Friday, June 15, 2012

Shakespeare Discussion

We at the library love the summer Shakespeare productions by Theatre Under the Stars sponsored by our neighbors at Court Street Arts at Alumni Hall. To prepare for this year's season, we will host a discussion of The Taming of the Shrew on Friday. June 22 at 7:00 PM. The play will be performed a week later, on Friday, June 29, next door. Our discussion is free and open to the public.

One of Shakespeare's most popular and enduring comedies, The Taming of the Shrew is also one of his most controversial plays. Many find the plot to be inherently misogynistic and the behavior of the characters unnecessarily cruel. Katherina, the titular shrew to be tamed, delivers a long monologue near the end of the play which appears to advocate the absolute submission of wives to their husbands, and this scene has proven particularly problematic, especially for contemporary audiences.

The "out of control woman" who requires "taming" was a familiar figure in both drama and folklore in Shakespeare's day. Nevertheless, contemporary scholars believe that even in the Elizabethan era, the play's extreme sexism was controversial; they point to a sequel (written by Shakespeare's successor at the Globe Theater) that features some of the same characters but in which the sexual power politics are reversed. Alternatively, many argue that the play's apparent sexism is not intended to be taken at face value; some contend that it is to be understood as ironical commentary on relations between the sexes, while others hold that it is mitigated by the unreal, farcical nature of the play as a whole.

Despite its controversial nature, The Taming of the Shrew has been staged and adapted for film many times. Perhaps the best-known of the numerous film versions is the adaptation directed by Franco Zeffirelli that starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The play has also inspired other adaptions, including several operas, the musical Kiss Me, Kate, and the 1999 film 10 Things I Hate About You.

Please join us to kick off this summer's selection of Shakespeare productions!

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