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‘The Taming of the Shrew’ involves a rich businessman, Baptista, who has two daughters. He forbids anyone to court his beautiful daughter, Bianca, until he finds someone to marry his other daughter, Katherina, who is labelled a shrew. The man marries Katherina is Petruchio; who treats her cruelly until she obeys and agrees with him. At the time the play was written, the role of women in life was different. Today, we learn that men and women should be seen as equals. In act 5 scene 2 of the play, this is not seen. In Padua, women were seen as possessions of men among with other things such as the man’s house or horse. It was a woman’s duty to obey her husband and because Kate did not, she is seen by the male characters as unnatural which is evidence of evil.
With a modern audience, this role of women will cause some people, especially the women, to feel insulted or uncomfortable. In the play, if Kate is dressed in old-fashioned clothes then her speeches will be taken seriously, but if Kate is dressed in modern designer clothes with sunglasses and maybe a mobile telephone, then the audience will assume she is being sarcastic in her speech. A lot of what the audience thinks will also depend upon the other characters’ reactions to what Kate says. They could be shocked and surprised at what she says or they could see it as a big joke.
I will describe how I would direct part of act 5 scene 2 to a modern audience. This is where most of the main characters are together and Petruchio shows all the other men that he has tamed Kate. All the men have had a bet on whose wife is most obedient. The men will be playing cards and the women will be talking in a nearby room. The servants, Biondello and Gremio will also be playing cards with the men because they are good friends of their masters.
The men will be dressed in casual suits with loosened ties to create the effect of the upper class relaxing. Kate will be wearing a long, flowing dress to show that she is like an ordinary upper class lady rather than the more radical clothes she would have worn before she was tamed. Bianca and the widow would also be wearing the same style of dress. I want the audience to think that although Kate has been disciplined and obeys Petruchio, she is still her own person. All the other men will think she is her old self and will never be to be like her sister, Bianca.
After being called for by her husband, Petruchio, Kate will enter the mens’ room, dragging Bianca by the hair. This will show the audience that even though Kate has changed to be more like her sister was, she still doesn’t get on well with Bianca. Bianca is seen gradually becoming like how Kate used to be. The two are almost swapping personalities. Lucentio is very disappointed with his wife, Bianca and she would react to him by saying this line slightly crying: “The more fool you for laying on my duty” the audience would be quite astonished by this reply because she is usually very quiet and obedient. This would be a significant part to show how Bianca is also changing.
I will now go through the play line by line and describe how I would direct it. “Katherine, I charge thee, tell these headstrong women/What duty they do owe their lords and husbands.” Petruchio wants Kate to tell the people how a lady should act towards her husband or lord. The crowd will now think that although Kate has changed, she will not do it. But she does with pride. Kate starts her speech by insulting the widow and saying that she should respect her master.
“Fie, fie, unknit that threatening unkind brow…Thy governor.” I would get the actress to say this in a sarcastic but malicious way because although she respects Petruchio, she has her own free will and also wants to intimidate the widow. As she says this, I would get her to walk up o the widow and the widow would cower away into a corner. This will show the audience that Kate is still domineering. “Thy husband is thy lord…sea and land.”
Whilst Kate is saying this part, she will go up to Petruchio and kneel in front of him to show the audience how much respect she has for her husband. “Too little payment for so great a debt…owes the prince.” She is saying that women have a good life and hardly have to repay their husbands for all the things he does for her. As she says this she will scan across the room, glaring at the other wives as if to say that they don’t repay their husbands enough and should be thankful he hasn’t left them.