Saturday, December 2, 2006

Taming of the Shrew - Kate's Last Words, Take 1


Just for fun, a final d-i-y comparison to the earlier edition (published in 1594, I think I was off a bit before), A Pleasant Conceited Historie called The Taming of a Shrew (and aren't you glad I didn't get ahold of the other two earlier editions?). Gil used the word "homily" to describe Kate's last speech in The Taming of the Shrew. You thought THAT was homily, wait 'til you hear this:

Now, lovely Kate, before their husbands here,
I prithee tell unto these headstrong women
What duty wives do owe unto their husbands.

Then you that live thus by your pampered wills,
Now list to me and mark what I shall say:

Th'eternal power that with his only breath,
Shall cause this end and this beginning frame,
Not in time, nor before time, but with time, confused; --
For all the course of years, of ages, months,
Of seasons temperate, of days and hours,
Are tuned and stopped by measure of his hand; --

The first world was a form without a form,
A heap confused, a mixture all deformed,
A gulf of gulfs, a body bodiless,
Where all the elements were orderless,
Before the great Commander of the world,
The King of kings, the glorious God of heaven,
Who in six days did frame His heavenly work
And made all things to stand in perfect course:

Then to His image did He make a man,
Old Adam, and from his side asleep
A rib was taken, of which the Lord did make
The woe of man, so termed by Adam then
'Wo-man,' for that by her came sin to us;
And for her sin was Adam doomed to die.

As Sarah to her husband, so should we
Obey them, love them, keep, and nourish them,
If they by any means do want our helps;
Laying our hands under their feet to tread,
If that by that we might procure their ease;
And for a precedent I'll first begin
And lay my hand under my husband's feet. (5.1.111-142)

Now, I've talked a whole lot, so at this point I just have a few questions. What is your reaction to this in comparison to the version you read? How is the argument that women should serve their men treated differently? Does the heavily biblical imagery used here suggest something about Shakespeare by its absence in the later version (later Kate says, for example, "Such duty as the subject owes the prince, / Even such a woman oweth to her husband.")? What is the origin of that wacky etymology Kate uses for "woman"? Did that originate here? Or was it floating around earlier? And holy mother of God, Cindy, if your students were reading either version of the play, what would you do with Kate's last speech?


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