Ok, now actual sentences that make sense. The Taming of the Shrew is basically the story of Kate, an extremely angry woman- I'd like to defend her anger as some kind of primitive form of feminism, but really she just seems angry for no real reason; who gets tamed by Petruchio, the only man in town willing to take her on, with all her anger issues and 'difficulties.' He's convinced to do this by Hortensio and Gremio (not to be confused with Grumio, his servant [I never confused them, except for all the time]) both of whom have a vested interest in Kate's marriage because they want to marry Bianca, Kate's sister, who their father will not allow to marry until he's offloaded the difficult one on some sucker.
AND THEN, there's this entire farce around Bianca's marriage that I genuinely don't understand that for some reason requires someone else to dress up like Lucentio (this other guy who likes her) even though her dad totally says she can marry Lucentio, even when he isn't Lucentio. It's probably less confusing on stage, but it seems really unnecessary anyway in terms of the story. I just don't know! But that all turns out ok in the end anyway, everyone forgives who they're supposed to and it's a comedy tralalalala! The height of comedy at that time, unfortunately, seems to have been things like this:
"Baptista: When will he be here?I HATE these jokes. Hate them. With a passion. Vom all over them. Stupid Elizabethan lack of humour.
Biondella: When he stands where I am and sees you there."
Anyway, besides all of those problems (and I didn't even mention the induction which was highly unnecessary and didn't even get finished off properly- where was my conclusion to that, with Christopher Sly being humiliated, huh?) the main horrorshow is between Kate and Petruchio. At the beginning, I thought he was all sweet and charming, and I was basically going, 'oh go on Kate, marry him!' because, you know, I thought he was nice, and I thought that he would just generally be kind of hot at her, and get her to calm down a bit and be nicer to people. Instead, he kind of starved her and then brainwashed her into being his love slave and general yay-sayer to all his doings. It's literally like, instead of going to live with her husband, she went to some weird cult where she was starved of meat (not that kind of meat, don't be gross) and watched people be shouted at until she thought her husband was the best thing since sliced bread (not that they had sliced bread. Since flushing toilets? Did they have them?) And I can't even... I didn't even like angry Kate, because she seemed angry for no reason, but subservient Kate I really can't stomach. Observe:
"Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,Dammit Shakespeare, I knew you'd throw those old fashioned wedding vows back in my face! Oh yeah, those stupid women who don't do everything their husbands say as soon as they say it. What fools they are! If they do it, they'll get their meat fed to them! I think Kate might just be suffering some PTSD from having been starved those couple of days, and now she's just saying the right things so Petruchio lets her eat! Except that's definitely not what's going on here, and oh my GOD I could just sob about it!
Thy head, thy sovereign...
I am ashamed that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace,
Or seek for rule, supremacy and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love and obey."
A final little quirk about The Taming of the Shrew is that, when I was reading it, all I could think about was 10 Things I Hate About You (a review of that will be coming soon. For definite now I've read this.) and I was trying to figure out who was who and stuff, except I pretty much had to give up on that because no one is anyone, except for Kate, Petruchio, Bianca and Lucentio who are basically the four main characters. And you know what? I'm going to have to say that I like the 90s teen movie better than the Shakespeare play, a statement not all that shocking for the average person, but for me it's like a crazy exploding bombshell because I'm a little bit like the girl in 10 Things who is in love with Shakespeare (but mostly I'm just Kat. She was/is my feminist ICON!). But not this time!
It's a great comfort to me that this was one of Shakespeare's earlier plays, and, having read quite a few of his other plays, I know that these views on women are not really the norm. If I'd read this and no other Shakespeare play, I probably would have been so put off by him that I would refuse to read any others, and I am deadly serious about that. So, read this play with caution, and only after quite a few other plays (especially, I'm going to say, Macbeth and Twelfth Night, both of which I know have quite strong female characters). Unless, of course, you're a giant misogynist, in which case, well, I know a play you're really going to love...