illustration of Kate and Petruchio standing and staring at one another

The Taming of the Shrew

by William Shakespeare

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The Taming of the Shrew, Good Husbandry, and Enclosure

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 13740

Lynda E. Boose, Dartmouth College

Readings of The Taming of the Shrew have always felt compelled to begin at the end, the site where happily-ever-after presumably begins and, in this play, the site/sight where the play produces its theatrical tour de force by offering up a prostrated woman's body to the eye—and the boot—of the stunned viewer. But whereas the play's stage history of repeated revisions clearly marks Kate's final speech as the site of textual excess,1 what Shrew revisions have characteristically desired is not so much a way of undoing Kate's ventriloquization of male superiority as a way of making it more palatable. Kate's subjugation must be endowed with signs of resistance—but a resistance that Petruchio will not recognize. She must embody the illusion of subversiveness—but simultaneously be authorized to submit to whatever self-abnegation is imagined as necessary to preserve the heterosexual bond.

New Critical readings of The Shrew—even many feminist ones—have largely remained trapped within the revisionist conundrum, trying to resolve the play's contradictory desires from the already contained position of reading from "inside" the text and dismissing all considerations that lie "outside." Poststructuralist methodologies were probably necessary before this play could be read through a fully feminist perspective, for so long as readers adhered to the formalist injunction to stay "inside," critique was tautologically restricted by assumptions that granted not only texts but also "good readers" the ideal status of artifacts somehow immaculately conceived outside history, ideology, and all the disunifying politics of historical contingency. But masked behind the presumption of being apolitical and hence "objective," formalism's impulse to universalize the particular has always tacitly subscribed to a politics that affirms the status quo. Reading The Shrew from inside the text dissociates the reader both from recognizing how the material conditions of early modern England might be implicated in producing its narrative and from any consciousness of the reader's own potential distance from the cultural location of insider-ness. Seduced into reading patriarchal texts from their center, the woman reader remains safely divorced from any recognition of her own resistance. When lured into such a position, the feminist critic has inevitably felt defensively compelled to take Kate's part, a course that by definition leads to rationalizing Kate's actions, usually by means of finding some hidden assurance of marital "mutuality" lurking behind the play's formidable show of patriarchal domination. And while such ameliorating scripts may format an unconscious working through of both the culture's and the critic's own relationship to the entangled symbiotics of patriarchal culture and heterosexual marriage, they are virtually incapable of emancipating either female or male readers from the relentlessly gendered experience that the dynamics of this play have constituted as inseparable from its fulfillment of comic desire.

Outside of such a (too) close reading, there is an "other" space from which to generate a potentially different understanding of this play, one that neither denies nor unwittingly validates the play's patriarchal premises but tries instead to consider how the text itself may offer a revealing narrative not only of its own production but also of the markedly compulsive needs for masculine dominance that underwrite it. Central to this strategy is a reading order which, by insisting on the diachronic structure of the narrative, firmly binds the play's often forgotten Induction to its more familiar woman-taming material. In the perspective I propose, the issues of gender and hierarchy are pushed outside the fictive frame of the Kate and Petruchio story in order to be searched out again among a variety of historicized construction sites, including, most prominently, an overdue consideration of the ways in which...

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the material conditions of early modern England may be implicated in this text.

To begin such a historicizing, readers need first to recognize that there is a concrete historical analogue for the final scene and Kate's insistence that wives should "place your hands below your husband's foot, / In token of which duty, if he please, / My hand is ready, may it do him ease" (5.2.182-84). What needs to be recognized is that the (in)famous concluding spectacle of this play is itself a dramatized (and now correctly ordered) version of the parodic church wedding scene which had earlier occurred offstage. Within the invoked ritual framework, Kate's actions essentially replicate the script that appears in the Sarum, the York, the (Scottish) Rathen, and the (French) Martène manuals for the actions that the bride was to perform upon receipt of the wedding ring and her husband's accompanying vow of endowment. Following his pledge of worldly goods, the bride is directed to fall prostrate at the bridegroom's feet, and—in phrasings that vary from ceremony to ceremony but in both English manuals are contingent upon whether the groom had endowed his wife with land—the rite then directs that she is to "courtesy" his foot in gratitude before he stoops to raise her up into her new status as wife.2

