usual fate of being married to a partner of the father’s choice, such as rich old Gremio. If anything, Bianca is the dominant partner at the end. She is not read a lecture by Kate, as the widow is, and she gets the better of her husband in their final onstage exchange. Like Beatrice in
Much Ado About Nothing,
she more than matches her man in the art of wordplay. One almost wonders if she would not be better matched with the pretended rather than the “real” Lucentio, that is to say the clever servant Tranio who oils the wheels of the plot and sometimes threatens to steal the show.
The double plot is a guarantee that, despite the subduing of Kate, the play is no uncomplicated apology for shrew-taming. But is Kate really subdued? Or is her submission all part of the game that she and Petruchio have been playing out? It is their marriage, not the other ones, that compels the theater audience. A woman with Kate’s energies would be bored by a conventional lover such as Lucentio. She and Petruchio are well matched because they are both of “choleric” temperament. Their fierce tempers are what make them attractive to each other and charismatic to us. They seem to know they are born for each other from the moment in their first private encounter when they share a joke about oral sex (“with my tongue in your tail”). “Where two raging fires meet together” there may not be an easy marriage, but there will certainly not be a dull match and a passive wife. In the twentieth century the roles seemed ready made for Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
What you have just read is
critical interpretation of the play. But there are many other possible answers to the awkward questions raised by its title, action, resolution, and framing, so for the sake of balance the remainder of this introduction will offer an overview of some of them.
The critical debate about
The Taming of the Shrew
begins at the end: is Kate’s notorious last speech delivered ironically? Is she genuinely tamed, or is she playing a game of her own, retaining her psychological independence? A related question concerns the play’s
style. Is it a farce, a form in which we are not encouraged to take it very seriously when people are slapped around? Or is it a sophisticated social comedy, the ironic texture of which directs our attention to what one critic calls the social illness of a materialistic patriarchy?
Historically attuned commentators have related the play to contemporaneous debates about the nature and role of the sexes, and the disruption caused to society by unruly, “shrewish” or “scolding” women. In early modern England there was a criminalization of female unruliness. As Sir William Blackstone later explained in his
Commentaries on the Laws of England,
A common scold,
(for our law-Latin confines it to the feminine gender) is a public nuisance to her neighbourhood. For which offence she may be indicted; and, if convicted, shall be sentenced to be placed in a certain engine of correction called the trebucket, castigatory, or cucking stool, which in the Saxon language signifies the scolding stool; though now it is frequently corrupted into ducking stool, because the residue of the judgement is, that, when she is so placed therein, she shall be plunged in the water for her punishment.
The equivalent punishment in Scotland was the “scold’s bridle,” a form of muzzle designed to stop the foul, gossipy, or malicious mouth of the woman. What is striking in this context, feminist critic Lynda Boose suggests, “is that the punishments meted out to women are much more frequently targeted at suppressing women’s speech than they are at controlling their sexual transgressions”: “the chief social offences seem to have been ‘scolding,’ ‘brawling,’ and dominating one’s husband. The veritable prototype of the female offender of this era seems to be … the woman marked out as a ‘scold’ or ‘shrew.’ ”
Public humiliation as much as physical discomfort was the purpose of the “cucking”/“ducking” stool and the “scold’s bridle.” They were shaming devices: “The cucking of scolds was turned into a carnival experience, one that literally placed the woman’s body at the center of a mocking parade. Whenever local practicalities made it possible, her experience seems to have involved being ridden or carted
The Skimmington Ride in Thomas Hardy’s novel
The Mayor of Casterbridge
(1884) is a late example of this practice.
The question, though, is how to relate the play to such customs. In one sense, a drama performed on the public stage is close kin to a mocking parade. In another sense, it is very different, since we know that it is only a game and that the female victim is only an actor. And within the world of the play, the humiliation of Kate is more private than public. Furthermore, Petruchio’s actions are intended to be pre-emptive: unlike many of the women who were ritually punished for their behavior, she is not an unruly
The starting point of the modern female spectator’s response to the play is likely to be Kate’s own emotion: rage. Why should a daughter submit to her father’s will? Why should women accept the way they are treated by men? In an influential feminist reading of Shakespeare, the critic Coppélia Kahn has no doubt about the play’s historical authenticity:
The overt force Petruchio wields over Kate by marrying her against her will in the first place and then by denying her every wish and comfort, by stamping, shouting, reducing her to exhaustion, etc., is but a farcical representation of the psychological realities of marriage in Elizabethan England, in which the husband’s will constantly, silently, and invisibly, through custom and conformity, suppressed the wife’s.
