The Latin Lesson and the Domestication of Learning in The Taming of the Shrew
Thomas Moisan, Saint Louis University
Sly. Is not
a comonty a Christmas gambold, or a
Page. No, my good lord, it is more pleasing
Sly. What, household stuff?
Page. It is a kind of history.
Sly. Well, we'll see't.
(Taming of the Shrew, Induction 2.137-42)1
Titus. Soft, so busily she turns the leaves!
What would she find? Lavinia, shall I read?
This is the tragic tale of Philomel,
And treats of Tereus' treason and his rape—
And rape, I fear, was root of thy annoy.
Demetrius. What's here? a scroll, and written
[Reads] "Integer vitae, scelerisque purus,
Non eget Mauri jaculis, nec arcu."
Chiron. O, 'tis a verse in Horace, I know it
I read it in the grammar long ago.
(Titus Andronicus, 4.1.45-49, 4.2.18-23)
That there are advantages to knowing one's Ovid, and that there are, conversely, considerable disadvantages in having forgotten one's Horace, and that there is dramatic capital to be made out of both facts are all truths Shakespeare put to use in Titus Andronicus, and from which in contexts and with consequences less grim, he derives profit in other plays, where characters operating from positions of linguistic inequality negotiate unevenly with each other along the linguistic and cultural frontier of translation. We have a celebrated example of the political uses of such inequality and translation in Henry's courtship of Katherine in Henry V (5.2.98-280), a memorably comic Latin grammarcum-Welsh pronunciation lesson in The Merry Wives of Windsor (4.1.7-85), and a less celebrated but no less interesting tutorial in the scene that provides the locus of this paper, the Latin lesson of 3.1 in The Taming of the Shrew, the exchange between Lucentio and Bianca in which Lucentio, scion of the conventional "devious lover" figure Shakespeare inherited from his putative source Gascoigne and through him Italian and Roman comedy,2 is disguised as a Latin tutor and seeks to court Bianca both under the increasingly anxious surveillance of his disguised rival and pseudomusic tutor Hortensio and, literally, "between the lines" of the Ovidian text he pretends to be teaching her. It is a scene less notable for what happens than for what does not happen: for the language instruction not given, for the translation of Ovid not made, and for the seduction of Bianca that gets at least partially deflected and deferred; and it derives a good measure of its humor from our sense of it as an exercise in pedagogical harassment and manipulation thwarted, manipulation of a literal sort if, following the suggestion of at least one editor, we include Hortensio's overly zealous fingering of exercises as part of what gets thwarted,3 manipulation of a more subtle and intellectual kind.in.the form of Lucentio's attempt to exploit his position as tutor, not only to gain access to Bianca, but to use the very foreignness of the Latin text, and the powerful license of the translator both to disregard what the text says and make it say what he wants it to say, as a mask and vehicle for his overture to Bianca, interpolating seduction both between and in place of the lines.
In what is to follow I would suggest that precisely for all that does not happen in it, the "translation" scene offers an illumination of the play of which it would seem but a marginal moment and of the social issues and tensions that traverse that play. When read against the backdrop of contemporary concerns over the uses and abuses of learning, particularly classical learning, and especially when applied to the education of women, the scene presents a tavesty of what happens when learning and what Sly calls "household stuff" collide,4 when Latin becomes a part of Baptista's domestic decor and an extension of his attempt to keep his daughters a part of that decor. At the same time, in a play set so self-consciously in a "foreign" land, the Latin lesson exemplifies the uses of things foreign, and in particular the domestication of foreign language, throughout the play, offering a comic peek at the acculturating power of translation, and a comic rehearsal of that process of cultural expropriation in which Nietzsche would assign translation a central part, whereby a culture "vergangene Zeiten und Bucher sich einzuverleiben sucht," "seeks to embody past epochs and books into its own being."5
Above all, however, in the degree to which it could be argued that the translation scene contributes to Bianca's social development, it evokes contemporary critics' worst fears about the corruptive potential of learning in general and theater in particular, and recalls other moments in the Shrew in which the play seems at once to embrace a didactic function only to allegorize its own didactic insufficiency and insincerity,6 its very indebtedness to the conventions of Roman comedy a cheerful affiliation with a form cited by detractors and apologists of the stage alike in debating the role of plays, and plays in translation, in propagating "family values." So it is, for example, that in the Prologue to his "prodigal son" play, The Glasse of Gouernement (1575), George Gascoigne, whose Supposes is commonly taken as one of the sources of Shakespeare's Shrew, simultaneously proclaims his play a morally instructive "tragicall Comedie" and renounces the very tradition by which a play like Supposes had been nourished:
A comedie, I meane for to present,
No Terence phrase: his tyme and mine are
The verse that pleasde a Romaine rashe
Might well offend the godly Preachers vayne.7
On the other hand, in the Dedication of the 1598 printing by John Legate of Terence's translated plays, Terence, presented as "a Latin author taught to speake English," is alliteratively hailed as "a comicall Poet pithie, pleasant, and very profitable," whose "fraudulent flatterer," "grimme and greedie old Sire," "roysting ruffian," "minsing mynion," and "beastly bawd" were all intended by their creator, and translated into English, to show us how "to avoid such vices, and learne to practise vertue," so that the readers of these plays may safely "vse them, & not as most doe such autors, abuse them."8
Indeed, purveying seduction under the cloak of learning, the translation scene might be taken to epitomize what Philip Stubbes saw as the peculiarly pedagogical mendacity of theater, which Stubbes derides with incantatory vehemence, not simply for its failure to inculcate the good it pretends to teach, but for its success in teaching "al kinde of sinne and mischeef': "if you will learne cosenage: if you will learne to deceiue: if you will learne to play the Hipocrit: to cogge, lye and falsuffie: if you will learne … to sing and talke of bawdie loue and venery … you neede to goe to no other schoole, for all these good Examples, may you see painted before your eyes in enterludes and playes."9 In short in a play the central fable of which concerns and celebrates the "taming of a shrew," the domestication of learning in the translation lesson might well be "constered" as a practicum and frame for the training of a shrew.
