The Woman's Prize Essay - Critical Essays

John Fletcher


(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Attempting no doubt to capitalize on the earlier success of Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, Fletcher in this play turns the tables on Petruchio by having a new wife bring him to heel. Although it is by no means a failure, THE WOMAN’S PRIZE OR, THE TAMER TAMED is considerably inferior to the comedy on which it is based. To cite only one point of difference, Shakespeare manages very skillfully to have Petruchio show Katharina her shortcomings by subtly mirroring her meanness and perversity; she is tamed, as it were, with love and emerges reformed but with her spirit unbroken. Fletcher is incapable of this kind of finesse. Maria, Katharina’s successor, completely humiliates Petruchio by means of a series of extravagant tricks, all of which are ultimately made possible by taking advantage of her husband’s unsatisfied desire for her. The resulting comedy of situation is, however, very tightly constructed; the subplot, which deals with the love affair between Livia and the rather ineffectual Rowland, is skillfully interwoven with the main plot. Much broadly comic business is introduced more or less for its own sake—notably the invasion of the townswomen—but the pace of the action is so fast and the matter so high-spirited that the whole play comes off successfully.