WIL Festival 5.1: “The Taming of the Shrew”

¶ Staging a performance of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” means managing ethics of conscription and of resistance. The role of Kate is appealing to many because she offers a full-throated and resistant character that third-wave Feminisms connect to, can conscript and inhabit. That is, until the last act and the infamous speech where she encourages the other brides, like herself, to put their hand under their husbands’ feet. How can a production recover Kate from being flattened by what we would now label as Stockholm Syndrome? Need we?

From left: Jessica Hirschhorn (Katherina), and Michael C. Jordan (Patruchio).

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July Blogroll: Pub Round-up Edition

Dear readers,

It has been a heck of a summer. With the sacrifice of but one rear tire, the cat, M, and I made the 2,500-mile trek from Illinois to Oregon in four days. In the meantime, a number of publications moved into their final stages or went to print. So this month, a round-up for my current and forthcoming publications with summaries that you won’t see in the final versions.

“A Race to the Roof: Cosmetics and Contemporary Histories in the Elizabethan Playhouse, 1592–1596.” Shakespeare Bulletin 34, no. 2 (Summer 2016): 193–217.

The inner stage technologies of the English Renaissance playhouse have been little studied due to the overriding assumption that they experienced little change. A crucial element in the architectural formula of these early, dedicated spaces was the Heavens, comprising a roof painted with the cosmos and a complex pulley system for suspending props and actors. Its addition necessitated other permanent features, including the upper stage or balcony and the two stage pillars—features that would fundamentally change the blocking options available in the plays of William Shakespeare and his contemporaries. In response to the limited critical conversation around the evolution of the Heavens, this essay first sketches a brief micro-history of this stage technology, and second, theorizes possible socio-economic factors that may have influenced its development. These nodes of possible influence include a boom in printed contemporaneous histories, a fad for Mediterranean plays, and the concomitant adoption of brownface stage paints. In doing so, I argue that the Heavens capitalized upon playgoers’ expanding shared knowledge of England’s place within a global history, and provided a cultural space in which to interrogate England’s changing relationship to its Mediterranean neighbors.

“The Chariot in II Tamburlaine, The Wounds of Civil War or Marius and Scilla, and The Reign of King Edward III.” Notes & Queries 63, no. 3 (September 2016): forthcoming September.

This brief lemma updates the staging history of the property recorded in Philip Henslowe’s Diary as the “charete,” links it with the publishing history of narrative about the Egyptian king, Sesoösis, and adds a hitherto unacknowledged play, the anonymous The Reign of Edward III, to the list of those employing this property on the early modern stage.

“Super Troupers; or, Supplemented Playing before 1594.” Shakespeare Studies 44 (2016): forthcoming September.

Considering the question, how did playhouses and the playing companies that toured them begin to work together in the 1580s, this paper returns to the problem of amalgamations. I will argue that supplemented playing was an irregular but recognizable feature of the pre-1594 marketplace, made available by the greater diversity of companies operating as well as an entertainment economy in which success was garnered more frequently through strategies of collaboration and duplication rather than competition and novelty. I focus on the record of the Lord Admiral’s players’ career from 1582 to 1594, a period frequently ignored due to the juicy data available in Philip Henslowe’s Diary after 1592. Surveying the scholarship on the ways in which the company did and did not collaborate, I chart the records of possible collaborative performances in order to posit which plays we know to have been in their repertory before 1594 could have been used for such performances. In so doing, I suggest that collaborative performance was a normal practice of the 1580s, pre-Shakespearean theatre industry.

“A Tale of Two Shrews: Recovering the Repertory of the Lord Pembroke’s Players.” The Journal of the Wooden O Symposium 14 (August 2016): forthcoming October.

When we talk about anonymously written plays, we often regard them as stuck out of time; we have no author, fallible or otherwise, on which to hang their intentions. One way of recovering a sense of those intentions is to place anonymous plays amongst their peers. Repertory study, or the method of analyzing the set of plays owned by a single playing company, is an old theatre history method for recovering our sense of the place of lost and anonymous plays within their historical moment, and now gone out of fashion. The anonymous A Pleasant Conceited Historie called The taming of a Shrew owned by the Lord Pembroke’s Players is one such text. Referred to as either a source or competing performance text in relation to William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, an analysis of the preferred manner of playing evident in the Pembroke repertory can situate the play in its moment rather than as derivative of the Shakespeare canon. By first sketching the some of the presentation strategies privileged by Pembroke’s Players, and then assessing the variations between A Shrew and The Shrew (with attention to their framing devices), my aim is to fill in some of the picture about what exactly about this shrew narrative made it competitive enough to warrant two in the same theatrical marketplace.

I have a couple reviews in the works, including that of the Portland Actors Ensemble summer season, Deke Weaver’s WOLF from last year in preparation for his forthcoming BEAR this fall, and editions of Brome’s A Jovial Crew and Wycherley’s The Country Wife. You can always stay up-to-date with these and other writing at academia.edu or elizabethetavares.com.

Best,
Elizabeth