Taming of the Shrew Author/Context
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
William Shakespeare was born to Mary Arden and John Shakespeare in a small British town outside of London called Stratford-on-Avon. His exact date of birth is unknown, however, Shakespeare is believed to have been born on either the 22nd or 23rd of April in 1564. He was educated at the King's Free School of Stratford, where he studied the Bible and Latin, and soon married the older Anne Hathaway at age 18. It was now that he began to find writing poetry as a profession to support his family. They had a daughter Susanna, and twins, Judith and Hamnet. He began writing and finding different groups to perform his work, including the Admiral's Men, The Queen's Men, Pembroke's Men, and Lord Strange's Men. However, the Chamberlain's Men was the group of players in which he composed, produced, and performed many of his plays in the now-famous Globe Theater. He was compared to contemporary "scholars" such as Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe, the former who would be one of his greatest actors and the latter one of his greatest playwriting rivals.
Shakespeare is argued to have produced an incredibly large library of work, including 38 plays and countless sonnets. His plays are divided into four main sections: the Histories, the Tragedies, the Comedies, and the Romances. The Taming of the Shrew falls under the category of Comedy, for it consists of mistaken identity, slapstick characters, drunken behavior, and ends with (multiple) marriages, a staple of his comedies. His work has been produced since the Renaissance in all artistic mediums from the original theater to opera, symphony, film, and ballet. It has also been consistently revisited countless times by the same artistic medium because it is said to be timeless. Aside from being a perpetual player in most "Shakespeare in the Parks," The Taming of the Shrew has been made into the classic American film version starring Elizabeth Taylor and the more recent adaptation of the story into modern times in Ten Things I Hate About You.
The Taming of the Shrew may have been written for the raucous and common audience of Shakespeare's day, as opposed to his dramatic and tragic productions written for Queen Elizabeth. With so many comic characters, witty puns, costumes, and mistaken identity, The Taming of the Shrew seems a rowdy few hours of escape from the harsh existence of medieval daily life. According to Shakespeare scholar Ann Thompson, the plots are not too distant from those that popular at the time. "It is apparent, then, that both the main plot and the sub-plot of The Shrew present stories which would have been familiar to Shakespeare's audience either from oral tradition or from previous books and plays. The novelty and daring lie in the combination of two such different strands, the comparatively hard, dry classical plot and the more rumbustious earthy folktale."
Originally written as merely A Shrew, the first record of performance was printed by Peter Short and performed for the Earl of Pembroke by the Admiral's and the Chamberlain's Men in 1594. The version that is known today as The Taming of the Shrew was officially entered into the Stationer's Register in 1607 as The Taming of a Shrewe, along with fellow Shakespeare plays Loves Labour Loste and Romeo and Juliett.
Chambers, William. A Short Life of Shakespeare with the Sources. London: Oxford University Press, 1933.
Pearson, Hesketh. A Life of Shakespeare. New York: Walker and Company, 1961.
Shakespeare, William. Ed. Robert B. Heilman. The Taming of the Shrew. Signet Classic: New York, 1986.
Thompson, Ann, Editor. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1984.