And, to be sure, read simply as a piece of dramatic action, the scene stands as a "defining moment" in the relationship of Lucentio and Bianca and in the representation of Bianca's character, with the dynamics of the exchange an adumbration of what Lucentio will and, more significantly, will not gain by the end of the play, and with Bianca's behavior the first clear indication that she is not the passive "blank" her name suggests and everyone, or, rather, every male, seems to suppose. In turn, the scene has invited interpretive comment as but exhibit "A" in a reading of the play that would take the relationship of Lucentio and Bianca as but a transparent foil for and vindication of the relationship of Petruchio and Katherina, and, pace Stubbes, would "conster" Bianca's education as miseducation and license for connubial corruption, her classroom a school for the wrong kind of wife.10
Nor, though, does the significance of the scene end there. For in a play that, as Marianne L. Novy has put it, "gives lip service to patriarchy and victory to youth,"11 the genuinely undercover advances of Lucentio, bearing a text intoning the ruination Priami regia celsa senis (3.1.29), of "the lofty palace of Priam the ancient" [italics mine],12 "beguile" and subvert the intentions of two representatives of the older set: the patriarch Baptista, whose professed and self-congratulatory desire to be "liberal" in his daughters' upbringing leads him to bring "[s]choolmasters" into his house in the first place (1.1.91-99); and the "old pantaloon" Gremio, who funds his own amatory undoing by providing his rival Lucentio with both the access and the erotic instructional materials through which to court Bianca in his employer's stead (1.2.144-47). So too, in its use of a Latin lesson as camouflage for Lucentio's pursuit of Bianca, the translation scene epitomizes the uses, or misuses, to which education and formal "learning" are put throughout the play, with educational projects and the value of learning invoked only to be genially disregarded, subordinated to other plans, or simply, and just as genially, trashed, the ridicule to which they are subjected personified in the stock figure of the hapless, and perhaps spurious "Pedant" who fecklessly wanders into the play just in time to provide fodder for one of the "wily servant" Tranio's schemes.13 "O this learning, what the thing it is, the deluded Gremio exclaims as the disguised and newly hired Lucentio promises to use all of the "words" at his scholarly disposal, and in the books Gremio has provided, to "plead" love to Bianca; "O this woodcock," notes Grumio in editorial aside, "what an ass it is" (1.2.159-60). Let's not be "so devote to Aristotle's checks / As Ovid be an outcast quite abjured" (1.1.32-33), the canny Tranio admonishes his master, Lucentio, upon their arrival in Padua at the outset of Act 1, as the latter declares his commitment to study with a becoming junior-year-abroad zeal and comparable credibility:14 "In brief, sir, study what you most affect" (40), and Bianca's Latin lesson, with Ovid as primer, is the result.
Indeed, and much to our purpose here, in the degree to which the translation scene brings briefly to the foreground the treatment of education and formal learning in the Shrew, it reminds us of the prominence in the play of more practical educational projects and brings into metonymic focus the curiously synergetic, and ultimately, I would argue, parasitic relationship in the play of the educational and domestic. Now, at a glance, the vectors in this relationship seem to go decidedly in one direction, with much of the "bounded" or domestic space we encounter in the play employed as classrooms of one sort or another, and with many of the "things" we encounter, the semiology of which Lena Cowen Orlin has exhaustively parsed,15 from books and musical instruments, to clothing and even quasi-, or not so quasi-, pornographic paintings, deployed as materials in broadly defined exercises in pedagogical outreach, in teaching lessons and—with a nod to the humanist elision of intellectual and moral formation—inculcating and modifying certain behaviors.16 One obvious effect of this association in the play is, of course, the conversion of the domestic, and particularly its localization as domicile, into an arena for the care, feeding, and augmentation of masculine and patriarchalist control. Hence, Petruchio's house becomes the location of his "taming-school," to which Kate is taken, most unwillingly, to matriculate and, as Petruchio had threatened earlier, to domesticate her, "to bring her from a wild Kate to a Kate / Conformable as other household Kates" (2.1.277-78); and it is Petruchio's house to which Hortensio, a failed suitor and soon-to-be failed tamer, resorts as a not terribly apt auditor and would-be "patriculator" (4.2.50-58), while the banquet over which Lucentio presides at the end of the play reconstitutes itself as a public examen for the three new wives, the ultimate pass-fail, no-partial-credit test in which the only lesson for which the wives are responsible is that of obedience. In contrast to Gaston Bachelard's "topophiliac" reading of bounded space as "protective" and intimate,17 the Shrew comically dramatizes the domestic as a site for contestation and an apparatus for indoctrination, a decidedly unprotective and vulnerable space, its atmosphere embodied in the cryogenic cold which Grumio brings into Petruchio's house from outside, but which the interior of Petruchio's house neither repels nor soon, or soon enough for Grumio, at least, dispels (4.1.1-45).
