In Defense of Kate and Petruchio
Why would any 21st century woman want to portray the role of Kate, if the play is about a man “beating a woman into submission?” Because this play isn’t about that. What is really a love story between two intelligent and strong characters frequently gets misinterpreted by too many productions, missing the point entirely. And it’s easy to misinterpret through the eyes of 21st-century artists.
Most of Shakespeare’s works were inspired by stories and other plays of the day. Another play performed in Shakespeare’s day was The Taming of A Shrew (author unknown) where a wife is literally tortured and brainwashed into thinking her neck will be wrung if she doesn’t obey and submit to her husband’s wishes. Shakespeare’s story of Kate and Petruchio offered his audience a radical view of mutual love and submission between men and women. In a time when women were kept silent and looked upon as property, and were married off for financial gain, Shakespeare gives his Kate the loudest and strongest voice (and longest speech of the play).
I’ll close with my favorite quote about these characters from Meryl Streep, who played Kate opposite Raul Julia’s Petruchio in New York in 1974:
“We accept a mother laying down her life for her children. Why can’t we lay down our lives for our husbands? Love is absolute selflessness. Why is it so hard for today’s audience to hear a woman say, ‘This is my life, my food, my happiness, my Lord, my everything.’”
I hope that amid the fun slap-stick, the wacky costumes, and the mistaken identities you’ll witness in this play, you’ll also see a modern-day love story.