Monday, November 15, 2021

Is Shakespeare's Shrew Bipolar?

The Taming of the Shrew is an illustration of how ideological alarm bells can create myopia. To a modern audience Petruchio’s taming of Katherina is simply an insult to women. He's the Skinnerian cat   employing "operant conditioning" to create a system of rewards and punishments. Unfortunately, this interpretation disregards the symbolic subtext of the play. Katherina is an unstable element, the fissile U-235, that will implode and explode the same time. Rather than being a free spirit, she's a bipolar personality prone to fits of mania and depression. She isn’t so much an exemplar of a liberated woman, as a human being bereft of any role. When she finally does her husband's bidding, she becomes a force of order and a power of example to the other wives. On one level Kate’s character seems to be submitting, but if you look at the denouement of The Taming of the Shrew in the context of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the play’s more about order and chaos then patriarchy per se. The provocativeness of the play’s superficial content is belied by the complexity of the intention. Is "Kiss me, Kate," the call of a colonizing chauvinist male or merely a wiley lover?

Read "King Kong Theory" by Francis Levy,

and listen to "Woman, Woman" (1968) by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap

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