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Summary Material and Excerpt
From the Adaptation of John Fletcher's
The Taming of the Tamer

NOTE: A longer treatment of this play, as presented
during the scholarly sessions of the LMDA Conference
in Atlanta, can be found by clicking here.

The Taming of the Tamer by John Fletcher (1579—1625)

The Feminist Sequel to The Taming of the Shrew

Dramaturged and Adapted by Alex & Ilene Gross
On the Basis of a Corrupt & Censored Text,
As Also Reconstructed by Alex Gross

Twelve Men, Three Women
One Set

This sequel to The Taming of the Shrew was written by John Fletcher, Shakespeare's only acknowledged collaborator and the playwright who succeeded him as chief dramatist to the King's Men Company. It was performed during Shakespeare's own lifetime, and documentary evidence proves that it was sometimes produced as a companion piece to the Shakespeare work and even found greater audience approval.

Its story takes up a few years after the action of the earlier play. Kate has died, and Petruchio now marries Maria, who will tame and dominate him just as he did with Kate. The plot is a continual succession of surprises and climaxes, as Maria and her lady friends do battle against Petruchio and his cohorts and in scene after scene completely baffle, thwart, and overwhelm the weak strategems of the men. The women's speeches are entirely feminist in their practical goals and their rhetoric, even in the most modern sense of this word.

This version of the play is an adaptation of this work based on a reconstruction of a difficult original text, both carried out by Alex Gross.

The Taming of the Tamer is represented by the Elisabeth Marton Agency, 1 Union Square West, Room 612, New York, NY 10003-3303, TEL: (212) 255-1908, FAX: (212) 691-9061.

How This Version Differs From All Others:

A great deal of dramaturgical and scholarly work has gone into making this version of The Taming of the Tamer different from any that has gone before. It has been largely the absence of such efforts on behalf of this play during the past that has kept it out of the standard repertory for so long, despite its timely and sprightly theme. Standard editions of Shakespeare's works are so commonplace that some may be surprised to learn that no comparable editions exist for most of Fletcher's plays. This is because these works have simply not been subjected to the same winnowing and grinding process by actors, readers, and critics over the centuries, finally leading to something resembling an established text, though even with Shakespeare some disagreements remain. For instance, since its first production Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing has gone through a total of over 120 individual editions, while Fletcher's The Taming of the Tamer has had precisely one, and even that has been mainly concerned with establishing correct Elizabethan spelling. Thus, in a very real sense this Acting Version represents the very first "standard edition" of The Taming of the Tamer for readers and theatre goers.

On the dramaturgical side, the process of adapting this text for today's stage has included the following steps:

1. Removing the nine scenes of the sub-plot and replacing them with a simplified two-scene version, which restores most of the sub-plot's best lines. This is entirely in line with past treatment of the sub-plot and has also resulted in the saving of some fifty minutes of playing time, which along with other changes has brought the work down from nearly four hours to less than three.

2. Emending passages deleted by the censor of 1633. This is the first time this has ever been done.

3. Correcting obviously corrupt lines so as to complete their meaning. This also has never been done before and has proved to be especially necessary at some key points in the exposition, where previous readers of this play may have been simply unable to follow what was going on.

4. Replacing obsolete and/or totally incomprehensible words with stylistically and metrically correct equivalents conveying their sense.

5. Strengthening the motivation of characters at a few points in ways that would have been unnecessary for Seventeenth Century play-goers and readers but are crucial for people today, i.e., how Kate died or what happened to Bianca's husband after the last act of The Taming of the Shrew.

6. Cutting through obscurantism and scholarly feuds: in those cases where the sense of a line or passage is totally unclear, deeply disputed, or lost in irretrievable topical references, it has been omitted or suitably emended. This has also never been done before.

7. Restoring the play's best title: due to an remarkable mix-up involving England's Civil War, the prohibition of all theatre, and the censorship of printed texts, this play is only now being presented under its most suitable title, The Taming of the Tamer, even though this title was demonstrably in use during the first decades of the Seventeenth Century.