For feminist scholars, recognizing this analogue (or discovering that Shakespeare is not the guilty party who invented it) does not resolve the issue. Rather, it compels the question of why Shakespeare chose to use so adamantly hierarchical and patriarchal a form of the wedding service when that model had been excised from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and therefore had been, by the time Shrew was written, officially prohibited for some forty years. The invocation of a ritual service that the audience would almost certainly have recognized—but recognized as anachronistic—seems to me to work two ways at once: on the one hand, it inscribes the concluding Kate and Petruchio marital relation as an anachronism; and yet, on the other, by idealizing and romanticizing that model, it imbues it with the nostalgic value of a vision of social order imagined as passing away. It is within this framework—the sense that this play both participates energetically in and yet nostalgically withholds itself from the world of its own contemporary modernity—that I hope, through a feminist-materialist reading, historically to situate the notably dislocated structural logic of The Taming of the Shrew and its obsessive investments in the reinstatment of a hierarchically gendered order.

Shakespeare's play is set in England. But in the unusual framing device with which it opens, the play literally dislocates its scene of action away from the setting it has first foregrounded: Christopher Sly's Burton-Heath (or William Shakespeare's Stratford-upon-Avon). By such relocation, the play situates the social and political landscape of small-town, rural, late sixteenth-century Warwickshire as the ground from which Signior Baptista Minola's "Padua" emerges as narrative displacement. Historically, the landscape from which the "taming" plot emerges was precisely the world where women defined as "shrews" or "scolds" became, during the late sixteenth century, an obsessive sign of monstrous disorder, and one in which—as I have elsewhere described3—a number of local Kates were being subjected to taming processes significantly more brutal than the proto-Skinnerian program of negative reinforcement which Kate undergoes in Shakespeare's play. The era's obsession with taming unruly women—which historian David Underdown has documented as a phenomenon peculiar to the "crisis of order" that he defines as having itself developed between 1560 and 1640 out of a "period of strained gender relations"4—is precisely what warrants the move to construct a reading from outside the text. For in terms of the history of gender during this era, the fixation on scolds, the substantial rise in both official punishments such as the cucking stool and extralegal ones such as the scold's bridle which were meted out to women defined by that term, and the marked increase during this period in defamation suits filed by women,5 suggest not only a precipitous increase of male anxiety about authority but also the possibility that Kate and her sister scolds may have been symbolically implicated in a larger network of cultural meanings than any that are immediately apparent within the Kate and Petruchio/Bianca and Lucentio story. My contention is that, despite its seeming lack of any of the "political" markers of the history plays, this play is every bit as much a dramatization of English history as are the Henry VI plays, which were written at very nearly the same time.

Obviously, many factors underwrite the gender crisis that Underdown defines. But beyond such anxieties that may have stemmed from the presence of the "female king" or the world of court politics, there was something else going on in England—something that may initially seem to bear no relation to issues of gender but that, in rapid increments, was the factor that was most dramatically changing the very basis of English social organization during these years. The events in question come from the history of English land use. To include them seems appropriate, for they effectively shift attention away from the sexual conduct of the Elizabethan upper classes, which has been the more frequent focus of The Shrew's literary historians, and relocate it inside the world and the issues which the Induction sets up as ground.

As scholars such as Raymond Williams and R. H. Tawney have eloquently discussed, it was during this era and in this world that the geographic, economic, demographic, and social landscape of England changed precipitously as the pattern of land use and tenancy, in addition to the way of life it had signified, was transformed from men working and living on land worked by their families for centuries and inherited in copyhold6 into a system of rigidly demarcated private ownership for the few and dispersion and vagabondage for the many. During this transformation, England's social geography changed from a form of community space defined by common land on which manorial lord, yeoman, and peasant all grazed their livestock to a landscape of exclusive ownership quite literally etched by fences, hedges, and ditches across the face of England. It was during the Tudor years, with the decline of ecclesiastical authority, that lay landlords gained the necessary power, both in Parliament and at the county level, to outmaneuver the crown's rather desultory attempts to protect peasant tenancy. Through manipulation of the legal strategies of "ascertainment, enclosure, and the triumph of common law over clerical law and manorial custom … a plurality of English peasants [were removed] from their tenancies, relegating them to positions as wage laborers or relief recipients … On Manors where the court and custom had been abolished, a quarter of the original tenants, on average, retained their land rights. If the commons was enclosed, even fewer peasant farmers saved their holdings. Where manorial structures were preserved, more than a third … survived as independent farmers."7

