A wonderful, polished, exuberant production by a great director George Sidney
- Notes for October 11 public lecture on Shrew
- "Brush Up Your Shakespeare"--Video up to Petruchio's depart
- that was Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore in "Brush up your Shakespeare"-- from Kiss Me Kate--modern version of Shrew written in 1948 by Cole Porter and filmed in 1953 by George Sidney
- Title of Kiss Me Kate, from Shrew--5.2.180--
- Actor played by Howard Keel is outside the stage door of a theatre where Shrew is being performed--
- a typical broadway musical about about actors putting on a play.
- The Shrew text takes up most of it, but it's framed by the drama of the actor playing Petruchio--Howard Keel-- taming and being tamed by the actress playing Kate or Katharina--Katharine Grayson
he has a special relation to SLO, since the first SLO international film festival last year highlighted a special showing of another of his films, Anchors Aweigh, and brought him to our fair city for three days.
It so happens that the organizer of the festival who brought Sidney here is sitting in our audience. I'd like to introduce Mary Harris, who's told me that Sidney will be back again for this years festival on the weekend of November 3.
Now I hope you Shakespeare fans enjoyed this number as an introduction to our theatrical experience tonight--but I also expect that some of you shared my discomfort with its the lyrics
In addition to wit and high spirits, there's a kind of gross male chauvinism implicit in the lyrics that have to do with a male using Shakespeare to dominate females in various ways. Perhaps this addresses men, or some men, but the humor seems to be directed against rather than toward the women.
another verse--state examples of domination: making her kow-tow; kick her in the Coriolanus, etc.
This gendered, female-excluding attitude--is countered in the film of Kiss Me Kate by incidents and songs directed by women to other women, like the one that Bianca sings saying "I'll take any Harry Tom or Dick" and the one Kate sings putting down men like the athlete " with his manner bold and brassy/ Who may have hair upon his chest but sister so has Lassie" and the travelling salesman "who'll havce the fun and thee the baby" and the executive whose "business is with his pretty secretary" but most, express sentiments like "So taunt me and hurt me/deceive me and desert me/I'm yours till I die."
These kind of attitudes are pretty typical of Hollywood and Madison Ave. of the late forties and fifties when Kiss Me Kate was produced.
women were stereotyped as Lucy and physical threats to women were perceived as funny, as in The Honeymooners, and when the culture as a whole was devoting lots of energy to creating the ideal of women as witless happy homemakers.
TRANSITION--However Kiss Me Kate's repeated spectacles of submission stems even more from its Shakespearean source--the play we're about to see whose title is a little less genteel than Cole Porter's musical: The Taming of the Shrew.
General Introduction--provided by the title
What's a Shrew OED ***
"shrewd and froward, a devil, curst Katharaine, irksome brawling scold, a wildcat,
shrew as bitch; daughter from hell--rude, disobedient, rebellious, destructive, foul-mouthed, and self-hating; TV star Arnold
punishments for brawlers and scolds--cucking stools; scolds bridles
What are we in for--the drama of man vs. beast; like a rodeo event; the throwing of the bull; the taming of the horse.
animal taming contest-
a challenge fulfilled; the better quality the beast to be tamed and the better relationship between it and the master, the more resistance there will be and the more skill and patience and power manifested by the tamer
And this is the way the courtship of Petruchio is conceived both by him and those who watch him and actually, like at a cockfight or a bear bating, take bets on his chances of defeat or success
Lets each one send unto his wife
And he whose wife is most obedient...
Shall win the wager which we will propose
Breaking of the spirit of an independent woman and reducing her to a self abnegating agent of female opppression who's been brainwashed into lecturing all other women into the joys and satisfactions of a woman's secondary place and the necessity of obedience to men--
Forces her to Kiss him in public against her will V.i
not only does he tame her, but in the process makes him love her tamer so that by the end of the play she lectures the other women around her on the duties and pleasures of obedience:
thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper
thy head, thy sovereign...
such duty as the subject owes the prince
even such a woman owes her husband
and when she is froward, peevish, sullen , sour
and not obedient to his honest will,
what is she but a foul contending rebel
and graceless traitor to her loving lord
Phyllis Schlafley; the surrender and submission school might go for it, Maribell Morgan--The Total Woman
Depressing and Embarrassing Spectacle of sado-masochism and domination--rape and brainwashing
victims of spousal abuse who keep going back for more
the Stockholm syndrome in which the victim falls in love with her torturer and identify with him,
Shrew as sexist propaganda
Shaw: "No man with any decency of feeling can sit it out in the company of a woman without being extremely ashamed of the lord of creation moral impolied in the wager and the speech put in the woman's own mouth
Bamber: "play ends with the complete humiliation of the feminine"
Performance history as direct response and refutation
Prompted a sequel--Fletcher's play, The Tamer Tamed--carrying through the tale through later chapters when the tables again are turned
The Renaissance Hic Mulier debate
the Jonathan Miller BBC production--to highlight the grim spectacle and see it as a therapeutic education in civility and maturity, making Petruchio a strict schoolmaster, as played by John Cleese
Bogdonavitch --liberal feminist version, highlighting a) the crass commercialism of the dowery transactions and the women seen as commodities to be traded by men b) the brutality of the violence directed at Kate and the menace and lovelessness of Petruchio
Marowitz: attack on the script itself, intercutting scenes of modern spousal abuse, interpreting and changing the Shakepsearean text so as to make Kate the victim of public rape and torture who ends up a ravaged and brainwashed human rights victim
and Marowitz--who strikes back at the play as mysogynistic
Others have suggested our response to such an unpalatable and provocative play should be to leave it alone, not produce it all, abandon it to the ashheaps of history of repudiated bigotry,
Yet Shrew remains popular
frequently adapted to other media and presented to audiences who are not particularly interested in brushing up their Sh.
