The Taming of the Shrew

  • Katharine Goodland
  • John O’Connor
Part of the A Directory of Shakespeare in Performance Series book series (DSP)


The Taming of the Shrew proved to be very popular entertainment. It was a pretty and fanciful production, designed and dressed in exuberant colors by Desmond Heeley, and accompanied by the light-hearted tinklings and thrummings of Gabriel Charpentier’s music. There were numerous planned absurdities in the physical arrangements: golden bolts of lightning that could be carried by hand when a storm was needed, a paper rainbow that appeared on cue, a two-piece articulated horse, a fireplace where daintily-painted flames were activated by the turning of a crank. Amongst these and other paraphernalia an agile and talented cast did their comic stuff in scenes that were elaborated by the ministrations of commedia dell’arte figures, masked and graceful as dancers, who fetched and carried unobstrusively, or in the background, mimed sympathetic attendance on the action. All this amounted to farcical entertainment of a very high professional order, quick and lively, full of comic invention, faultlessly co-ordinated, and directed with an expert attention to the requirements of burlesque. The misfortune, for those who found it a misfortune, was that Kate and Petruchio tended to be overwhelmed by the burlesque … One may admit that Petruchio ought to appear to be something of a buffoon, but in Alan Scarfes portrayal the buffoonery seemed to go bone-deep instead of simply a guise adopted by a clever man toward a specific end… His playing left Miss Pat Galloway with little opportunity to make anything of Kate except a virago who offered determined battle, and then threw in the sponge. For much of the play their affair was conducted at the emotional level of a Punch and Judy show…When the battling was over Kate and Petruchio did seem to have acquired some genuine admiration and affection for each other, and Miss Galloway’s final speech struck some members of the audience as sufficiently heartfelt to be worth a hiss or two. (Berners W Jackson, Shakespeare Quarterly 24 [1973]: 406–07)


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Copyright information

© Katharine Goodland and John O’Connor 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katharine Goodland
  • John O’Connor

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