By consequence, a few families (or one family) came to control all or most manors in a parish, while simultaneously, anywhere from one half to three quarters of the English peasantry were, by 1640 or so, left landless.8 As the supply of landless laborers increased, their worth in wages declined. Whereas fewer than 15 percent of English peasants had been wage laborers at any time prior to the 1570s, by 1688 over half had been reduced to that status.9 Furthermore, in refutation of the 1970s-80s revisionist explanation that the primary rationale behind these massive dispossessions was improvement of the land for maximization of profits (and thus an end for the greater good), the data that historian Richard Lachmann amasses about the uses to which English landowners put the acquired land indicate that "the wage-labor market must be understood as the consequence of gentry strategies for land control, not profit maximization."10 Whereas "the majority of landless peasants prior to the dissolution had been sons of landholding peasants who were awaiting the inheritance of the family farm … by the latter half of the sixteenth century, most landless peasants had no prospect of acquiring land at any point in their lives."11 By then, the growing number of landless had only memories of claims to what had once been the land of their fathers and grandfathers—claims that at one time, in the old manorial court system, could have been substantiated by memorial recall of the genealogy from which such copyhold had been inherited. Whereas modern historians, commenting from hindsight, may view enclosure as merely a stage in the alteration of land use, for villagers of the late sixteenth century it was, as Roger Manning emphasizes, the "symbolic act [upon which] contemporary debate focused and it was upon the enclosing hedge that villagers with a sense of wrong vented their rage … Enclosure also was widely blamed for causing dearth [which] is why antienclosure riots were a much more widespread protest … than grain riots."12 Likewise Joan Thirsk, who takes a more benign view of enclosure motives than does Lachmann, insists along with Manning that although the levels of catastrophe may seem exaggerated if measured retrospectively and from a national standpoint,

this was cold comfort to the husbandman of the sixteenth century watching the progress of enclosure in and around his own village. Enclosure has first to be recognized as a social problem concentrated in the Midlands. Seen in that narrower context, it cannot be lightly dismissed. In Leicestershire alone, more than one in three of its 370 villages and hamlets underwent some enclosure between 1485 and 1607. The motives and incentives to enclose … were many and complex. But they worked their worst effects in one consolidated belt of country, stretching from the western half of Lincolnshire through Northamptonshire and Leicestershire to Warwickshire and reaching south to include Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The historian who tries to account for trends and changes in a broad context recognizes different types of enclosures and different motives … [and] sees the problem of the sixteenth century as a temporary crisis only. But the Midland peasant lived in the midst of events and saw only one widespread movement to enclose and convert the land to pasture. He saw more cattle and more sheep in the closes. He saw rich farmers taking up more and more land but giving less employment than ever before to the labourer.13

As enclosure began to effect the economic and demographic shifts that enclosed the open fields and nearly depopulated areas in the Midlands such as the limestone and Cotswold hills14 where Christopher Sly's Burton-Heath is located, it was primarily the aristocrats and lower gentry who improved their lot. The rise in status was also, however, limitedly accessible to those yeomen and upper peasants who could come up with either enough cash to buy a field and get a corner on the land speculation market or enough determination to marry the daughters of the lower gentry, both of which strategies provided plausible routes upward. If Osric—the nouveau courtier whom Hamlet says "hath much land, and fertile; let a beast be lord of beasts, and his crib shall stand at the King's mess.

