This is the first half of the speech, in which Kate seems to be showing her obedience. (Maybe as a result of the ‘subjugation’ – the audience must make up their own mind) I thought that the RSC version of the final scene was fantastic, as it wasn’t taken, as seriously as Zefirelli’s version, and I felt there was less tension. Kate appears to be willing to place her hand under her husband’s foot, but it is never actually seen. Another major event that happened in the RSC version, and not in the Zefirelli interpretation, was that Kate and Petruchio kissed passionately. The kiss that took place on stage was an amazing pause and reflection at the real relationship of these two characters.
This unexpected turn of event, I thought reshaped the meaning of the final scene. Kate’s refusal to kiss in Zefirelli’s version, I thought really stuck out as a symbol of her relationship to Zefirelli’s Petruchio. I think that Shakespeare’s lexis in this scene was fantastic. Although rather sexist, I thought that “…And for thy maintenance commits his body, to painful labour, both by sea and land…” and contrasted by “whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe” is excellent imagery. I really felt the warmth on stage, and I though that the “love, fair looks, and true obedience” which, according to Kate is what a man deserves, is rather humorous, seeings how men seem to “crave no other tribute at thy hands”. The use of three that Shakespeare wrote, helps the audience to sum up what Kate thinks of men.
This in itself is comical, as initially, Kate saw men to be “moveables” [Act II, Scene I, Line 196] and “asses” [Act II, Scene I, Line199], and deems the man she has wed more specifically as “a mad cap ruffian and a swearing Jack” [Act II Scene I, Line 281]. Now, she seems to be calling him her “lord”, “king”, “governor”, and her “lord”, “life”, “keeper”. She even calls him a “sovereign”. I can only presume these words to be true in the RSC production, as the insensitive, mean, and egotistical Petruchio in Zefirelli’s version, does not deserve such adoration and respect. I therefore also think that Kate is a lot less ‘shrewish’ in the RSC production, as we can empathise, feel happy for, and even begin to relate some of her life experiences to our own.
Altogether, I think that the RSC version is better because as a play version, the director can adapt its theme, underlying subtext, and issues surrounding both of these, to the current trends, ways of thinking, and so on. I think this is also why I was more dramatically interested in the RSC version.
I think Zefirelli’s version shocked me because of the way Petruchio’s character was made to be so ghastly. I got the impression that Petruchio was a misogynist in this version, and in the text. In the RSC version, however, I did not see this side of Petruchio. From what I read prior to seeing Gregory Doran’s RSC version, I saw that critics widely deemed Petruchio and Shakespeare to be misogynists. However, upon seeing the RSC version, and a review from the Mail on Sunday from May 11, 2003 by Georgina Brown, ‘Doran’s’ Petruchio could be quite rightly described as a kind, sensitive and funny man – not the usual characteristics of your everyday misogynist. Petruchio changed my view of the play immediately when I witnessed the breathtakingly upsetting scene of when he places a painting of his late father by the fire and weeps.
This man is not a woman-hating self-centred, egotistical “ruffian” – but a sensitive, kind man who is quite rightly mourning the death of his father. Although he went “to wive it wealthily in Padua; if wealthily, then happily in Padua” [Act I, Scene II, Lines 73-74] I think he went to Padua to find someone to grow old with. Shakespeare’s words can be twisted slightly. Instead of the self-assured Petruchio from Zefirelli’s version, where he doesn’t care what his wife is like, as long as she is rich, ‘Doran’s’ Petruchio could be looking for someone – anyone – just someone he can spend his life with. Because his father had died, he packed up in Verona, and moved to Padua, to his old friend Hortensio. This move could symbolise the physical distance, as well as emotional distance of Petruchio from “old Verona” [Act I, Scene II, Line 57]. The word “old” could emphasise this distance.
Pathetic fallacy is used in the text, Zefirelli, and RSC versions. Special effects like these help to create the ambience of the scene, and character’s thought and feelings. For example in the RSC version, it starts snowing when Petruchio ‘denies’ Kate her food, this snow could represent the emotional coldness Kate is feeling in her heart. This is an excellent way of communicating ambience.
In written text, it is much harder to create an effective ambience using special effects. This is why I thought that the Zefirelli and RSC versions were more dramatically interesting. The latter, I thought was better. Although it didn’t have the advantages of using editing technology or different camera shots, I thought that the real fire in the home of Petruchio and Kate especially, was extremely effective – I could feel the warmth of the scene, even though I was in a circle seat! Shakespeare overcame these problems by using language and action to help the ambience. The delivery of lines, presentation of the character and the tone, speed and pitch of the delivery, advance this sense of building atmosphere.
Although deemed “… a play which is meagrely written” and one that “…deals with the squashing of a human’s high spirits”, according to Susannah Clapp of the Observer, I agree most definitely with Ms. Brown of the Mail on Sunday, when she writes that the RSC Taming of the Shrew was an “emotionally intelligent reappraisal”, and one that “has made sense of this most problematic of plays”. I agree whole heartedly, because the RSC production, to me, was a more emotionally gripping version. I refer back to the first kiss we see between Petruchio and Kate, when the silence around them made it incredibly romantic. It seemed like all the focus was meant to be on them. This slight ‘twist’ on Zefirelli’s version, sealed my preference in the modern remake.
I personally do think that the play us still dramatically interesting even after al these years and even though women’s position in society has changed so much. I think this also, because if there is ‘no life’ in the play, then how come there have been some sequels, and alternative interpretations written’some of these include Kiss Me Kate, the Cole Porter musical, and The Tamer Tamed, a sequel to The Taming of the Shrew written by John Fletcher. Most recently, the rather more juvenile approach was successfully attempted in Ten Things I Hate About You, the Hollywood box-office hit. In my opinion, these adaptations and alternative interpretations would not have been made if the initial play is now so dramatically uninteresting.