Yet at the same time, she credits Shakespeare with the intelligence to see the irrationality of such behavior:
Shakespeare does not rest with showing that male supremacy in marriage denies woman’s humanity. In the most brilliant comic scene of the play [4.3], he goes on to demonstrate how it defies reason. Petruchio demands that Kate agree that the sun is the moon in order to force a final showdown. Having exhausted and humiliated her to the limit of his invention, he now wants her to know that he would go to any extreme to get the obedience he craves. Shakespeare implies here that male supremacy is ultimately based on such absurdities, for it insists
that whatever a man says is right because he is a man, even if he happens to be wrong.
The purpose of theater is not usually to endorse or to dissent from a moral position or a sociological phenomenon. It is to show—comically, tragically, farcically, thoughtfully—how human beings interact with each other. Shakespeare’s greatest resource is his language and what attracts him to Katherina as a character for realization on the stage is what attracts Petruchio to her: her lively language. How would his original audience have responded to that language? First and foremost, they would have enjoyed it and laughed with it. If they began to reflect upon it, they would have been pulled in contradictory directions. There may well have been an element perhaps of fear and loathing: “From the outset of Shakespeare’s play, Katherine’s threat to male authority is posed through language; it is perceived as such by others and is linked to a claim larger than shrewishness—witchcraft—through the constant allusions to Katherine’s kinship with the devil.”
But equally, among the more sophisticated, there could have been a relish in the subversion of norms. Translating this into the language of modern feminist criticism,
Kate’s self-consciousness about the power of language, her punning and irony, and her techniques of linguistic masquerade, are strategies of italics.… Instead of figuring an essentialized woman’s speech, they deform language by subverting it, that is, by turning it inside out so that metaphors, puns, and other forms of wordplay manifest their veiled equivalences: the meaning of woman as treasure, of wooing as a civilized and acceptable disguise for sexual exploitation, of the objectification and exchange of women.
Mastery of language was an extremely important idea in Shakespeare’s time. The pedagogy of Renaissance humanism was fundamentally concerned with the cultivation of the powers of speech and argument as the means of realizing our potential as rational beings. Within the play, Petruchio’s subduing and refinement of Kate operates in parallel to the purported efforts of the supposed tutors to
teach the sisters classical literature and the art of the lute. “By learning to speak the pedagogue’s language of social and familial order, Kate shows herself to be a better student of standard humanist doctrine than her sister.”
Paradoxically, there is a sense in which Petruchio liberates Kate from her own demons:
Petruchio directs Kate to the dark center of her psyche and dramatizes her fears so that she may recognize them. He shows her what she has become, not only by killing her in her own humour but also by presenting her with a dramatic image of her own emotional condition: he acts out for her the drama of her true self held in bondage by her tyrannical, violent self. What is internal … Petruchio makes external.
Petruchio’s method is to suppose (and he is correct) or assume qualities in Katherina that no one else, possibly even the shrew herself, ever suspects. What he assumes as apparently false turns out to be startlingly true. His “treatment” is a steady unfolding of her really fine qualities: patience, practical good sense, a capacity for humor, and finally obedience, all of which she comes gradually to manifest in a spirit chastened but not subdued.
The suggestion, then, is that beneath the surface of the brutal sex farce is a different story in which two intelligent but temperamental people learn how to live together. A variant on such an interpretation is to suggest that Petruchio’s “taming” may be an elaborate game:
The audience’s realization that Petruchio is game-playing, that he is posing behind the mask of a disorderly male shrew and is having considerable fun exploiting his role, is the key to a romantic reading of the play. Thus Kate is tamed not by Petruchio’s whip but by the discovery of her own imagination, for when she learns to recognize the sun for the moon and the moon for the dazzling sun she is discovering the liberating power of laughter and play.