'Tis a chough, but, as I say, spacious in the possession of dirt" (5.2.85-88)15—represents (from Hamlet's aristocratic perspective) the first type of entrepreneurial good fortune, then William Shakespeare (like his father before him) represents the second group, the yeoman-class sons who married upward and then assuaged their apparent class insecurities by later purchasing bogus coats of arms. But as the few moved up, the greater majority of tenants became landless, leaving England with a suddenly sizable population of vagrants, who themselves accelerated the anxieties about ownership and material possession as they roamed the land in search of wage labor and squatted cottages on it. This is the England that suddenly became obsessed with laws against vagrancy; the England that, by the end of the sixteenth century, had established poor laws that instituted a system of compulsive charity as part of a design to control the mobility of the landless and thereby allay the fears of the landed. By the end of the seventeenth century, the poor had been successfully removed from public view, enclosed in workhouses.

Throughout the 1590s, however, before systems of social control had been fully implemented, and while peasant solidarity was still strong, popular protest was on the rise. Organized class rebellion and riots over enclosure were still perceived as a real threat; and local landowners were engaged in devising legal strategies to subvert peasant unity, to implement inexpensive ways to deflect and undermine the potential for protest, and, ultimately, to ensure that "peasant reaction to the loss of land tenure did not escalate beyond passive appeal for mercy from those landlords."16 In London alone, between 1581 and 1603, Roger Manning counts "no fewer than 35 outbreaks of disorder";17 Annabel Patterson, reflecting on these statistics, comments on "how unstable the social framework must have appeared to Shakespeare, beginning his analysis of Elizabethan history and culture in the early 1590's."18 Moreover, it was the seven and Midland counties, including Warwickshire,that lay at the center of the disturbances, and when the situation finally did explode, it did so in the 1607 Midland Revolt.19 In Stratford itself, agitation against enclosure was apparently an integral part of village life: "In Stratford-upon-Avon, the enclosure of the town commons by Sir Edward Greville, the lord of the borough, provoked the burgesses to elect Richard Quiney as bailiff without seeking Greville's approval. Quiney and several townsmen then levelled the hedges and were prosecuted by Greville for riot … Their quarrels generated numerous cross-suits [and ultimately] Quiney, a friend of Shakespeare, died of head wounds inflicted upon him by one of Greville's servants while attempting to stop a brawl."20

Within the shire culture of small towns and villages, enclosure met with widespread resistance in the form of antienclosure riots. From surviving records of such resistance, it seems that women as well as men were participants, even staging some of the protests by themselves, as wives rounded up other wives in the dead of night to rip down the fences and hedges that had come to signify their own economic enclosure.21 And although cross-dressing can be given too much symbolic emphasis if it is read primarily as a desire to invert the gendered order of things rather than recognized as a strategy for disguising the identity of male rioters, it is nonetheless true that the riots were often acted out on the stage of gender by men in cross-dress.22 Yet despite the hints of an implied sexual egalitarianism in the various acts of resistance to enclosure, and despite the obvious shared interests that would argue for solidarity between men and women of a threatened social class, it was nonetheless during precisely this same period that the communities themselves began enacting newly harsh prohibitions and enclosures against women. Likewise at this time, female "disorder" and "unruliness" suddenly came to be viewed as a massive threat to community integrity. And though "misogyny" may be accurately descriptive of the phenomenon, it is not very explanatory. The question to be asked is why, during an era when class relations had begun to shift precipitously, does the society undergo an epidemic-size outbreak of misogyny? With class anxieties breaking into public riot around England, to what extent does a play such as Shakespeare's Shrew—where the subjugation of resistance is played out on the battleground of gender—serve a culture's more amorphous desire for order by offering a displaced site for resolution of the other, more materially threatening issue of class conflict which is simultaneously always present and forever deferred inside the inverted master-servant dynamic of male relations so repeatedly played out in both this play's Induction and its inner text?

Through such questions I situate Shakespeare's comedy of circa 1592 squarely within what might be called a vast cultural circulation of the anxieties of displacement which arose from the enclosure era.23 Within that circulation, the impetus for unchallenged proprietary ownership and culturally visible dominance was an issue foregrounded inside the increasingly pressured connection between class status and the privatization of land. Such desires were played out, however, within displaced forms of enclosure that concentrated on the public subjugation and private ownership of women. And although the equation between land and the female body which makes rape and imperialism homologous is a metaphor of masculine ownership that is neither peculiarly English nor new to England's enclosure period, the collocation of the two discursive fields clearly acquired new energy at precisely this historical moment of heightened land anxieties. The birth of England's colonizing impulse occurs within a discourse that repeatedly collapses the erotic and the imperial: the frank sexual desire of Donne's Elegy 19, "Going to Bed," for instance, is underwritten by the lust for land and imperial status that become the imaginary possible of "O my America, my new found land"; and Raleigh's Discoverie of the Large, Rich, and Beautiful Empyre of Guiana, while nominally a discourse on land acquisition, is equally inflected by a barely concealed incitement to rape: "Guiana is a Countrey that hath yet her Maydenhead, never sackt, turned, nor wrought, the face of the earth hath not beene torne, nor the vertue and salt of the soyle spent by manurance, the graves have not beene opened for gold, the mines not broken with sledges, nor their Images puld down out of their temples. It hath never been entred by any armie of strength and never conquered and possessed by any Christian Prince."24

In terms of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century discourse that was directly about enclosure, from More's Utopia onward, the debate over the moral and social consequences is starkly one-sided and weighted heavily in support of peasant claims. No one argued the ethical or even the practical advantages of the England whose shape could be seen emerging into troubled form. Yet nonetheless, enclosure went relentlessly on, any guilt that the culture may have felt over the growing ranks of the dispossessed ultimately displacing itself in a pattern that should seem familiar to present-day America: the demonization of the homeless vagabond who signified it. At this juncture, when one socioeconomic system was being replaced by another in a transition that was never inevitable, irreversible, or even very popular, a factor that may have made it possible for early modern capitalism to take root in the imaginations of even those Englishmen who did not themselves profit from it was the way that its model of private property played into and was conflated with the key terms and values of other highly invested discourses. As Annabel Patterson recognizes, the idea of "the common," for instance, carried considerable ideological force and "stood for customary practices and 'rights' that were clearly perceived as such at the time of, and because of, their rescinding."25 Throughout the era, "the common" provided a powerful rallying cry for principles of fairness and community. Yet simultaneously, the way it could be fortuitously conflated with issues about women's sexuality made the term itself also ambiguous, if not downright suspect. The adjectival "common" routinely crops up, for instance, in utopias or descriptions of new world societies where "no one owns anything, but all things are common property. And the men have as wives those that please them, whether mother, sisters or friends; they make no distinctions among them."26 Through this frequent association with sexual access, the primary meaning of the term as "possessed or shared alike by both or all (the persons or things in question)" (OED I. 1) apparently began, through a process appropriate to an Empsonian analysis, to gravitate connotatively. Thus, by the early 1600s its association to female promiscuity (OED 1.6[b]) was so widely presumed that Ben Jonson could simply depend on his audience to recognize the implications of a character named "Doll Common" (The Alchemist). By comparison, a figure named "Jeremy Common" would be referentially unintelligible, because "common" had by then become a gendered term.

Logically, the misogyny implicit in a usage such as Doll Common is unrelated to the issue of peasant rights abrogated by the enclosure of common lands. But the usage nonetheless seems to have infected the enclosure discourse and made the cry for "common" translatable—particularly to the ears of a London artisan class fearful of the spread of social upheaval—as the demand for the common ownership of wives, an association that itself played into the culture's already overinvested anxieties about cuckoldry and bastardy. Thus in Edward IV (Part I) (1599), Thomas Heywood inscribes history with contemporary anxieties by explicitly imagining the rebels as dispossessed products of enclosure ("hegebred rascals" and "filthy fry of ditches") and repeatedly characterizes the motives of the rebellion in the terms which his rebel Spicing invokes in the rallying cry: "Come on my hearts, we will be kings tonight, / Carouse in gold, and sleep with merchants wiues." Likewise, the motives of the city artisans who fight to keep the rebels out of the enclosure of London derive from this same fantasy. As Master Shore the gold-smith tells his wife, Jane, the reasons he fights are