At the same time, though educational projects of a practical and social nature have a way of encroaching upon domestic space in the Shrew, it is also true that what the play, or what Sly calls in that interesting elision, the "comonty," transacts is the domestication, not only of Kate as one more, as Petruchio punningly classifies her, "household Kate," 18 but of learning itself, with the simultaneous commodification and transformation of the objectives and processes of education into "things," and "things" for the home. We get a socially satiric hint of this "reifying" commodification—and its corruptive potential—in the Induction, when the meddling Lord, having ordered his men to carry the inert Sly to his "fairest chamber," instructs them to deck out the room with "all my wanton pictures," the better to persuade Sly that he really is a lord (Induction 1.46-47). And the hint is amplified in the play proper when Gremio, who seems to hope that Bianca will prove the sort of bibliophile who does, indeed, judge a book by its cover, insists that the books—"[a]ll books of love"—which he is going to have the disguised Lucentio use as his texts be "very fairly bound" and "very well perfum'd" (1.2.144-45, 151-52). "O this learning, what a thing [italics mine] it is!"
No less a "thing" is language instruction, and in representing Baptista's attempt to include it among his "household stuff," the play could be said simply to reflect what R. C. Simonini, Jr. described some time ago as the "vogue of foreign language study" cultivated in aristocratic and middle-class households from the middle of the sixteenth century19—though with a distinctly satiric lens. For, to extrapolate from the evidence of the translation scene, Latin instruction domesticated is traditional Latin instruction traduced, and offers little to allay the misgivings of the age about the wisdom of educating women—Roger Ascham's paean to the scholastic virtues of his star pupil Elizabeth notwithstanding 20—and much to underscore the truth in the contemporary William Vaughan's truism that "A tutor should not be overfriendly with his student."21 "Proposterous ass," Lucentio, the fake classics tutor, chides Hortensio, the fake music tutor, at the outset of the scene, in an attempt to browbeat his rival into letting him deliver his Latin "lecture" to Bianca before her music lesson (3.1.9-14), and in doing so strikes the keynote for the genuinely "preposterous"22 inversions of decorum that mark the ensuing "lesson." "I am no breeching scholar in the schools," Bianca declares, arrogating to herself the authority to dictate the order and schedule of her lessons, and dropping a hint, in the process, of the terms to which she would expect any subsequent, nonacademic relationship to adhere. "I'll not be tied to hours nor 'pointed times, / But learn my lessons as I please myself (3.1.18-20), an echo, we will recall, of the hedonistic notion of curriculum Tranio had recommended to Lucentio, but also a fundamental contravention of the role of the student and of the conditions by which students were expected to abide, the severity and regimentation of which have been amply documented by T. W. Baldwin and, quite recently, by J. W. Binns.23 Moreover, in pointedly reminding her pseudotutors of what, in the dramatic context, one would imagine should have been quite obvious, namely that she is "no breeching scholar," which most editors have glossed as meaning "a schoolboy liable to be flogged," 24 Bianca exempts herself from the culture of violence which, as Roger Ascham's pleas in The Schoolmaster for more gentle tactics only confirm,25 was integral to Latin instruction and, of course, to the upbringing of children in general. "[I]f you forget your qui's, your quae's, and your quod's," Sir Hugh Evans admonishes his student William in The Merry Wives of Windsor, "you must be preeches" (4.1.77-78); or, as Vaughan much more menacingly declares, "[R]ods are expedient for the chastisement of the corruptions of the soul." 26 Dictating the conditions of her tutelage, Bianca simultaneously prescribes its form and adopts a rhetorical posture far more like that of the pedagogue than pupil as she interrogates Lucentio as to the place in the text where they left off and commands him to "conster" it (3.1.26-30).
And if, as Walter J. Ong has argued, the normative conventions for the inculcation of Latin functioned as a masculine puberty rite, reinscribing masculine dominance in the authority and exclusionary eloquence of Latin discourse,27 then Bianca's inversion of the roles of teacher and student has inevitable gender implications as well, and alerts us to the hints of gender inversion that inflect the characterizations of Lucentio and Bianca at various moments in the play, hints lodged inconspicuously and untranslated in various bits and pieces of classical reference with which the verbal surface of the Shrew is laden. One instance, and, perhaps, a comic warning of the power of classical learning to inculcate incorrect, or culturally inappropriate lessons, especially in weak minds, comes very early in the play when Lucentio tries his hand at classical analogy by way of Vergil to demonstrate the extremity of his immediate infatuation with Bianca, "confessing" to Tranio,
That art to me as secret and as dear
As Anna to the Queen of Carthage was,
Tranio, I burn, I pine, I perish, Tranio,
If I achieve not this young modest girl.