As a wife she submits, but as a player in the game she is now a full and skillful partner. Most important, she is helping to create her own role as an obedient spouse, and the process of creation gives her pleasure. Her obedience is not meekly accepted, but embraced and enjoyed.
Like a good humanist husband, he has been his wife’s teacher; and like an actor, he has taught her to assume a new role. When Kate learns to mimic as well as he, these two easily transcend the roles and hierarchies that govern their world.
By this account, Petruchio injects a dose of realism into the romantic ideas about love that comedy habitually perpetuates. It has been said that he
drags love out of heaven, and brings it down to earth. To the chivalrous, love is a state of worship; to him, it is a problem of wiving. Its object is not primarily a search for spiritual bliss in the contemplation of the beloved. It seeks merely a guarantee of domestic comfort.… A condition of this is, naturally, that he must be master of what is his own. Courtship is merely incidental to the attainment of this ease and settlement.
Perhaps Kate, too, participates willingly and actively in the game. The submission speech has often been read in the light of this possibility:
Far from reiterating old platitudes about the inferiority of women, however, what Kate actually says reflects a number of humanist assumptions about an ideal marriage popularized by Tudor matrimonial reformers. If we wish to see a real vision of subjugated woman, we should turn to the parallel speech of Kate in the anonymous
… [who] recites a medieval argument about women’s moral inferiority.… Shakespeare makes no reference to moral inferiority in women. His emphasis instead is on reciprocity of duties in marriage, based on the complementary natures of man and woman.
We cannot really take that speech at face value. Much of this comedy is an unspoken dialogue between Katherina and Petruchio; and we have to take her speech in the context of the whole play, not as a set-piece on the woman’s place. We should read Katherina’s final speech as the parallel, and answer, to Petruchio’s rhetoric. The mode of speech adopted by each is hyperbole.
Kate’s “act” at the end is, therefore, far more ethical than Bianca’s “act” throughout the play, although both women pretend to be good. They do not simply exchange roles, for then Kate would appear as false as Bianca has been. Through the use of parodic speech, Shakespeare makes Kate shatter the façade of female hypocrisy that … Bianca put into practice.
The very nature of Kate’s performance
performance suggests that she is offering herself to Petruchio not as his servant, as she claims, but as his equal in a select society … those who, because they know that man is an actor, freely choose and change their roles in order to avoid the narrow, imprisoning roles society would impose on them.
The conclusion to be drawn from such a reading is that the very artfulness of game-playing—of theater—offers a form of release from the pressures of patriarchal, mercantile society:
The Taming of the Shrew
does not fully resolve the marital problems raised in the play, nor does it resolve the problems of patriarchy raised by the shrew character and the plot that conventionally tamed her. Instead, it reasserts marital hierarchy parodically at the end and allows the shrew and her husband to escape from their mercantile world through art.
The danger of reading Petruchio’s actions positively in this way is that one might find oneself glossing over the violence he threatens and performs. There is a long stage tradition of giving him a whip, which—unless one starts becoming very Freudian—is hardly
conducive to the idea that Kate is complicit in everything that happens to her.
The questions of performance and role-playing raised by Kate’s final speech are often read in the light of the induction:
The Taming of a Shrew
… the Sly-narrative is not a prologue but an extended dramatic framework: Sly and his attendants are kept on stage more or less throughout, and are given several further comments on and interventions in the action of the play.
The transformation of Christopher Sly from drunken lout to noble lord, a transformation only temporary and skin-deep, suggests that Kate’s switch from independence to subjection may also be deceptive and prepares us for the irony of the denouement.
This emphasis on disguise and illusion is equally evident in the Bianca plot:
Bianca can play her role in a courtship, and her role in a business transaction, without revealing her true face. But the play … goes on for one scene after marriage, and Lucentio learns to his dismay what lay behind that romantic sweetness. On the other hand, Petruchio has been concerned with personality all along. The taming plot presents in a deeper, more psychological way ideas that are handled superficially and externally in the romantic plot. Education is one such idea.… Petruchio … really does teach Kate, and teaches her that inner order of which the music and the mathematics offered to Bianca are only a reflection.