First to maintain King Edward's royalty; Next, to defend the city's liberty; But chiefly Jane, to keep thee from the toil Of him that to my face did vow thy spoil. Had he preuaild, where then had been our liues? Dishonourd our daughters, rauishd our fair   wiues.27

Ironically, of course, while the artisans fight for the king primarily out of fear that their shops will be sacked by the desiring rebels, when the violation happens and Shore's shop is robbed of his most valued "jewel," it is the king, not the rebels, who makes Shore's wife "common."28 In this linguistic mediation, a positively valenced term for affirming the claims of class equity became—by being routed through the discourse of gender—infected with negative, female-associated meanings from the other register. Once the male-female binary was piggybacked onto the enclosure-versus-common debate, the potency of the unrelated meanings could themselves then work to neutralize the cry against privilege and effectively marshall a certain affirmation back to the side of the enclosers. In George Gascoigne's use of this discourse for double entendre in The Adventures of Master F.J., positive masculine success clearly accrues to the encloser: "The experiment she meant was this: for that she thought F.J.—I use her words—a man in every respect very worthy to have the several use of a more commodious common, she hoped now to see if his enclosure thereof might be defensible against her said secretary, and such like."29

Several other key terms for the collocation, recirculation, and eventual cultural displacement of class anxieties onto ones of gender appear in Joseph Hall's antiutopian fantasy voyage, Mundus Alter et Idem (1605), purportedly recording the discovery of "Antarctica."30 Once again, the cultural fantasy involves the discovery of inhabitable land. "New Gynia" or "Vira-ginia," which Hall's traveler Mercurius Brittanicus discovers, is here, as in many discovery narratives, synonymous with woman. In Hall's parodic vision, however, the unexpected encounter with woman-as-shrew radically disturbs the traditional virgin/rape/dominance paradigm of conquest and converts it into one of male fear of subjugation. Controlled by unruly women who are apparently so proud of their loquacity that cities have been named for parts of the mouth, in this upside-down society rather than dominating the woman/land as her master, Brittanicus is repeatedly enslaved by the authority of the woman/state. In the province of Amazonia (time-honored locus for male fantasies about female power), the extended satire on inverted authority exposes another key mediator linking the gendered deflection of class hostilities with the era's massive agrarian displacements. With men in Amazonia confined to housework and wives now tilling the fields, the houses for the first time, says Brittanicus sardonically, are actually getting clean. But the fields, alas, are "badly husbanded." Beneath the pun, the desired object of resentful dispute is a man's tenure over land; within the pun, as within Hall's dystopian narrative, the agent of his displacement from that status and from the respectability that came with it has been reconstituted from a cormorant landlord to an insubordinate wife.31

The newly intensified anxieties about women's self-sovereignty during this era and the discourse which Linda Woodbridge calls a veritable "storehouse of misogyny,"32 that it produced all contribute, of course, to a reinscription of the very paradigm of the master-slave, possessor-dispossessed model of social relationship that lies at the root of the enclosure crisis. And although reenacting the hierarchical principle in the register of gender must only perpetuate its authority in the arena of class, this same illogical transfer does serve to produce the ego compensations of power, regardless of how limited and temporary such compensations may be. And because the prevailing anxiety from enclosure was itself invested in the amorphous fear of being literally displaced from one's land and deprived of the status of "husband," based on the constituting energies of language it makes a strange kind of sense that the cultural compensation produced in England would take the form of displaced hostilities enacted into new verbal, social, and ultimately legal enclosures of wives.

In addition to being the Shakespeare play that participates most overtly in the culture's need to assert a hierarchy of gender, The Taming of the Shrew is likewise a play peculiarly invested in the master-servant positions of social class. The play's only "authoritative" text appears in the Folio, where the play opens with the odd Induction, which seems itself to be the broken part of an enclosing frame from which the original conclusion (and perhaps additional segments) are missing. Including the Induction reconstructs the nature of the cultural story this comedy plays out: within the inclusive version, the Kate and Petruchio story occurs as "only" a play, fictionally located in Italy but actually being staged by a group of English players at the dictation of the local lord for the edification of a vagabond out in Shakespeare's Warwickshire.