Moreover, Lucentio's association of himself with one of Renaissance authors' favorite classical avatars of female victimization is interestingly underscored in the First Folio text of the play when, quoting, or misquoting, a theatrical progenitor in Terence, Tranio invokes the reassuring tag, "Redime te captarti quam queas minimo" (1.1.159), with the feminine form "captam," which in the dramatic context modifies Lucentio, appearing in place of the masculine accusative form, "captum"—though most modern editors "correct" the Folio and restore the masculine form.28 And if classical analogy has provided Lucentio with a feminine association, symmetry demands reciprocity for Bianca, which is what she may receive at the end of the translation scene, when the spurned Hortensio, sensing that he has been bested by his Latin teacher rival, follows misogynist tradition in directing his deepest resentment at the woman, vowing renunciation if Bianca has "cast thy wandering eyes on every stale" (3.1.88); though generally taken as a hawking reference in which Bianca plays the hawk to Lucentio's decoy pigeon, the image, particularly with its epithet "wandering," also evokes the figure of the peregrine hero of classical lore, Dido's "pious" victimizer, Aeneas, for example, or, more likely, in the context of this scene, the wandering worthy who figures so prominently in the text Lucentio has not been translating, Ulysses, a reading that brings the slighting reference to Lucentio as a "stale" into proximity with another "common" contemporary valence of the word, that of "prostitute."29
At the same time, to give ear to such possibilities in the classical periphery is to find more equivocal and ludic the representation of gender at the heart of the translation scene. For even as the Shrew, as a number of critics in recent years have compellingly argued, calls attention to its own theatricality, 30 so does it make it more difficult for its audience to differentiate the female character Bianca from the boy actor and theatrical apprentice playing her, and, thus, a more complex matter to accept unblinkingly Bianca's assertion that she is "no breeching scholar." Heard in this way, Bianca's remark bears a double resonance and two-fold blatancy: a blatant defiance of the prevailing rules for young scholars, and a blatant lie, since it is clear to everyone that the actor uttering this line has, in fact, much more in common with the "breeching scholar" than with the young woman Bianca. The hint that Bianca is not precisely what she seems only echoes, of course, the duplicity in which Lucentio and Hortensio are engaged in the scene and infuses it with the sort of liberating, transgressive energy which one associates with a fabliau, and that percolates throughout the Shrew, providing an insurgent counternote to the socially prescriptive and patriarchalist fantasy that is its central fable. In a play which, we have become accustomed to acknowledging, absorbs as a central motif the image of "supposing" from its source in Gascoigne's play, Supposes,31 the intramural contention of the Latin lesson reminds us of the recurrence in the play of a more transgressive variation on "supposing" in the image of "facing," assuming a mask or pose and defiantly maintaining a lie, "braving," or "facing the matter out," as Katherina accuses Petruchio of doing in the previous scene when he insists to Baptista and all of the assembled suitors that Katherina has given her consent to have him as a husband (2.1.289). "Where is that damned villain, Tranio, / That fae'd and braved me in this matter so" (5.1.108-9), demands Lucentio's father, Vincentio, after Tranio had, to his master's face, clung to his assumed identity as Lucentio, thus denying his own servitude and his master's mastery (5.1.63-111). "Sirrah, I will not bear these braves of thine," the out-faced Hortensio tells his rival tutor at the outset of the Latin scene, momentarily dropping his own mask as just another hired music tutor to assume the posture of social superiority scorned (3.1.15). In the "in-your-face" domestic anomie of the Latin lesson scene, where the exercise of translation becomes a vehicle for misrepresentation, Bianca's interlinear skepticism, "I trust you not" (3.1.43), affords the aptest rendering of and gloss upon the text Lucentio is purveying.
And, of course, Bianca's distrust might be affected by her familiarity with the language that is not being taught her. To be sure, part of the comically trasgressive energy released in this scene arises both from our sense that we cannot be certain who knows more, or less, about Latin here, the tutor or the "tutee," or whether, to paraphrase Casca, the Latin in question is equally Greek to both, and also from the possibility that we as audience, and as critics, are being teased and "braved" as much as the characters onstage. In, for example, his compendious assault upon the questions of how much Latin Shakespeare could have known and how and when he was likely to have learned it, T. W. Baldwin speculates in passing that the selection of the first epistle in Ovid's Heroides as Lucentio's text would imply that in her Latin competence Bianca was at the level of a fifth or sixth former,32 a plausible surmise if we assume that finding a text appropriate to Bianca's grade level was important either to Lucentio or to his employer Gremio, whose mix of priorities seems to comprise "small Latine," more eros. Still, even if Bianca can translate little or nothing of her Latin text, and is impervious both to the possible corruptions, textual, that is, which editors have noted in the Ovidian text Lucentio is using and to possible lapses in Lucentio's erudition,33 it is clear that she does at least know enough about the rhetoric of learned disputation to be a credit to Baptista's humanist educational pretensions and to be able to translate her own suspicions and resistance into the patter of academic discourse. Seizing upon what may in fact be a questionable piece of commentary by Lucentio in identifying the grandson of Aeacus as Ajax rather than Achilles,34 Bianca employs the rhetoric of academic quibbling to express her emotional suspicions:
I must believe my master; else, I promise you,
I should be arguing still upon that doubt.
Evincing no hard evidence that either mentor or pupil knows much about the language, or text, in question, the Latin lesson may offer the most immaculate demonstration of the license of translation, translation so unfettered as to owe nothing to its original at all!
In this respect, however, the translation exercise stands as but the most sustained example in the Shrew of the role and treatment generally accorded the various snippets of foreign language that dot especially the early portions of the play. If, as Benjamin observes, "translation is only a somewhat provisional way of coming to terms with the foreignness of languages,"35 the non-translation and not infrequently incorrect transcriptions in the Shrew of foreign language have the effect of italicizing that foreignness, of rendering the language quoted less important for what it communicates than for the use to which its "foreignness' and failure to communicate can be put. In part, the invocation of foreign expressions provides a conventionally comic instrument of social intimidation and oneupmanship, a means of asserting an otherwise inconspicuous or non-existent superiority, and as such plays its part in detonating the class and generational rivalries that define the subtext of the Shrew. "Therefore paucas pallabris" (Induction. 1.5), commands the debt-evading Sly in "facing" down his creditor, the Hostess, underscoring his bogus claim to nobility and descent from "Richard Conqueror" (sic) with an equally bogus command of Spanish,36 while the rich "pantaloon" Gremio, certifying his kinship with stock senex figures, summons a stock piece of comically pretentious faux latinity in a futile attempt to assert the dignity of his age and wealth against the importunate advances of Petruchio, who has jumped the courtship queue in his haste to claim Katherina: "Backare! you are marvellous forward" (2.1.73).37 On the other hand, we have those gratuitous interjections in Italian which seem so much a sort of linguistic "dress-ups," and which in calling attention to themselves as interjections make their grammatical imperfections seem all the more evident, as in Tranio's First Folio remark, "Me pardonato," which a number of editors sedulously correct and print as "Mi perdonato" (1.1.25). Now, one editor, H. J. Oliver, in allowing the First Folio readings of this and other pieces of incorrect Italian to stand, notes that such interventions, errors notwithstanding, are still "good enough to give the illusion that the speakers are Italian";38 I would suggest, however, that, quite to the contrary, they serve to show that the speakers are not Italian, and that their linguistic forays only accentuate their English-ness and the robustly domestic agenda of this play, which acknowledges its "foreign" setting and theatrical pedigree only to distance itself from them, even as the discourse of classical learning and allusion is at once translated into and domesticated by the "household stuff of the abortive Latin lesson.
