Bethinking me of the Shrew, Kate, as I walked into work this morning a few things slipped around and into one of those patterns you always knew existed but couldn't quite see - if you don't plot them down, 'tis gone, 'tis gone, 'tis gone.
Shakespeare Geek (on his blog: http://blog.shakespearegeek.com/ )has been trying to find a quote to chain his spouse with - and is toying with Hotspur's words to another Kate - although he treat's her with apparent disdain, deep love lies under his words ... it's the sort of feeling and relationship which is so easy to miss when reading the text, but which leaps out at you when you see a pair of actors grappling with the words.
Hal, from the same play, as King Henry in Henry V has a conversation with 'Catherine' (yet another Kate!) which is also notoriously regarded as slight - until the actor gets it and unravels its complexities. Alan Howard, as reported in Martin White's Renaissance Drama in Action, had need to correct a critic who read only a light 'footnote' in the scene.
Which brings me to The Taming of the Shrew, and Katherina - and her 'submission' at the end of the play.
From what I remember of some Jungian reading I did once, part of the process of individuation - of becoming a complete human, a mature person, is the act of submission.
I have vague memories of knights and cleansing and Don Quixote in the courtyard moments.
Notice the idea is applicable across genders - it is not a woman submitting to a man, it is a human submitting to a greater thing.
That thing might be an idea, a society, a religion - it is a recognition though of a greater than ourself.
Until Kate submits, she cannot become Katherina - she remains unformed, incomplete as a human.
Kate must Stoop to Conquer - herself. Her submission allows her to see herself both as an individual and a part - a rounded personality.
I am wary of this pseudo-psychological explanation to the extent that, as Brook pointed out, it is a reduction of the text and the play - it is also an intellectualising of the emotions the actress (nowadays) must bring to the part. However, I can see a feasible sense of relief and release (with a deep sense of 'feeling completed' as the words are said) - working on the stage.
Brook also pointed out that the best thing to do is to Forget Shakespeare - so I'll hoist myself on a petard of my own creation, and ignore him (Brook, not Shakespeare).
There is a poem written around the time of Shakespeare, by John Donne: Batter my heart, three person'd God ...
It is a very remarkable, very disturbing and very powerful, some would say beautiful, poem. In it, Donne effectively asks to be 'ravished' - to be enslaved, abused and beaten, as the only way to become free, pure and saved.
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.
This wild paradox is also behind Katherina's submission - it remains a paradox, it remains disturbing, it remains mystical and ... dare I say it ... deeply satisfying and beautiful?
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On how Kate Conquers:
The key point, I think, in Kate's transformation through submission into Katherina, is that she ties a knot - binding herself to Petruccio AND Petruccio to herself.
I am reminded of the knot garden - an Elizabethan fashion reflecting a harmonious complexity, man ruled, but natural. Originally planted with aromatic herbs used for cooking and in medicine, it had a domestic purpose - so too with 'tying the knot' (as we still say in England) - with marriage.
And marriage, not love, is the point of 'The Taming of the Shrew'.
Petruccio makes it very clear in his first appearance:
Antonio, my father, is deceas'd,
And I have thrust myself into this maze,
Happily to wive and thrive as best I may.
Crowns in my purse I have, and goods at home,
And so am come abroad to see the world.
Unlike the 'Two Gentlemen of Verona' - who went not for love but education, and found love leading to marriage, Petruccio, as a consequence of his father's death, is now 'head' of the household - and in need of a wife. It is in a maze he seeks - indicating a complexity that belies the apparent rough crudity of the actual pursuit he undertakes. He is not poor (a point several critics and productions miss - although he seeks a wealth-bringing wife) - he has come to a place he knows and is known:
Verona, for a while I take my leave
To see my friends in Padua, but of all
My best beloved and approved friend,
so with single-minded determination, and with a knowledge of his 'self' that is important to understanding Katherina's conquest:
for I tell you, father,
I am as peremptory as she proud-minded;
And where two raging fires meet together,
They do consume the thing that feeds their fury
he sets about winning Kate's 'love'.
Two things are important - he knows, if he is successful, he will be changed - his fire will burn out, just like hers; and secondly, he is seeking an equal - who he is willing to treat equally. If he wants a big dowry - he offers equal - and assures her father of her security in the event of Petruccio's death:
After my death, the one half of my lands,
And in possession twenty thousand crowns.
And for that dowry, I'll assure her of
Her widowhood, be it that she survive me,
In all my lands and leases whatsoever.
Let specialties be therefore drawn between us,
That covenants may be kept on either hand.
If this sounds mercenary and loveless, it is not - it is the mechanics of arranged marriages. The 'covenants' bind both sides. A 'suitable' suitor is needed for a rich girl - a rich girl is needed for a rich husband - the knot tied with equal thicknesses of thread is stronger.
This knottedness, this interlocking is what Kate is signing up for when she submits at the end of the play.
Petruccio has said he will turn her from a wild Kate to a domestic Kate - but implied in that is a change in himself - he has come to wive it, after all.
Kate's speech of acceptance is not one sided - it lays duties on Petruccio.
When Katherina tells the widow:
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;
it is a double edged sword - these are responsibilities, these are duties more than privileges. They reflect the society in which they were written and a view of the hierarchical relationships thought to be needed for safety, comfort and love - but that doesn't take away the point that marriage is about wrapping yourself and your partner in the sort of knot that takes an Alexander with a sword to unravel. Kate 'ties the knot' and Petruccio willingly submits.
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