This book looks closely at twelve of Shakespeare’s characters, who fit the theatrical archetype of ‘shrew’ (a noisy, argumentative or vocally defiant woman). It talks a little about the nature and details of the text, a little about the historic context in which they were first performed, but mostly about the way they have appeared on stage over the last twenty years or so. It argues that a society’s attitude to women is revealed in the way theatrical practitioners choose to interpret and perform female characters who don’t conform to feminine ideals of compliance and voicelessness. It gives examples of productions that have demonised, diminished or dismissed these characters, and others that have celebrated their subversive qualities.
Published by Palgrave Macmillan in their Shakespeare Studies series. Available from the publisher here. Only in hardback, at this time.
“Whenever Shakespeare wrote a ‘shrew’ into one of his plays he created a character who challenged ideas about acceptable behaviour for a woman. This is as true today as when the plays were first performed. A shrew is a woman who refuses to be quiet when she is told to be, who says things that people do not want to hear. She is constructed to alleviate male anxieties through ridicule, but like so many objects of comedy or derision, she is full of power because of her very ability to generate these anxieties. ‘Shrew’ is supposed to be an insult, but has often been used to describe women enacting behaviour that can be brave, clever, noble or just. This book marries an examination of Shakespeare’s shrews in his plays with their history in recent performance, to investigate our own attitudes to hearing women with defiant voices.”
Characters examined include Constance (King John), Kate Percy (Henry IV), Joan of Arc and Margaret of Anjou (Henry VI), Adriana (Comedy of Errors), Katherine (Taming of the Shrew), Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing), Goneril (King Lear), Emilia (Othello), Isabella (Measure for Measure), Marina (Pericles), Paulina (Winter’s Tale).
I also have a chapter on innovative methods for teaching Shakespeare to students and novice actors, “Teaching with Cue Scripts: Making the Most of Fear in the Student Actor”, in this book: