Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Taming of the Shrew

And we move on ...

(a few first reactions)

I watched the BBC production last night (two nights ago now). I have, of course, seen it before - several times in fact. I watched it the night of its first broadcast:

That, I discover (in dismay), was back in 1980.

I still like it. I think it the most intelligent 'Taming ...' I've ever seen - and it is also great television. But I'll talk about the production another day.

What has hit me strongly, and somewhat surprisingly, is the strength of the connections I saw with Two Gentlemen of Verona. Maybe it has something to do with the two productions being BBC and therefore joined in style and values - but I think that is only a minor factor.

Throughout last night I kept waking with a new 'idea', a new 'link'. There was a storm and perhaps I'd have forgotten them all if I'd been allowed to sleep tight - but I think not.

At this point, I'm almost prepared to say that the two plays form a pair - a concious pair.

There is a very deliberate contrast in the main characters of the two plays - here we have a remarkable woman and a remarkable man - strong, impulsive, live, determined: Not words I'd apply to either the male or the female characters of Two Gentlemen. It is almost as if Shakespeare took the milkmaid from Lance's letter and gave her both social status and a lead role. He found an equally strong male and set them together.

The wildness is unexpected when you think of the civilised, 'courtly', idealised love of the previous play. But lest you forget, he inserts 'Proteus' into this one - Lucentio he calls him, and he is as changeable and as devious as his prototype. That same proto-love is played out again here - only as a sub plot.

It thus forms a comment on the earlier play too - that teenageness (which he goes on to take to its tragic end in Romeo and Juliet) is anodyne - the love a game, superficial: Adding a repeat to this play shows the incompleteness of the event too - the final scene in 'The Taming of the Shrew' indicates that the lovers in 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona' have a bumpy road ahead.

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