Love and wit conquer all in Shakespeare's sparkling comedy of self-delusion and disguise.
Padua holds many suitors for the hand of fair Bianca, but Bianca may not be married until her spinster sister, Kate, is wed. Could any man be rash enough to take on Kate?
The witty adventurer Petruchio undertakes the task. While he sets about transforming Kate from foul-tempered termagant to loving wife, young Lucentio and his clever servant, Tranio, plot to win Bianca.
Frances Barber and Roger Allam are Kate and Petruchio. Lucentio is played by Alan Cox.
Public Domain (P)2014 Blackstone Audio
The Taming of the Shrew is another early Shakespeare play, and it's one that makes me distinctly uncomfortable - maybe even more so than The Merchant of Venice, another "problem play."
It is, in my opinion, a misogynistic play. The spirited Kate has a few moments of tenderness with her crazy husband Petruchio, but only after she's been starved, deprived of sleep, and forced to debase herself in front of others. (To his credit, he never actually hits her, but that's setting the bar pretty low.) Many productions try to get around the implications by making it all seem ironic, but I've never been able to find that irony in the text.
(One of Shakespeare's fellow playwrights seemed to think the same thing, and wrote a sequel called The Tamer Tamed: Petruchio's second wife turns the tables on him.)
Not much irony in this production either; it's played straight. The cast is, as usual, first-rate, although Frances Barber is sometimes a little too shrill as Kate; granted the character is described repeatedly as a shrew, but there's shrewishness that's funny and shrewishness that's just unpleasant.
The other odd thing about the play is the appearance and disappearance of the "framing story" involving Christopher Sly. Shakespeare sets it up and then abandons it after a couple of scenes. Another play from the period provides a few other scenes with Sly, including an epilogue that neatly ties up the loose ends. Many recent productions, if they include the framing story at all, add these scenes. I suspect they were written by Shakespeare and intended to be part of the play, but Arkangel sticks to their guns (and their stated purpose) and omits them.
Not one of the more satisfying entries in the series, but the fault is mostly Shakespeare's.
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