A failure to carry out any of these processes during the past may have prevented several generations of critics from reaching a fair evaluation of this play. But all the preceding is essentially the tip of the iceberg, a mere superstructure, a top layer of color covering the underpainting and substructure. Underlying this Acting Version has been another crucial process: the painstaking reconstruction of the text itself, based on a minute comparison between three ancient sources and other more recent recensions. It is exceedingly rare that any two of these sources ever fully agree on the play's many problem areas. The more ancient ones—and even the most modern—are couched entirely in Elizabethan spelling. Moreover, all the sources are still contaminated by the aforementioned corrupt and censored passages, often masked by arbitrary Elizabethan spellings and Fletcher's innovative style of notation, a tangled textual skein no one has attempted to unravel until now. Thus, much scholarly attention was needed simply to establish a text from which the Acting Version could be derived. This comprises the Annotated Edition of this same play, a separate work in its own right, preserving the entire original text in modern spelling and elucidating all the problems of the language in the manner of a standard Shakespearean text.

For all of these reasons both the Acting Version and the Annotated Edition of The Taming of the Tamer constitute original work in their own right and are both subject to protection under the laws governing international copyright.

Excerpt from Act I

NOTE: The nature of HTML Code makes it impossible
to represent the indentation of Elizabethan half-lines
and fractional line segments correctly.

LIVIA: Alas, poor fool, how looks it?
It would even hang itself, should I but cross it,
For pure love. To the matter: I must hatch it.

BIANCA: Nay, never look for merry hour, Maria,
If now you make it not, let not your blushes,
Your modesty, and tenderness of spirit
Make you continual anvil to his anger.
Believe me, since his first wife—and was she not
My own sister Kate—did set him roundly going,
Nothing can bind his rage: take your own counsel.
You shall not say that I persuaded you.
But if you suffer him—

MARIA: Stay, shall I do it?

BIANCA: Have you a stomach to it?

MARIA: I never showed it.

BIANCA: 'Twill show the rarer and the stronger in you,
But do not say I urged you.

MARIA: I am perfect,
Just as Curtius plunged into the abyss
To rescue Rome amidst much wonder, have I
Now leapt into this gulf of marriage. And so I'll do it.
Farewell all poorer thoughts but spite and anger,
Till I have wrought a miracle. Now, cousin,
I am no more the gentle tame Maria.
Mistake me not—I have a new soul in me,
Made of a North Wind—nothing but tempest.
And like a tempest, shall it make all ruin,
Till I have run my will out.

BIANCA: This is brave now,
If you continue it; but let your own will lead you.

MARIA: Adieu, all tenderness, I dare continue:
Maids that are made of fears and modest blushes,
View me, and prize example.

BIANCA: Here is your sister.

MARIA: Here is the brave old man's love.

BIANCA: That loves the young man.

MARIA: Aye, and hold thee there, wench: what a grief of heart is it,
When sensual revels should rouse up old night,
To sweat against a cork? To lie and count
The hours with one's breath, to rise sport-starved?

LIVIA: Dear sister,
Where have you been that you talk thus?

MARIA: Why at church, wench,
Where I've been told to talk thus: I am a wife now.

LIVIA: It seems so, and a modest one.

MARIA: You are an ass.
When thou art married once, thy modesty
Will never buy thee pins.

LIVIA: Bless me.

MARIA: From what?

BIANCA: From such a tame fool as our cousin Livia?

LIVIA: You are but mad, ere since thy husband
Left thee for the wars, so have you been.

MARIA: Yes, wench, and so must you be.
Or none of our acquaintance, mark me, Livia
Or indeed fit for our sex: 'tis bed time.
Pardon, radiant Hymen, that I mean
Thine offerings to delay, or to keep fasting
My valiant bridegroom.

LIVIA: Whither will this woman?

BIANCA: You may perceive her end.

LIVIA: Or rather fear it.

MARIA: Dare you be partner in it?

LIVIA: Leave it, Maria,
I fear I have marked too much, for goodness, leave it,
Divest you, with obedient hands to bed.

MARIA: To bed? No, Livia, there are comets hang
Prodigious over that yet; there's a fellow
Must yet, before I know that heat or learn to wench,
Be made a man, for he is yet a monster.
Here must his head be, Livia.

(points to her feet)

LIVIA: Never hope it.
'Tis as easy with a sieve to scoop
The ocean as to tame Petruchio.