But it is above all the Sly framework that establishes a self-referential theatricality in which the status of the shrew-play
a play is enforced. The female characters in the play are boy-actors assuming a role, parodied and highlighted by the page playing Sly’s “wife.” Thus “in the induction, these relationships of power and gender, which in
Elizabethan treatises, sermons, homilies, and behavioural handbooks were figured as natural and divinely ordained, are subverted by the metatheatrical foregrounding of such roles and relations as culturally constructed.”
“Katherina’s mind is worked on by Petruchio as Sly’s is by the Lord, producing a similar sense of dislocation.… Finally she [too] acquires a new identity.”
Every production of every Shakespeare play is different from every other. The very process of adaptation and reinterpretation is what keeps the work alive. Shakespeare’s endurance is dependent on cultural evolution in the light of new circumstances, new beliefs and values. But perhaps of all the plays
The Taming of the Shrew
is the one in which almost everything hangs on a few essential director’s and actor’s decisions: what to do about the induction, how to play the two sisters and the two courtships off against each other, how playful to make the taming, how sincere to make the submission.
Shakespeare endures through history. He illuminates later times as well as his own. He helps us to understand the human condition. But he cannot do this without a good text of the plays. Without editions there would be no Shakespeare. That is why every twenty years or so throughout the last three centuries there has been a major new edition of his complete works. One aspect of editing is the process of keeping the texts up to date—modernizing the spelling, punctuation and typography (though not, of course, the actual words), providing explanatory notes in the light of changing educational practices (a generation ago, most of Shakespeare’s classical and biblical allusions could be assumed to be generally understood, but now they can’t).
Because Shakespeare did not personally oversee the publication of his plays, with some plays there are major editorial difficulties. Decisions have to be made as to the relative authority of the early printed editions, the pocket format “Quartos” published in Shakespeare’s lifetime, and the elaborately produced “First Folio” text of 1623, the original “Complete Works” prepared for the press after his death by Shakespeare’s fellow-actors, the people who knew the plays better than anyone else. In the case of
The Taming of the Shrew,
there is no Quarto text, so all modern editions follow the Folio.
Scholars still debate the nature of the relationship between
A pleasant conceited historie, called The taming of a shrew As it was sundry times acted by the Right honorable the Earle of Pembrook his seruants
(1594) and Shakespeare’s
The Taming of the Shrew
as published in the First Folio. The main action shares a similar plot line with parallel but sometimes differently named characters (Sly and Kate are the only names shared by the two plays; in
Kate has two sisters not just one, and the setting is Athens rather than Padua). Four possibilities have been advanced:
(1) would be in accordance with his practice elsewhere (as when, for example, he used the anonymous
as a source for
) and with his early reputation as a patcher of other men’s plays. But if (2) or (3) were correct, there might well be a case for staging the “frame” in the more complete form in which it is found in
. (2), the “Bad Quarto” theory, has found the highest level of support among modern scholars, despite the fact that the differences of plot, language, character, and name are far greater than in the plays usually so classified, such as the First Quarto of
. Explanation (4) has little support, since it adds an unnecessary additional hypothesis about a lost play.
The existence of the anonymous
Taming of a Shrew
Quarto of 1594 raises the question of whether the original performances of Shakespeare’s play would have maintained the Christopher Sly “frame” throughout the action. Some modern editions and productions incorporate the Sly sequences from the latter part of the action, on the grounds that his disappearance from the Folio after the first act is dramatically unsatisfying. In accordance with our editorial policy of respecting the Folio wherever possible, we do not do so. We do, however, print the relevant sequences of the old play (modernized but unannotated) at the end of the play, giving readers the chance to think about them and performers the option to play them. In order to facilitate discussion of the distinctiveness of Kate’s crucial “submission” speech, we also include a text of the equivalent speech from
The following notes highlight various aspects of the editorial process and indicate conventions used in the text of this edition:
Lists of Parts
are supplied in the First Folio for only six plays, not including
The Taming of the Shrew,
so the list here is editorially supplied. Capitals indicate that part of the name used for speech headings in the script (thus “Christopher
, a drunken beggar/tinker”).
are provided by the Folio for only two plays, of which
The Taming of the Shrew
is not one. Eighteenth-century editors, working in an age of elaborately realistic stage sets, were the first to provide detailed locations (“another part of the city”). Given that Shakespeare wrote for a bare stage and often an imprecise sense of place, we have relegated locations to the explanatory notes at the foot of the page, where they are given at the beginning of each scene where the imaginary location is different from the one before. In the case of
The Taming of the Shrew,
the induction takes place in the hall of a lord’s house that is assumed to be in England but that is then theatrically transformed into Padua and related Italian locations.