By virtue of the array of particular details the Induction provides, this scene—situated indeterminately outside a tavern at the edge of some aristocrat's hunting preserve somewhere in Warwickshire—becomes in itself an abstract and composite of the conditions, the sites, the antagonists, and, ultimately, the means deployed for dispersing the threat of class conflict that rumbled beneath the surface of English life. The Induction opens as the drunken Christopher Sly is thrown out of a tavern by its hostess. In her first lines of the play, "A pair of stocks, you rogue" (Ind. 1.2), the hostess identifies Sly by the term that had arisen in the mid-sixteenth century as a specific pejorative for the newly created class of vagrants. What her remark prompts in Sly is a social-class discourse asserting the respectability and tenure of his family origins. Sly, as we will shortly learn, has in his time been a peddler, cardmaker, a bear-herd, and is now a tinker (20-22)—all of which reads like a veritable résumé and classic profile of the vagabond poor inside clay vale and/or wood pasture areas such as Warwickshire, the prototypical figure of the man dispossessed by enclosure and forced into piecemeal wage labor when shoved off the land by the entrepreneurial real estate class, itself predominantly composed of rich landlords who subsequently obviated the need for farm labor by converting tillage to pasture. At least one of Sly's occupations—a cardmaker, or one who carded the wool for spinning—specifically associates him with the cloth-working industry, the labor group most notoriously involved in the uprisings thoughout the era, especially those that had convulsed just four years earlier in a series of food riots in nearby Gloucestershire, the Cotswolds (where Burton-Heath is located), and the Severn River area. Moreover, the figures that populated those areas of deprivation likewise clearly populated Shakespeare's imagination. In a contemporary attack on the consequences of cloth-trade stoppages in the Cotswolds, for instance, it almost seems that we meet Autolycus in the observer's description of "infinite nombers of Spynners, Carders, Pickers of woll [who] are turned to begging with no smale store of pore children, who driven with necessitie (that hath no lawe) both come idelie abowt to begg to the oppression of the poore husbandmen, And robbe their hedges of lynnen, stele pig, gose, and capon … [and] being forced by povertie stele fish, conies, dere, and such like."33

This play begins with Sly's being thrown out of the alehouse for his inability to pay. The scene of the ejected beggar asleep onstage is then invaded by a lord with his hunting party, creating a signifying tableau that speaks to yet another bitter contemporary struggle over land use: the struggle over disafforestation and the nobility's enclosure of new deer parks for hunting. Onstage, the positional status of these two figures iconographically proposes precisely the conflict that the rest of the play must then disperse: the muted threat of class violence. For of all the various types of land conversions going on during this era, the conversion of forest land into private enclaves for the privileges of one aristocrat was the one that was most often and most intensely marked by violent popular protest.34 As Roger Manning notes, "Scores of new deer parks were enclosed during the Tudor-Stuart period … As symbols of aristocratic arrogance, emparkments invited both antienclosure riots and widespread poaching. Where previously there had been a tangible expression of a sense of community … the appearance of the enclosing hedge in the landscape served notice that henceforth the commodity of one individual was to be preferred."35

