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THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.
The Editions. The Taming of The Shrew was first printed in the First Folio. A Quarto edition appeared in 1631, with the following title-page:
A wittie and pleasant Comedie called the Taming of the Shrew. As it was acted by His Majesties servants at The Blacke Friers and the Globe. Written by Will. Shakespeare. London. London. Printed by W. S. for Iohn Smethwicke, and are to be sold at his shop at Saint Dunstones Churchyard under the Diall. 1631."
This Quarto was certainly printed from the Folio; Smethwicke (or Smythick) was one of the publishers of the latter, and to him, moreover, there was transferred, on Nov. 19th, 1607, an old play called The Taming of A Shrew, which had been previously issued in 1594, 1596, and 1607, by different owners. It would seem that Smythick, in 1631, issued the Quarto of The Shrew' instead of 'A Shrew,' the copyright of which he had secured.
The Taming of A Shrew. The old original of The Taming of The Shrew is extant, and has been often reprinted in modern times (cp. Steevens' Six Old Plays, 1776; The Shakespeare Society publications, 1844; Hazlitt's Shakespeare's Library, &c.). The play was first published, anonymously, in 1594, under the title of 'A pleasant conceited Historie, called The taming of A Shrew, as it was sundry times acted by the Earl of Pembrook his servants.' (A specimen of the play will be found at the back of the title-page of this volume.) Pope actually attributed this crude effort to Shakespeare him
self; Mr. Fleay assigns it to Shakespeare and Marlowe -their joint-production in 1589—and various similar suggestions have been made by critics. We know absolutely nothing about its authorship, but we may safely assert that it contains no single line from Shakespeare's pen. It is an important document, though its intrinsic value is naught. Its affected classicism, its poetic rant, its cheap lyrism, its strange mixture of hyperbole and bathos, all indicate that the play was the work of some poetaster of the pseudo-Marlowan school, writing about the year 1590-2.
The Date of Shakespeare's Adaptation. The Taming of The Shrew is not mentioned by Mertes in 1598; unless, as seems unlikely, it is to be identified with Love's Labour Won. Nevertheless the internal evidence points to an early date. Mr. Stokes contends that even as far back as May, 1594, The Taming of a Shrew was believed to be Shakespeare's in some sense' (cp. Chronology of Shakespeare's Plays, pp. 33-35).
Its omission by Meres is not very singular, when the possible history of Shakespeare's connexion with his original is considered.* It is very possible that an enlarged version of the play once existed intermediate between A Shrew, and the play as we have it in First Folio; Shakespeare in fact seems mainly answerable for the revision of the Induction and scenes in which Katharina, Petruchio, and Grumio are the prominent figures. The intermediate adapter knew his Marlowe well; no less than ten Marlowan reminiscences may be detected in the nonShakespearian portion of The Shrew.'
These considerations make it difficult to assign a date to the play; on the one hand, there are the alleged nonShakespearian portions of the play; on the other, Shake
* Meres mentions King John, though also an adaptation of an older play; but the re-cast of his original was altogether of a different nature than in the case of The Shrew. One should note, too, the mention of Titus, and the omission of 1, 2, 3 Henry VI.
speare's own work belonging to different periods. The style and versification of the more characteristic parts point to about 1597, while the doggerel and quibbles suggest an early date.
At one time we are reminded of Adriana, Luciana, and the Dromios of The Comedy of Errors; at another, of Hotspur, Kate, and Falstaff of Henry IV.* Hence the play is dated by some 1594, by others 1596-7; while certain critics assign it to the years 1601-3. (It is perhaps significant that Dekker's Patient Grissel was produced in 1597, and his Medicine for a Curst Wife soon after (published in 1602.)
