Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

And so it begins!

~by Danielle Drakes
Education Outreach Coordinator 

Earlier this week I attended the first rehearsal for The Taming of the Shrew, Folger Theatre’s next production.  Having recently seen several interpretations of this well known play at our very successful Secondary School Festival last month, I was reminded that when we engage in a Shakespeare play it can always be different. For one, the infamous Induction scene which opens the play, is often played obligingly and with no real connection to the larger story. Or, other times it is cut entirely from the production. After all, its seems to exist as a way of framing the commedia used throughout the play contextualizing the use of yet, another way of storytelling.

To know this play, Taming, is to know that Shakespeare was saying something very specific about culture, gender roles, marriage, money, and power. Shakespeare intends to amuse by creating laughter. His edgy and profane poetry, in addition to using the commedia style, elevates our experience of the world that is created in (and around) Padua.

Yes, I have read the play. Seen the play. Talked about the play. However, before this week I had not actually heard the play. I listened to the this cast speak these words for the first time together seated around a table(not on stage, no costumes, and no set). Using only the words they were able to illuminate Shakespeare’s sense of play, conflict and a resolution that we can accept. OK, most of us. Particularly, if we can move through any strong feelings we own on one side of the coin, or the other,  we will pick up what Shakespeare was putting down. And when we do, we can enjoy language full of energy and vigor which is highly appropriate for a play that explores themes of aggression and physicality. As it happens—all jokes aside—Taming exists in a world where Kate and Petruchio actually work. After all, it’s a comedy.

Have you recently read or played with this text for a production of The Taming of the Shrew? What was your experience? What works for you and your students when reading around the table? How have you and your students understood the play by way of the language. Did you face any challenges?  with The Taming of the Shrew?

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