The Taming of the Shrew Historical Background

William Shakespeare

Historical Background

Although there has been much debate, Shakespeare is now believed to have composed The Taming of the Shrew between 1592 and 1594. Although a play named The Taming of A Shrew was published first in the so-called “bad quarto” of 1594, Shakespeare’s own version was not published until 1623 when the First Folio of his works was compiled. The pirated version is thought to be a fast transcription, not without some embellishment, of Shakespeare’s play as it was performed.

The first known performance of The Taming of the Shrew was held at Newington Butts on June 13, 1594 by Shakespeare’s own company, the Chamberlain’s Men. Shakespeare himself played the part of Vincentio (a confined role) alongside the very popular actor Richard Burbage, who played Lucentio. However, there is a reference (not a record) in the “bad quarto” to earlier performances by the Earl of Pembroke’s Men, a troop which disbanded in 1594 due to financial troubles.

The Newington Butts stage was located one mile south of London Bridge in one of the Liberties, so called because they lay outside of the city limits where strict municipal laws did not affect the theater. Londoners regularly traveled outside the city proper to see their favorite plays, except during plague years when the theaters were closed for the public’s safety. The Globe, Shakespeare’s famous playhouse, was likewise located in the Liberties. When it burned down, Shakespeare’s company was forced to move into London to Blackfriars and other playhouses.

The Taming of...

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