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Petruchio the old friend of Hortensio, but a stranger to Lucentio and Tranio (i. 2.). In iii. 2., however, it is Tranio (in the rôle of Lucentio) who bears himself as Petruchio's old friend, familiar with his habits and eccentricities. Shakespeare's hand is discernible only in the scenes in which Petruchio, Katharine, and Grumio appear. Even Petruchio's preliminary negotiations with Katharine's father show, as we have seen, only the mediocre touch of the reviser. But a finer spirit takes possession of the scene when the mocking friends withdraw and leave him to his first formidable encounter with the Shrew (ii. 1. 183). The situation here demanded powers far beyond those of the author of A Shrew. The Shakespearean Petruchio is distinguished from his predecessors chiefly by the finer breeding and the more complete consistency with which he plays his part. The author of A Shrew permitted Ferando to diverge from his rôle of perfect bonhomie, by hinting at the difficulties of the Taming :
She's such a shrew, if we should once fall out,
She'll pull my costly sutes over my eares (p. 512).
He was quite incapable of the admirable irony of Petruchio's
Why does the world report that Kate doth limp?
O slanderous world!
or the charming application of the one classical allusion which he is permitted to retain :
O, be thou Dian, and let her be Kate.
Katharine, like Petruchio, is heightened and refined by Shakespeare, but hardly perhaps with equal success. The headstrong virago of ii. 1. is drawn with admirable verve; but her transformation into the large-minded exponent of the philosophy of
marriage is indicated with a slightness quite unexampled in Shakespeare's mature work; and the modern hearer is entitled to share in the amazed wonder with which that eloquent and impassioned harangue is heard by the assembled kindred of Kate the Shrew.
The author of A Shrew had already provided in The substance the highly original and piquant induction. The Oriental jest of the 'Waking Man's Dream,' then for the first time, it would seem, put to dramatic use, was current in many versions; but the evidence points to his having found it in a lost collection of tales, published in 1570, by Richard Edwards, of Her Majesty's Chapel,1 a fragment of which probably survives in 'The Tale of the Waking Man's Dream,' discovered by Norton in 1845. Here, at least, is found the incident which probably suggested the dramatic use of the story, and which many versions lack,2 the performance, namely, of a 'Comedy' before the supposed Lord. The Taming of A Shrew has no striking pertinence in this setting, nor is its want of pertinence turned to very humorous account. The happiest link between them occurs, as if by an afterthought, in the very last lines, when Slie, wakening from his 'dream' of shrew-taming, reels homeward to try the new-found cure upon his own goodwife.
1 The starting-point of all the European versions seems to have been the anecdote of Philip the Good of Burgundy and a drunken artisan. This was told by Heuterus, De rebus burgundicis, lib. iv., on the authority of a letter of Ludovicus Vives, who professed to have heard it from an old official of Philip's court. From Heuterus the story passed a little later than the date of our play into
Goulart's Thrésor d'histoires
2 It is not either in Burton
Slie. Sim gis some more wine, what's all the
Tapster. A lord with a murrin: come, art thou dronken still?
Haddest in all thy life.
Tap. I marry, but you had best get you home,
For your wife will course you for dreaming here to-night.
I dreamt upon it all this night till now,
And thou hast wakt me out of the best dreame
That ever I had in my life, but I'll to my
Wife presently and tame her too.
Of this hint, so far as appears, the author of the Induction to The Taming of the Shrew took no notice; and the curtain falls upon Petruchio and Katharine without a word from Sly. It is possible that a conclusion was designed, but never added. But it is equally conceivable that the reviser-who was almost certainly in this case Shakespeare-preferred to emphasise Sly's brute insouciance instead of his rude humour. In the earlier play after the first act he calls for the Fool; in the later, he nods and is reproved for 'not minding the play': "Tis a very excellent piece of work, madam lady; comes there any more of it?' And when the play ends, instead of vowing to emulate Petruchio's success, he is found to have fallen into a drunken stupor, in which condition he is dragged ignominiously out as the curtain falls.
No other play of Shakespeare has come home like The Taming of the Shrew to the business and bosoms of average men and husbands, and its afterhistory presents some curious points in the sociology of literary renown. Dekker's lost Medicine for a Curst Wife is plausibly supposed to have been an attempt to exploit its success for the benefit of the rival playhouse he served. A few years later Fletcher
blew his lively counterblast, The Woman's Prize, or the Tamer Tamed (before 1625), in which a more astute successor of Kate the Shrew subdues Petruchio by effective variations on his own method. The later comedy, with its more elaborate and artificial humour, its morbid equivocations, its involved intrigue, marks with great distinctness the trend of English art and fashion in the intervening twenty years.
In 1633, both plays were performed at Court, Sir Henry Herbert recording in his Office-book that The Taming of the Shrew, played 26th November, was 'likt'; while The Tamer Tamed, played five days later, was 'very well likt.' The Taming of the Shrew was among the few Shakespearean plays 'revived' with success after the Restoration. Even the old Taming of a Shrew was not forgotten, chiefly in virtue of the homely humour of the clown, 'Sawny the Scot.' Lacy included this personage in his adaptation of the Shakespearean Shrew. It was this adaptation which Pepys saw on 9th April 1667, when he thought 'Sawny the best part,' adding, with naïve candour, that it hath not half its life, by reason of the words, I suppose, not being understood, at least by me.' When Pepys made this entry, the play had already for thirteen years had a place on the Dutch and for nine on the German stage, in vernacular versions. The Dutch version is the earliest extant translation of any Shakespearean play. The bourgeois Germany of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries found this bourgeois comedy extraordinarily stimulating, and turned the matter to fresh account in a series of adaptations: Kunst über alle Künste, ein bös Weib gut zu machen, 1672; Christian Weise's
De dolle Bruyloft. Translated in Alexandrines, by A.
Sybant (J. Bolte in Jahrbuch, xxvi. 78).
Die böse Katharina, 1705; Schink's Die bezähmte Wiederbellerin, 1781; and Holbein's Liebe kann Alles, 1822; finally the now current version by Deinhardstein (Kilian, Jahrbuch, xxxii. 129). In this last, gross as it is, the play has won a stage popularity which no other comedy of Shakespeare approaches, and Othello alone among his dramas surpasses. In 1894, out of 706 performances of 25 Shakespearean plays, The Taming of the Shrew was performed 83 times by 51 companies, exclusive of some 25 times in the earlier version of Holbein above mentioned (Kilian, Jahrbuch, xxxii. 353).