MARIA: Stay, thou Lucina,
Thou goddess of light and childbirth, hear me,
Never unlock the treasure of my womb
For human fruit, to make it capable;
Nor never with thy secret hand make breech
A mother's labor to me, if I do
Give way unto my married husband's will,
Or be a wife in anything but hopes,
Till I have made him easy as a child
And tame as fear. He shall not win a smile
Or a pleased look from this austerity,
Though it would coax another marriage settlement
From him, and make him every day another man.
And when I kiss him, till I have my will,
May I be barren of delights, and know
Only what pleasures are in dreams and guesses.

LIVIA: A strange exordium.

BIANCA: All the several wrongs,
Done by imperious husbands to their wives
These thousand years and upwards, strengthen thee:
Thou hast a brave cause.

MARIA: And I'll do it bravely,
Or may my life unravel ever after.

LIVIA: In what part of the world got she this spirit?
Yet pray, Maria, look before you truly,
Besides this disobedience of a wife,
Which you will find a heavy imputation,
Which yet I cannot think your own, it shows
So distant from your sweetness.

MARIA: I swear. 'tis mine.

LIVIA: Weigh but the person, and the hope you have,
To work this desperate cure.

MARIA: A weaker subject
Would shame the end I aim at. Disobedience?
You talk too tamely. By the faith I have
In mine own noble will, that childish woman
That lives a prisoner to her husband's pleasure,
Has lost her mettle and becomes a beast,
Created for his use, not fellowship.

LIVIA: His first wife said as much.

MARIA: She was a fool
And took a scurvy course. Let her be named
'Mongst those that wish for things, but dare not do them:
I have a new dance for him, and a mad one.

LIVIA: Are you of this faith?

BIANCA: Yes, truly, and will die in it.

LIVIA: Why then let's all wear breeches.

BIANCA: That's a good wench.

MARIA: Now thou comest near the nature of a woman;
Hang these tame-hearted fledgling she-hawks, no sooner
See they the lure or hear their husbands' calls
But cry like kites around them. The free haggard,
The ripened hawk, its plumage outspread and full,
(Which is that woman that hath wing and knows it,
Spirit and plume) will make a hundred turns
To show her freedom, sail in every air,
And search out every pleasure, not regarding
Lure nor quarry, till her pitch command
What she desires, making her foundered keeper
Be glad to fling out golden lures of meat
To take her down again.

LIVIA: Thou art learned, sister;
Yet I say still, take heed.

MARIA: A witty saying.
I'll tell thee, Livia, had this fellow tired
As many wives as horses under him,
With spurring of their patience; had he got
A patent, with the right to reclaim us
Confirmed by Parliament; had he all the malice
And subtlety of devils (or ourselves),
Or anything that's worse than both—

LIVIA: Hey, hey, boys, this is excellent.

MARIA: Or could he
Cast his wives anew, like bells to make them
Sound to his will; or had the fearful name
Of the first breaker of wild women: yet,
Yet would I undertake this man, thus singly,
And spite of all the freedom he has reached to,
Turn him and bend him as I list, and mold him
Into a babe again, that aged women,
Wanting both teeth and spleen, may master him.

BIANCA: Thou wilt be chronicled.

MARIA: That's all I aim at.

LIVIA: I must confess, I do with all my heart
Hate an imperious husband, and in time
Might be so wrought upon.

BIANCA: To make him cuckold?

MARIA: If he deserve it.

LIVIA: There I'll leave ye, ladies.

BIANCA: Thou hast not so much noble anger in thee.

MARIA: Go sleep, go sleep, what we intend to do
Lies not for such starved souls as thou hast, Livia.

LIVIA: Goodnight: the bridegroom will be with you presently.

MARIA: That's more than you know.

LIVIA: If ye work upon him
As you have promised, ye may give example,
Which no doubt will be followed.


BIANCA: Good night: we'll trouble you no further.

MARIA: If you intend no good, pray do no harm.

LIVIA: None, but pray for you.

(Exit Livia)

BIANCA: What cheer, wench.

MARIA: Now, Bianca,
Those wits we have, let's wind them to the height,
My stakes are laid, wench, the hand I now draw
Will make me ever famous. They that lay
Foundations are half builders, all men say.

This playscript is Copyright © 1993
by Alexander & Ilene Gross. This excerpt
may be reproduced for individuals and for
educational purposes only. It may
not be performed or used for any
commercial (i.e., money-making)
purpose without written permission
from the author and his agent.
All Rights Reserved.

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