Still, notable as the translation scene may be for what does not occur and what does not get translated, the text it leaves largely ignored and encased within its un- or mistranslated Latin looms nonetheless large over it, complicating our sense of what the scene does transact, and, indeed, becoming more conspicuous in it the more it is "effaced" by Lucentio's interlinear glosses and Bianca's deflections of them. What significance that text has is open, of course, to some question. For though in bringing Ovid into Baptista's home, Lucentio would seem to be satisfying both his own amorous designs and his employer's specifications concerning the content of Bianca's instructional materials, yet the particular text Lucentio selects here, the First Epistle of the Heroides, is probably not the sort of Ovid which Gremio had in mind, or from which sprang Ovid's lurid reputation among sundry Renaissance commentators, such as Vives, who warns women in particular to shun the corruptions, nontextual, of Ovid's more licentious books "like as of serpents or snakes."39 Instead, for Erasmus, at least—whose colloquy, A Mery Dialogue, Declaringe the Propertyes of Shrowde Shrewes, and Honest Wyves, has been cited as "either a source or an analogue" for the Shrew—40 "the Heroides are more chaste," and offer matter more suitable for "callow youth" than Ovid's "amatoriae, " and Erasmus even singles out "the epistle of Penelope to Ulysses," the very one Lucentio pretends to translate, as "wholly chaste."41 In fact, at a glance, a text centered on the proverbially patient and faithful Penelope might seem intended simply to provide an ironic counterpoint to the rather less patient and coolly uncommitted Bianca.
Yet behind such incongruities lie interesting congruencies between the Latin lesson and the text it does not teach, and with them a demonstration of some interesting uses of literary domestication. To have occasion to juxtapose Penelope and Bianca is, of course, to recognize an obvious if comic parallel between their dramatic situations, and in the degree to which Bianca's deft negotiation of the "lessons" of her imported and self-appointed tutors evokes Penelope's deft deflection of the advances of her self-invited suitors, it also permits us to recall the genuine interweaving of art and domesticity that forms the "fabric" of Penelope's delaying strategy, with Penelope's daily weaving followed by nightly unweaving a paradigmatic example of the commodification of art and of the uses to which one can put even a text that isn't there. Indeed, in the only lines from Ovid's text that actually surface in the Latin lesson scene, art and the domestic literally commingle, with the recollected description of Troy and Priam's ruined palace the effluence of dinner-table conversation, and a picture outlined with a little wine:
atque aliquis posita monstrat fera proelia mensa,
pingit et exiquo Pergamo tota mero:
'hac ibat Simois; haec est Sigeia tellus;
hic steterat Priami regia celsa senis.
["And someone about the board shows thereon the fierce combat, and with scant tracing of wine pictures forth all Pergamum: 'Here flowed the Simois; this is the Sigeian land; here stood the lofty palace of Priam the ancient."]
Still, what this detail only serves to underscore and metonymize is the larger act of literary domestication that turns the heroic into the Heroides, distilling and framing the epic narrative of The Odyssey within the rhetorical agenda of Epistle I and Penelope's writing chamber, and ostensibly giving voice to Penelope's point of view. Yet domestication can be an instrument of manipulation, and, to recall an earlier speculation, did Bianca actually know Latin and the Heroides, all the more might she be inclined to say, "I trust you not," in part, perhaps, because of Lucentio's handling of the Ovidian text, but in part because of the text itself. For one thing, though Ovid's poem enables Penelope to tell Ulysses what life has been like in Ithaca without him, the only part of her epistle that Lucentio chooses for translation is, as we have seen, a mere piece of scenery, a part of Penelope's account of an account of the ruined Troy, significant in its new context at most, as we have noted, as a humorous hint of the subversion of the patriarch's best laid plans. Decontextualized, the excerpt helps to deconstruct its original. For in a play that culminates in Katerina's bet-winning celebration of a domestic order that envisions the husband committing "his body / To painful labour both by sea and land," while his wife lies "warm at home, secure and safe (5.2.149-51), Lucentio's selection has the effect of silencing and suppressing a radically different and far unhappier perspective on the domestic arrangement Katherina's exposition dutifully idealizes.
On the other hand, the decontextualization produced by Lucentio's excerpt is but an extension of the decontextualization and deconstruction that mark Ovid's expropriation of epic history, and reminds us that Troy domesticated is Troy miniaturized and trivialized, with all of Pergamum inscribed on a table with, and within, a little wine, the circumscription of its boundaries mirrored by the linguistic framing of Ovid's word order: "exiquo Pergamo tota mero " (32). With the field of epic exploits reduced, the focus on Penelope's domestic sufferings is intensified, though it is surely debatable whether Penelope profits from the scrutiny and from having her sufferings and endurance translated into a one hundred and sixteen line letter of concentrated complaint. Given a voice, Penelope is also given all of the rhetorical dexterity at Ovid's disposal with which to be made to appear to "lay a guilt trip" on her errant husband, as when she poses a rhetorical question laced with praeterition to give an ironic pointedness to her enumeration of some of the most oppressive results of Ulysses' being "shamefully absent," "turpiter absens":
quid tibi Pisandrum Polybumque Medontaque
Eurymachique avidas Antinoique manus
atque alios referam, quos omnis turpiter absens
ipse tuo partis sanguine rebus alis?