Shakespeare's Share in the Play. As regards the Induction, opinion is divided; but a careful comparison of the two versions leaves little doubt that the revision was Shakespeare's. Act I. is almost unanimously assigned to the unknown adapter. Act II. i. is only partly Shakespeare's; the Shakespearian portion has been variously assigned:-11. 169-326; 115-326, with the omission of 11. 241-254; 115-326. Act III. i. may be safely pronounced non-Shakespearian. Act III. ii. is claimed for Shakespeare, with the exception of 11. 130-150, or possibly of 11. 1-88, 126-185. Act IV. i. iii. v. are throughout Shakespeare's, while Act IV. ii. iv., Act V. i. are similarly throughout non-Shakespearian. Act V. ii. 1-175 (or 1-181), certainly Shakespeare. (Cp. Fleay's Shakespeare Manual, p. 185; Furnivall, Trans. New Shakespeare Society, 1874; Tolman, Modern Language Association of America, 1890.)
*The only valuable piece of internal evidence puts us in the same dilemma: in the first Scene of the Induction, line 88 is assigned to 'Sinklo,' in the Folio; 'Sinklo' acted in 3 Henry VI., an early play, and 2 Henry IV. (c. 1597, 8): in the former his name appears instead of a keeper'; in the latter instead of 'a beadle.'
['Nicke,' the messenger, mentioned in Act i. 1, probably stands for Nicholas Tooley, one of the actors in Shakespeare's company; but nothing is to be inferred from this point.]
'The Shrew' and 'A Shrew': some noteworthy Variations. (i.) The old play has been thoroughly transformed as far as diction and characterisation is concerned, though the plot has been on the whole faithfully followed. (ii.) The part of Sly has been considerably curtailed in The Shrew'* in the original we are throughout reminded of his existence, and he is disposed of at the end of the play :-" Then enter two bearing off Sly in his own apparell again, and leave him where they found him, and then goe out. Then enter the Tapster." An amusing colloquy follows. Sly explains that he has had 'the bravest dream that ever thou heardest in all thy life,' &c. (iii.) Further, the scene of action has been changed from 'Athens' to 'Padua.' (iv.) The vulgar and mercenary tyrant' Ferardo' has given place to the whimsical and boisterous affectations of the good-natured Petruchio.' (v.) Kate in 'A Shrew' has two sisters, Philema and Emilia, represented by Bianca (and the widow whom Hortensio ultimately weds) in 'The Shrew.' (vi.) The plot of the old play has been rendered more complex by the addition of a comedy of intrigue-viz., the story of Bianca and Lucentio.
The Sources. (i.) The Induction. The idea of the Induction is thoroughly oriental, and is familiar to readers of the Arabian Nights,' whence it probably passed into European literature. It is said that a similar incident actually took place at the marriage of Duke Phillip the Good of Burgundy, about the year 1440. Perhaps the good Duke Phillip was wishful to emulate the example of the good Caliph Haroun Al Raschid. The pedigree of the chief English versions of this world-wide story, dramatised by Chalderon in his 'La Vida es Sueño ('Life's a Dream,' c. 1633), probably from Rojas''Viaje Entretenido,' is perhaps as follows:
* From an artistic point of view, Sly's comments at the end of Act I. i. seem quite out of place, and are certainly not Shakespeare's.
The Arabian Nights: The Sleeper Awakened.'
Heuterus de Rebus Burgundicis (from an Epistle of Ludovicus Vives).
(ii.) The Main Plot. The nearest analogue in Elizabethan literature to The Taming of the Shrew is to be found in a popular poem entitled, A Merry Geste of a Shrewd and Curst Wife in lapped Morrelles Skin'* (before 1575), but this poem cannot be considered the direct source of the play. Several similar stories are to be found in Italian literature; perhaps the most noteworthy is to be found in the Notte piacevoli of Straparolo, VIII. 2 (published in 1550).
(iii.) The Under Plot. The story of Bianca and her lovers was taken directly from Acts IV. and V. of Gascoigne's Supposes (an English version of Ariosto's Gli Suppositi), the first English prose comedy, acted at Gray's Inn, 1566.†
(iv.) The Latin Lesson.
This element (Act III. i.)
* Printed, together with the Taming of A Shrew, in the (old) Shakespeare's Society's publication.
From this same source, too, the name 'Petruchio' was, perhaps, derived.