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LUCENTIO, Son to Vincentio, in love with Bianca.
PETRUCHIO, a gentleman of Verona, a suitor to Katharina.
Time, in this play,' says Mr. Daniel, 'is a very slippery element, difficult to fix in any consistent scheme.'
gests the following:
Day 1. I.
Interval of a day or two.
3. III. 1., Saturday, the eve of the wedding.
5. IV. 2.
6. IV. 3.-5., V. [the second Sunday?].
RECIPES for the management of wives were the theme of a series of popular plays during the last decade of Elizabeth's reign. Dekker and Chettle's Patient Grissel was acted in 1600; Heywood's A Woman Killed with Kindness in 1603. But neither the longsuffering wife whom no harshness incenses, nor the guilty one whom kindness subdues, touched the vein of the rougher Elizabethan playgoer so effectively as the refractory virago or 'Shrew,' who is 'tamed' by the sheer strong will of a masterful spouse. The Taming of the Shrew was the one member of the Shrew-taming species which attained a lasting success ; but it had vigorous precursors and rivals in its own time, and, alone among Shakespearean comedies, provoked a lively retort in the next generation.
The Taming of the Shrew was first published, so far as is known, in the Folio of 1623, where it appears as the eleventh in the series of Comedies. It is there divided into acts, but not into scenes. A Quarto edition was printed, in 1631, from the Folio. Of early performances, as of early editions, we hear nothing; and only internal evidence is available for determining its date. This is here the more precarious, since the play, as a whole, cannot pass for Shakespeare's. Most critics now agree that Shakespeare's participation in The Taming of the Shrew
consisted essentially in rewriting certain scenes of an older play, large portions of which were embodied, with little or no change, in the piece printed by his editors, and known to posterity, as his. But the affinities of its most Shakespearean portion, the Taming itself, connect it on the whole with the work of the last five years of the century. Petruchio's wooing is what Henry's and Hotspur's might have. been, had their Kates resembled his. The same boisterous, militant, unromantic conception of love pervades them all. Undoubtedly the whole scheme. of comic effect is, for the Shakespeare of 1595-99, astonishingly elementary. On the other hand, the technique is, within its limited scope, wonderfully sure and firm. So far as the piece betrays Shakespeare's hand at all, it suggests not immaturity but preoccupation. It is the off-hand sketch of a mature artist, whose serious energies were concentrated upon greater tasks. Meres, in 1598, does not include the play in his list of Shakespeare's excellent comedies; but this is indecisive in the case of a play so largely not Shakespeare's. In any case, it had long been familiar in 1609, when Samuel Rowlands made one of his 'Six honest Husbands' apply Petruchio's methods to the 'kind gossip' his wife, who had accused him of drunkenness :
The chiefest Art I have I will bestow
The Taming has countless analogues in storyliterature but no close parallel. The only English tale founded on a similar motive, A Merry Jest of a Shrewd and Curst Wife, lapped in a Morel's Skin for her Good Behaviour (printed in Hazlitt's Shakespeare's Library, iv. 415), is certainly as old as 1575; but the husband's method of 'curing' his Shrew by wrapping