["Why tell you of Pisander, and of Polybus, and of Medon the cruel, and of the grasping hands of Eurymachus and Antinous, and of others, all of whom through shameful absence you yourself are feeding fat with store that was won at cost of your blood?"]
In the process of Ovid's "translation," that is, the patient, prudent Penelope of Homer emerges as someone distinctly more petulant, and in the degree to which she is both possessed of considerable rhetorical sophistication and an inclination to use it to upbraid her husband, she is invested with a kinship with a character-type who for Elizabethan readers would have been a most recognizable domestic literary commodity, the querulous wife.
And, indeed, that kinship is amplified in the translation of the Heroides with which it is generally agreed that Shakespeare would have been familiar, George Turbervile's, first published in 1567, and republished several times before the period most often assigned to the composition of the Shrew.42 In part, that amplification could be attributed to the sheer amplitude and, as Frederick Boas notes in his edition of Turbervile's translation, the characteristically Elizabethan taste for pleonasm that mark Turbervile's style, doubling the one hundred and sixteen lines of complaint Penelope recites in Ovid, and turning the rhetorical question cited above (91-94) into two sentences and twice the number of lines.43
More important, while staying close to Ovid's language, with "renderings" that are, as Boas expresses it, "comparatively seldom wrong,"44 Turbervile nonetheless exploits the license of the translator to editorialize, and nudges his readers towards seeing the story of the epistle as one of wifely jealousy. As Deborah Greenhut has contended,45 such are the thrust, and almost literally, the "bottom line" of the "Argument" Turbervile appends to his translation (2), and he reinforces the point in translating the pseudo-Ovidian "Replie" by Ulysses, noting in the "Argument" of that piece the judgment that in the "Replie" Ulysses "quittes himselfe of all such blame / As by his wife imputed was," and that "[w]hat so she did object to him, / The Greeke reanswered very trim" (310.5-8). And if, again, Turbervile augments the suggestion of complaint in Penelope's rhetorical question simply by lengthening it, he simultaneously leaves untranslated the participial phrase in Ovid that gives Penelope's lament its bite, namely, "turpiter absens" (93), thus suppressing any reminder that the "absent" Ulysses may by being absent have done something, not only to occasion Penelope's distress, but to warrant her censure, while excising from Penelope's conjugal grief its implicit appeal to conjugal justice.
"Familiarizing" Penelope, Turbervile, in turn, conceives of the process of translation in the language of domestic consumption, repeatedly invoking the conventional rhetoric of self-effacement, with the odd effect, on the one hand, of accentuating the distance between the Ovidian original and his own rendering of it, while, at the same time, making his own product seem more modest, more familiar, more accessible, more, again, in Petruchio's punning words, "[c]onformable as other household Kates" (2.1.278). So it is that, in a fit of literary anorexia, Turbervile hopes that his patron, Sir Thomas Howard, will prove the sort of lord who is willing to accept "slender gyfts," seeks Howard's protection for "my slender Muse" (v-vi), concedes in defending his translation against "the Captious Sort of Sycophantes" that his translation is a "thing but slender" (342), and invites his "Reader" to join him in a "slender" and "base banquet"(ix).
As an example, then, of the ways in which literary translation interacts with the pressure of cultural domestication, Penelope's Epistle hovers conspicuously about the translation scene of the Shrew as its unvoiced lesson, as one more intrusive, albeit invisible, tutor. And though in leaving this text untranslated and its lesson unvoiced, the scene would seem to resist the pressure of domestication, in fact, it could be argued that that pressure is simply deflected and comically displaced onto the very next scene, the wedding scene, where Petruchio mockingly dons the "face" of heroic rescuer in order to justify his determination to yank the unwilling Katherina peremptorily away from Baptista's wedding banquet:
Draw forth thy weapon, we are beset with
Rescue thy mistress if thou be a man.
—Fear not, sweet wench, they shall not touch
I'll buckler thee against a million.
Here, of course, in one of the moments that illuminate the antipaternalist subtext of the play, Petruchio disrupts the domestic rites of the father in order to assert his own rights as husband, though in doing so he parodically supplies the ending Penelope's Epistle in the Heroides lacks, in effect restoring the epic version of the ending, with its classically violent restoration of domestic tranquility through the thieving-guest-slaughtering return of Odysseus.
Indeed, far from resisting the pressure of domestication, the translation scene could be said to signal a total capitulation to it, with the lessons it teaches having nothing to do with "learning" as such and everything to do with the configurations of behavior that define the relations and circumscriptions of the sexes—and, more precisely, the circumscription of the female sex—in this insistently domestic play. And if, as we have seen, the scene travesties some of the norms of instruction and seems to invert the roles of student and teacher, in doing so it also translates the student into the studied, leaving us on our own to speculate on what Bianca may have learned from the behavior of Lucentio, while italicizing, rather as a piece of ekphrasis, what Hortensio, at least, as we have noted above, has learned from his observation of Bianca.
Yet if thy thoughts, Bianca, be so humble
To cast thy wandering eyes on every stale,
Seize thee that list; if once I find thee,
Hortensio will be quit with thee by changing.