1929 movie by Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford;
Zeffirelli movie of 1966 with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton,
Kiss Me Kate
a four episode sequence of the the TV series Moonlighting starrring Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis
tonight's performance by the California Shakespeare Festival, a repertory company until last year known as the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival
What accounts for appeal to modern audiences?
As Romantic Comedy--toughlove vs. false sentimentality--the strong man and strong woman--sex and conflict
sex appeal is in jockeying and playing and not being a pushover--the attraction is experienced as hostility
cf. Benedick and Beatrice/ Hero and Claudio--Kate and Petruchio vs. Lucentio and Bianca
the younger, more idealistic and naive and yet conniving and dishonest couple
the courtship as chase and wrestling match rather than rape
ending: come Kate, we'll to bed; her collaboration with him--tricking Vincentio and the others, winning the bet
Germaine Greer--she's in revolt against being treated like commodity and against the kind of deception that Bianca and other women need to use to get what they need. Instead, :she has the good fortune to find Petruchio, who is man enough to know what he wants and how to get it....Kates speech rests upon the role of husband as protector and friend, and it is valide because Kate has a man who is capable of being both."
Camille Paglia***--sex as danger and war--transition to ...
As Battle of the Sexes; debat; contest and farce
Punch and Judy; boxing match; bullfight; football game--FARCE
suspense about who will win and rooting for our side and against the other is one of its pleasures
Set up that way--as game complete with wager
Involving the principals and the spectators
Resistance and obstacles overcome--reversal and recognition....Act 4.5
As comedy however, there's not so much a winner and loser as a double win
the final party; the bet; the battle as high spirited
Ambiguity of the triumph--Does Kate win over Petruchio and the others and through learning the ropes, learn how to take more control
Coppelia Kahn theory on male needs
this is substantiated by Lucentio and Hortensio
general silliness of all males; the overall farce; the reversal of Bianca and the masquerade of obedience
Does Petruchio concede and change and shift his motives from money to love
Kates move from outcast to center of prestige and approval
Which is the Shrew that is tamed--Pickford's wink to the audience, Taylor's departure and Burton's discomfiture
A collaboration between both Kate and Petruchio to gain money and power?
As intellectual provocation for audience--male and female response; feminist vs. antifeminist. This sets audience into the conflict.
How much of the play is meant to be a staged and self conscious male fantasy undermined by the framing induction and quarto conclusion?
Tell induction story--often left out
Themes of dream, fantasy, illusion, that undermine both the master/servant and male/female hierarchy--Sly thinks he can become a lord by dominating a wife; Sly cant become a lord but he can dominate his wife
Relation between parents and children--Baptista and Vincentio...two indulgent and hoodwinked fathers--vs. Lucentio and Bianca...the college students who want education as a way to pursue pleasure and love
quote from Bianca
quote from Lucentio
Education--the university vs. the taming school
Relations between masters and servants: Tranio pulls Lucentio's strings; Petruchio bashes Grumio--power differential is not what it seems and hostility and challenge as a form of relating
Material wealth vs. character--mercantile setting; dowries; negotiations and betting; money, money, money as underluying personal relationships--to wive it wealthily--the rich girls and the rich widow; the predatory men; and yet Kate needs to learn a lesson about possessions and respect for her servants by being treated lower than a servant and being deprived of material comfort and respect.
Education: the taming school
Kate as a "spoiled" rebellious and neurotic older sister with low self esteem who perceives her younger sister as favored by her father-- as usual in Shakespeare, the mother being absent--resorts to destructive and self destructive b ehavor to elict attention and wrest control.
Tamed by being taught by an equally anti-social counterpart in his taming school where both respect/love and contrapasto punishment are used to establish behavior modification and to create a happy and powerful socialization.
Class and gender as staged "supposes" easily manipulated; the social structures of hierarchy as staged; theatre and entertainment as wish fulfillment and dream.
The induction as a separate level and frame. Often left out, but some of the best shakespeare
Dramatic scenarios--especially 5.1
- The boose reading
Comedy as disguise; recognition and reversal
The structure of 2 comic plots and their resolution--everybody watching P. and K.; here they watch the others
Comedy as therapy--pills to purge melancholy...quote from induction; replacement for sex and also remember as Bartholomew says, "a history."