Between the Lines Book Club: A Taming of the Shrew Refresher

between the lines book club logoThis month we are reading Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler, for our Between the Lines Book Club. We will be discussing the book in person at Arden Dimick Library on May 20, 2017, at 10:30AM. Please note that we usually meet on the fourth Saturday of the month, but this month we are meeting on week early (May 20th).

Vinegar Girl is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. For those who need a refresher, here’s the play’s plot:

Taming of the Shrew is a play within a play – in the introduction, a drunkard who believes he is a lord is entertained with the main play.

In the town of Padua, there are two beautiful sisters. Bianca is sweet, but her older sister, Katherine, is a shrew. Their father insists that Katherine must marry before her sister does. Petruchio arrives from out of town and is enlisted to court Katherine by Petruchio’s friend, Hortensio. As if that were not complicated enough, Hortensio and his other friend, Lucentio, commence to disguise themselves as tutors named Lito and Cambrio. Lucentio’s servant is order to pretend to be Lecentio (who, you’ll recall, is pretending to be Cambio).

Petruchio charms Katherine by acting as though all her insults are compliments. She marries him, at which point he immediatly begins “taming” her by refusing her things like food, water and sleep because the food, beds, etc are “too good for her.” Meanwhile the courting of Bianca becomes more and more complicated, with yet more people being cajoled into pretending to be other people.

The final line up is this:

Hortensio + Rich Widow

Lucentio + Bianca

Petruchio + a tamed Katherine

Critics have been debating about the play since it debued. Is it ironic or sincere?  What can be said for sure is that is has some delightfully filthy witty banter:

Katherine: Mov’d! in good time! Let him that mov’d you hither
Remove you hence. I knew you at the first
You were a moveable.

Petruchio: Why, what’s a moveable?

Katherine: A join’d-stool.

Petruchio: Thou hast hit it. Come, sit on me.

Katherine: Asses are made to bear, and so are you.

Petruchio: Women are made to bear, and so are you.

Katherine: No such jade as you, if me you mean.

Petruchio: Alas, good Kate, I will not burden thee!
For, knowing thee to be but young and light-

Katherine: Too light for such a swain as you to catch;
And yet as heavy as my weight should be.

Petruchio: Should be! should- buzz

Katherine: Well ta’en, and like a buzzard.

Petruchio: O, slow-wing’d turtle, shall a buzzard take thee?

Katherina: Ay, for a turtle, as he takes a buzzard.

Petruchio: Come, come, you wasp; i’ faith, you are too angry.

Katherine: If I be waspish, best beware my sting.

Petruchio: My remedy is then to pluck it out.

Katherine: Ay, if the fool could find it where it lies.

Petruchio: Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting?
In his tail.

Katherine: In his tongue.

Petruchio: Whose tongue?

Katherine: Yours, if you talk of tales; and so farewell

Petruchio: What, with my tongue in your tail? Nay, come again,
Good Kate; I am a gentleman.

For a delightful documentary (with terrible sound quality) about the Meryl Streep – Raul Julia performance of the play, check this out!

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