Not for Hortensio is it to think with detachment about the parallels between Bianca and the classical personage whose letter does not get translated, any more, of course, than it would have been for Medon, Eurymachus, Antinous, and their confreres to compliment Penelope on her pluck and inventiveness, so that Hortensio's inability to read the analogue this scene at once evokes and evades ironically brings the analogue closer. In fact, if he were inclined at this point to cast his disillusionment and growing misogyny into a position on educational policy, Hortensio might well count himself among those "manye" critics of women Vives invokes, "who sayth, the subtiltie of learning should bee a nourishment for the maliciousnesse of nature."46 As it is, however, for Hortensio, Bianca's domestic education has utility, not for what Bianca may learn but for what may be learned about her.
In this way, and in its harnessing of learning to a domestic agenda, the translation scene lesson merely illuminates the permeable boundary shared by learning and domestication throughout the play, where, from the moment of Bianca and Kate's first appearance (1.1.48 ff.) and culminating in their last (5.2.65 ff.), women's behavior and potential as domestic partners become the stuff of male speculation, in both the ordinary and root meanings of the word, and public examination. Still, in turning Bianca's lessons into tableaux in which Hortensio observes her and grades her on criteria decidedly nonintellectual, the translation scene reminds us, not only of the way in which the definition of female character in the play is very much a male construction, but of how restrictive the males' choice of building materials is, with women construed in dichotomous terms and with a precariously fine line dividing the two, and separating "sweet Bianca" from Bianca the potential shrew. At the same time, in a play that ostensibly—even ostentatiously—concerns itself with domestic management, the translation scene offers a subversive interlude that suggests that a play may be especially instructive in dramatizing its own instructional limitations, and, above all, reminds its audience of what a malleable, and manipulable, a thing learning, for all of its patriarchalist prescriptions, is.
1 Unless otherwise stated, citations of Shakespeare's plays are taken from The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974).
2 See Geoffrey Bullough, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957), vol. I.; also, The New Cambridge Taming of the Shrew, Ann Thompson, ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 9-17.
3 See the note on 3.1.s.d, by Brian Morris, ed., The Taming of the Shrew, The Arden Shakespeare (London: Routledge, 1989), 218.
4 In its note on Sly's comment, The Riverside text, 113, warily glosses "household stuff" as "house furnishings" or "domestic goings-on"; see also
5 Friederich Nietzsche, The Joyful Wisdom, II, trans. Thomas Common, The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, ed. Oscar Levy, 18 vols (New York: Russell & Russell, 1909-11; rpt. 1964), 10, 115.
6 Though one senses, for example, that the audience is being teased, the players in the Induction of the Quarto Shrew claim, at least, to see the play they are about to perform as exemplary, "a good leson for us my Lord, for us that are married men" (Induction 1.64), in A Pleasant Conceited Historie, called The Taming of a Shrew As it hath beene sundry times acted by the right Honourable the earle of Pembrooke his seruants (London: Nicholas Ling, 1607), STC 23669. This claim does not surface in the Folio Shrew, where the players place emphasis on the therapeutic value of a "pleasant comedy," with its "mirth and merriment" (Induction 2.129-36).
7 George Gascoigne, The Glasse of Gouernement (London: 1575).
8 Publius Terentius Afer, Fabulae Comici Facetissimi et Elegantissimai Poetae (Cambridge: 1598), STC 23890.
9 Philip Stubbes, The Anatomie of Abuses: Contayning A Discouerie, or Breife Summarie of such Notable Vices and Imperfections, as now raigne in many Christian Countreyes of the Worlde: but (especiallie) in a verie famous Hand called AILGNA of late, as in other places, elsewhere (London: 1583), STC 23376, f. L5, L8-Ml.
10 In such homologous terms, for example, has the scene been scanned quite recently by Dennis S. Brooks, who in "'To show scorn her own image': The Varieties of Education in The Taming of the Shrew," Rocky Mountain Review of Literature 48 (1994): 18, declares that "the pupil's mastery of the tutor … foreshadows the wife's mastery of the husband."
11 Marianne L. Novy, "Patriarchy and Play in The Taming of the Shrew." English Literary Renaissance 9 (1979): 279; see also
12 Citations of the Heroides will be inserted in parentheses and are, until otherwise stated, from Publius Ovidius Naso, Heroides and Amores, trans. Grant Showerman (1914; rev. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986). In George Turbervile's translation, with which it is not unlikely that Shakespeare was familiar, the reference to Priam's age is rendered no less forcibly: "aged Priam's Hall / and Princely house"; see Turbervile, trans., The Heroycall Epistles of the learned Poet Publius Ovidius Naso (1567), ed. Frederick Boas (London: Cresset Press, 1928), 5.
13 In his note on 4.2.63, Morris, Arden Shrew, 255, offers instances of the comic uses to which schoolmasters are put in Shakespeare's early plays.
14 In "The Lord-Treasurer's Advice to his Son," Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley, exhorts his son to "suffer not thy Sons to pass the Alpes, for they shall learn nothing there but Pride, Blasphemy and Atheism; and if by Travelling they get a few broken Languages, that will profit them no more, than to haue the same Meat served in divers Dishes," in Instructions for Youth, Gentlemen and Noblemen by Sir Walter Raleigh, Lord Treasurer Burleigh, Cardinal Sermonetta, and Mr. Walsingham (London: Randall Minshull, 1722), 50.
15 Orlin, "The Performance of Things," esp. pp.171 ff.
16 See Morris, Arden Shrew, 133; Thompson, Cambridge Shrew, 34-35; and Brooks, "To Show Scorn," passim.
17 Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), xxxi-ii, 149-50.