Act and Scene Divisions
were provided in the Folio in a much more thoroughgoing way than in the Quartos. Sometimes, however, they were erroneous or omitted; corrections and additions supplied by editorial tradition are indicated by square brackets. Five-act division is based on a classical model, and act breaks provided the opportunity to replace the candles in the indoor Blackfriars playhouse which the King’s Men used after 1608, but Shakespeare did not necessarily think in terms of a five-part structure of dramatic composition. The Folio convention is that a scene ends when the stage is empty. Nowadays, partly under the influence of film, we tend to consider a scene to be a dramatic unit that ends with either a change of imaginary location or a significant passage of time within the narrative. Shakespeare’s fluidity of composition accords well with this convention, so in addition to act and scene numbers we provide a
count in the right margin at the beginning of each new scene, in the typeface used for editorial directions. Where there is a scene break caused by a momentary bare stage, but the location
does not change and extra time does not pass, we use the convention
running scene continues
. There is inevitably a degree of editorial judgment in making such calls, but the system is very valuable in suggesting the pace of the plays.
are often inconsistent in Folio. We have regularized speech headings, but retained an element of deliberate inconsistency in entry directions, in order to give the flavor of Folio. Thus Sly is always so-called in his speech headings, but “Beggar” or “drunkard” in entry directions.
is indicated by lines that do not run to the right margin and by capitalization of each line. The Folio printers sometimes set verse as prose, and vice versa (either out of misunderstanding or for reasons of space). We have silently corrected in such cases, although in some instances there is ambiguity, in which case we have leaned toward the preservation of Folio layout. Folio sometimes uses contraction (“turnd” rather than “turned”) to indicate whether or not the final “-ed” of a past participle is sounded, an area where there is variation for the sake of the five-beat iambic pentameter rhythm. We use the convention of a grave accent to indicate sounding (thus “turnèd” would be two syllables), but would urge actors not to overstress. In cases where one speaker ends with a verse half-line and the next begins with the other half of the pentameter, editors since the late eighteenth century have indented the second line. We have abandoned this convention, since the Folio does not use it, nor did actors’ cues in the Shakespearean theater. An exception is made when the second speaker actively interrupts or completes the first speaker’s sentence.
is modernized, but older forms are very occasionally maintained where necessary for rhythm or aural effect.
in Shakespeare’s time was as much rhetorical as grammatical. “Colon” was originally a term for a unit of thought in an argument. The semicolon was a new unit of punctuation (some of the Quartos lack them altogether). We have modernized punctuation
throughout, but have given more weight to Folio punctuation than many editors, since, though not Shakespearean, it reflects the usage of his period. In particular, we have used the colon far more than many editors: it is exceptionally useful as a way of indicating how many Shakespearean speeches unfold clause by clause in a developing argument that gives the illusion of enacting the process of thinking in the moment. We have also kept in mind the origin of punctuation in classical times as a way of assisting the actor and orator: the comma suggests the briefest of pauses for breath, the colon a middling one and a full stop or period a longer pause. Semicolons, by contrast, belong to an era of punctuation that was only just coming in during Shakespeare’s time and that is coming to an end now: we have accordingly only used them where they occur in our copy-texts (and not always then). Dashes are sometimes used for parenthetical interjections where the Folio has brackets. They are also used for interruptions and changes in train of thought. Where a change of addressee occurs within a speech, we have used a dash preceded by a full stop (or occasionally another form of punctuation). Often the identity of the respective addressees is obvious from the context. When it is not, this has been indicated in a marginal stage direction.
Entrances and Exits
are fairly thorough in Folio, which has accordingly been followed as faithfully as possible. Where characters are omitted or corrections are necessary, this is indicated by square brackets (e.g. “[
is sometimes silently normalized to
anglicized to “remains.” We trust Folio positioning of entrances and exits to a greater degree than most editors.