A Merry Jest of a Shrewd and Curst Wife Lapped in Morel’s Skin for Her Good Behavior

"Oh I get it! Kat Stratford, that's clever..."

I give you the title of a ballad that was one of the sources for our next play, The Taming of the Shrew. In the ballad, a shrewish woman is bludgeoned to a pulp by her husband for her unwifely ways before being wrapped in a dead horse’s skin – the horse being the Morel of the title – that’s been salted for the occasion. Did I mention that this play is a comedy?

Not to worry, William lightens it up no end, but rest assured gender’s going to be an issue again.

At this point I think it would be remiss of me not to point out that I do a pretty awesome Julia Stiles impression. Granted, it sounds a little something like this:

but still, not too shabby, eh?

Readers will remember that bass-baritone Julia initially exploded onto the Shakespeare-remade-as-a-high-school-comedy-movie scene in 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You, based ever so loosely on Shrew. She was then in the deplorable O, but the less said about that the better. I saw 10 Things recently actually and it’s really fairly okay. Sort of a proto-Mean Girls. And anything Allison Janney’s in can’t be bad, right? Six Days Seven Nights, you say? Fine.

What 10 Things didn’t have was the Induction. Thing is, the main action of The Taming of the Shrew (which, by the way, is not to be confused with The Taming of a Shrew, first performed about the same time) is in its entirety a play-within-a-play. Before we meet the shrewish Katherine and her little sister Alex Mack… I mean Bianca, we get an elaborate set up: The Induction.

The Induction consists of two short scenes in which a Lord, returning from hunting, comes across a sleeping drunken tinker (that’s his job title, don’t be so judgemental) called Christopher Sly. The Lord decides – as anyone in the same situation would – to have Sly carried back to his country mansion, dressed in his finest clothes, placed in his ‘fairest chamber’ (to be decorated ‘with all my wanton pictures’ – yes, he’s giving him his porn collection), and attended by all the servants as a nobleman. Naturally. He also gets his page Bartholomew to dress as a woman and pose as his wife. Seriously? No wonder the British aristocracy is falling apart (…too soon?).

On top of this a bunch of players show up and the Lord asks them to put on a play for Sly, now awake and convinced that his life up to this point has all been a dream. After committing some hilarious Elizabethan faux-pas (I mean, imagine a nobleman preferring cheap ale to sack! Shakespeare, you’re too much!) Sly and his boy-wife sit down to a loverly play.

Let’s join them.

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Filed under The Comedies, The Taming of the Shrew

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