18 That the "taming" of Katherina needs to be read in financial terms and as a financial investment is central to the thesis of a paper by Donald Hedrick, "Commodity Kate: Shakespeare's Shrew and the Domestication of Money," delivered at the meeting of the Shakespeare Association in Atlanta in April, 1993.
19 R. C. Simonini, Jr, "Language Lesson Dialogues in Shakespeare," Shakespeare Quarterly 2 (1951): 319. Indeed, in a paper written for the meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America, in Albuquerque, April, 1994, "'Loytering in Love': Ovid's Heroides, Pleasure, and Household Stuff in The Taming of the Shrew," 21, and n. 38, Patricia Phillippy cites the pretensions exemplified by Baptista's educational plans for his daughters as the very sort of "parental mismanagement" of female children castigated by contemporary continental and English educators and conduct book writers.
20 Roger Ascham, The Schoolmaster (1570), ed. Lawrence V. Ryan (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1967), 56, 87.
21 William Vaughan, The Golden-grove, moralized in three books A worke very necessary for all such as would know how to governe themselues, their houses, or their countrey (London: Simon Stafford, 1600), STC 24610, f. X2v. In addition to being far too friendly with his student, Bianca, Lucentio might also qualify simply as bad company, or the sort of temptation Richard Pace feels students should abstemiously avoid; see Richard Pace, De Fructu Qui Ex Doctrina Percipitur (1517), ed. and trans. Frank Manley and Richard Sylvester (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1967), 114-15.
22 In "Preposterous Events," Shakespeare Quarterly 43 (1992): 198-99, Patricia Parker argues that the epithet "preposterous" here serves to link the action of this scene with a long list and significant subtext of "preposterous events," inversions of what should come first with what should follow, that create a pattern of upheavals throughout Shakespeare's plays.
23 T. W. Baldwin, William Shakespeare's Small Latine, Lesse Greeke, 2 vols. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1944), 1 passim; J. W. Binns, Intellectual Culture in Elizabethan and Jacobean England: The Latin Writings of the Age (Leeds: Francis Cairns, 1990), 292.
24Riverside, 124; Morris, Arden Shrew, 219; see also , and
25 Ascham, 37-38, 60.
26 Vaughan, The Golden-grove, f. X5v; on the culture of violence in which boys studied Latin, see Walter J. Ong, S. J., Fighting for Life: Context, Sexuality, and Consciousness (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1989), 131-4.
27 Ong, "Latin Language Study as a Renaissance Puberty Rite," Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1971), 113-41; see also ; and
28 Allowing the reading of "captam" from the First Folio to stand, "uncorrected," H. J. Oliver in the Oxford Shrew, 114, accepts the inappropriate feminine form as but one of a number of mistakes in transcriptions of foreign words and expressions that punctuate the early parts of the play.
29 Noting the possibility that the reference is to hawking, Oliver, Oxford Shrew, 162, comments, "Perhaps that is the sense here, but the word came also to mean anyone who allures to deceive (and so particularly a prostitute, especially one serving as a decoy)."
30 See Karen Newman, "Renaissance Family Politics and Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew," in Fashioning Femininity and English Renaissance Drama (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 35-50, an earlier version of the article, with the same title, appearing in English Literary Renaissance 16 (1986): 86-100; Juliet Dusinberre, "The Taming of the Shrew: Women, Acting, and Power," Studies in the Literary Imagination 26 (1993): 67-84; Michael Shapiro, "Framing the Taming: Metatheatrical Awareness of Female Impersonation in The Taming of the Shrew," Shakespeare Yearbook 23 (1993): 143-66.
31 See Cecil C. Seronsy, "'Supposes' as the Unifying Theme in The Taming of the Shrew," Shakespeare Quarterly 14 (1963): 15-30; and Thompson pp. 31-32.
32 Baldwin, William Shakespeare's Small Latine, 1.589.
33 See Oliver's speculation on the possibly intended corruptions and questionable commentary, Oxford Shrew, 158-159.
34 See Oliver's note on 3.1.50, Ibid., 159
35 Walter Benjamin, "The Task of the Translator: An Introduction to the Translation of Baudelaire's Tableaux Parisiens," Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 75.
36 See Morris, Arden Shrew, 153; Oliver, Oxford Shrew, 89.
37 See Morris's note on 2.1.73, Arden Shrew, 200, on the comic pedigree of backare; see also
38 Oliver, note on 1.1.25, Oxford Shrew 107. Simonini, "Language Lesson Dialogues," 323-24, argues that such expressions typify the "kind of polite conversation that was taught in the dialogue manuals for learning Italian, such as Florio's First Fruites and Second Frutes (1591)."
39 Juan Vives, A Very Fruitfull and pleasant booke, called the instruction of a Christian woman, trans. Richard Hyrde (London: 1585), STC 24862, 37-39; see also ; and
40 Richard Hosley, "Sources and Analogues of The Taming of the Shrew, " The Huntington Library Quarterly 27 (1963-4): 298-9.
41 Cited in Baldwin, William Shakespeare's Small Latine, 1.239.
42 Frederick Boas, Introduction to Turbervile's Heroycall Epistles of the learned Poet Publius Ovidius Naso, xv-xvi.
45 Deborah S. Greenhut, Feminine Rhetorical Culture: Tudor Adaptations of Ovid's Heroides (New York: Peter Lang, 1984), 81-2.
46 Vives, A Very Fruitfull and pleasant booke, 18.
Source: "Interlinear Trysting and 'Household Stuff': The Latin Lesson and the Domestication of Learning in The Taming of the Shrew," in Shakespeare Studies: An Annual Gathering of Research, Criticism, and Reviews, Vol. XXIII, pp. 100-19.