Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Taming of the Shrew

LESSONS FROM SHAKESPEARE

My favorite Shakespearean play of all time (ironically, even before I was interested in Biblical femininity) is The Taming of the Shrew. Not many people know this about me, but I studied theatre in college and there was once a time when I wanted to be an actor. There are still some traces of passion for the theatre flowing through my veins, as I reflect on some coveted roles I never got the chance to play. Kate was one of those roles.

I was fortunate enough to perform at least one speech from this play for my acting class. It was, as most Shakespeare buffs may have already guessed, Kate's final monologue. The speech in itself meant so much to me, because so much of it reminds me of my relationship with my beautiful bridegroom Jesus.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, Kate is a rebellious, uncontrollable, and downright nasty woman. No one wants Kate, as she is the least desirable woman in town. But when Petruchio shows up wishing to marry her, she has finally met her match. For the remainder of the play we watch him "tame" his bride by sometimes putting her through difficult testing and trials. In the end, Kate proves to be the very picture of femininity, and brings great honor to her husband when he calls for her obedience to him in public. She not only obeys his command, but reprimands the other wives present for rebelling against their husbands.

Naturally, this play is criticized by feminists worldwide as being sexist and misogynistic, but it is in fact a very symbolic and beautiful picture of how our dear Lord tames each one of us. I will not offer my own commentary on the monologue's imagery, but rather, I will let you meditate on the words for yourself. On this Resurrection Sunday, remember all that Christ had to suffer to tame the wayward shrew in each of our hearts. See how much of Kate's speech you identify with (I have pasted it in its entirety below):

KATE: Fie, fie, unknit that threat'ning unkind brow
And dart not scornful glances from those eyes
To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor.
It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads,
Confounds thy fame as whirlwinds shake fair buds,
And in no sense is meet or amiable.
A woman moved is like a fountain troubled,
Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty,
And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty
Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee
And for thy maintenance; commits his body
To painful labor both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou li'st warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks, and true obedience--
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
I am ashamed that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace,
Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway,
Whey they are bound to serve, love, and obey.
Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,
Unapt to toil and trouble in the world,
But that our soft conditions and our hearts
Should well agree with our external parts?
Come, come, you froward and unable worms,
My mind hath been as big as one of yours,
My heart as great, my reason haply more,
To bandy word for word and frown for frown.
But now I see our lances are but straws,
Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.
Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot,
And place your hands below your husband's foot,
In token of which duty, if he please,
My hand is ready, may it do him ease.

4 comments:

Geraldine said...

Jen, this post has really really blessed me! It was a timely post for me the day you posted it. I need to write about it but God really blessed me through "The Taming of the Shrew" and the portion of video you've included.

Diana said...

Hi Jen,
Thanks for the post. It is a great story and a reminder to me as a married woman. As always you are a blessing.

Anonymous said...

I don't know that TOTS is a good role model for Christian marriages. If I recall correctly, Petruchio orders Katharine to call an elderly man a "virgin" and say that the moon is the sun. Those seem like little things, but a Christian husband would not ask his wife to sin, and telling a lie falls into that category.

Jennifer said...

Hi, Anonymous. Thanks for that observation, and you are right. Kate and Petruchio are not Christians, so they would not be a good example of a Christian marriage. Luckily, this post was not labeled under "marriage", but rather, it was placed in the submission and femininity categories, because those were the two topics I was hoping to highlight.

We have a video policy that states that although we will use certain clips to illustrate our points through TV/Film, we don't necessarily endorse the entire production because the remainder of the story either contains inappropriate content, or it just doesn't have anything to do with our mission. So we just highlight those scenes that help us communicate our thoughts. The video policy is located here: http://www.reformedsheology.com/2007/10/film-of-month-series.html

Thanks so much for mentioning that. No, a Christian husband would not ask his wife to lie. (I would also say that the scene Anonymous is referring to is more about a "power trip" than lying per se, but that is equally unbecoming for a Christian husband.)

Blessings!