Even the alewife who opens the Induction is in several ways a historically specific player in an iconography of nascent social conflict. As men were losing the traditional bases of their occupational security, alewives—who, by the end of the sixteenth century, were still prominent in a trade that women had not yet been pushed out of—became particularly subject to negative caricature.36 They become stock figures of comedy, associated with an enraging kind of female independence and garrulous insubordination. But furthermore, as signifier of the alehouse, the figure specifically suggests the site which, as Buchanan Sharp notes, was so traditionally understood as the space where local uprisings were planned and initiated that it became attached to popular protest and associated with the common folk's "deep hatred of the people possessed of the power, social standing, and landed wealth denied to them." So allied did the alehouse come to be with sedition, in fact, that in the 1590s the crown ordered "suppression of superfluous alehouses in time of scarcity." Other officials, however, more cynically contended that the alehouse and the alcohol consumption it encouraged served a highly useful social purpose by deflecting the rage of the poor away from "more socially dangerous forms of expression"37—as the quiescent image of the drunken Sly would seem to confirm. And if indeed there was, as Annabel Patterson argues, a tradition of "memorial vocabulary" that worked like code to collate "the popular protests of the past, both with each other and with the issues of the day … [and] act as an incentive, an organizational credo, a symbol of radical claims that are themselves broadly defined,"38 then even the otherwise unassimilated reference to "Marian Hacket," the "fat alewife of Wincot" may play a suggestive role in lacing this Induction with signifiers meant amorphously to evoke the scene of populist issues. For the chief rebel in the abortive 1591 London uprising at Cheapside—which had taken place perhaps only a year before The Shrew was written and would thus likely have been current in the populist genealogy of rebel history—was likewise named Hackett.39

As Sly falls asleep, a Lord enters onto the stage, ordering his huntsmen to "tender" his hounds, "sup them well and look unto them all" (Ind. 1.16,28), ostentatiously enunciating all the excesses of wealth in his boastful valuation of one of his dogs at twenty pounds (21). In all he says and does, the unnamed, presumably generic "Lord" provides a virtuoso dramatization of class position as he arrogantly plays out the privileges reserved for the aristocracy. Hard upon the heels of the Lord's solicitous concern for his hounds and his order to "breathe Merriman, the poor cur is embossed" (14)40 comes his mildly contemptuous reaction to discovering Sly asleep on the ground: "What's here? One dead or drunk? See, doth he breathe?" (31). Deciding to have a bit of fun with this "monstrous beast [who] like a swine" (34) lies drunk before him, the Lord orders that the sleeping tinker be placed in the Lord's own bed, dressed in lordly raiment, and awakened to a world of exorbitant consumption, where he will be surrounded by servants who treat him as though he were the lord of the estate who has languished in sleep for many years, raving in his dreams as though he were a peasant. The world to which Sly awakens—which includes even the voyeuristic seductions of the Lord's private stock of "wanton pictures" depicting classical rapes—is one of luxurious excess that taunts rather than offers to fulfill the desires it solicits.

Initially, and with a pugnacious tenacity that configures class pride, Sly resists all enticements to being a lord, insisting that he needs no more clothes than he can wear, that he is "Christophero Sly, call not me honor nor lord-ship," and that he wants his pot of small ale, for "I ne'er drank sack in my life" (Ind. 2.5-6). To the Lord's assurance that he is "a mighty man of such descent, / Of such possessions and so high esteem" (14-15), Sly counters by invoking his pedigree as "old Sly's son of Burton-heath" (19)—a heritage that, as we learned from his contretemps with the hostess, Sly insists is an honorable and longstanding one that can be traced back to "Richard Conqueror" (1.4). But Sly, suddenly switching to unaccustomed blank verse, eventually comes around to believing "upon my life, I am a lord indeed" (2.72). Curiously, what finally persuades him is neither the material wealth, the sensory pleasures, nor the linguistic deference he receives from his supposed servants. It is the presence of the signified "wife." Once this fiction is in place—a fiction that correlates the audience's desires with Sly's, for the Lord's page Bartholomew is obviously no more a woman than is the actor who will play Kate—the inner play is ready to begin. As an entertainment especially designed to educate this lordly peasant, the Lord, who has produced the pretense of Sly's class superiority, has also arranged for a play to be put on by a band of traveling players—men who, because occupationally defined by the law as vagabonds, were themselves subject to arrest for vagrancy unless in service to a lord and thus constitute a group whose own status in society was scarcely more secure than the itinerant tinker's.

As I would propose to read the relation between opening frame and inner play, in its choice of central figures the frame has marked out the most extreme oppositions of class privilege, and thus quite literally foregrounds the potential for class conflict. But rather than dramatize the incipient opposition between the landed Lord and the landless tinker, before the Induction has ever introduced its plot line it has already inserted the paradigm of what the inner play will subsequently offer as substitute. In its opening conflict between Sly and the tavern hostess, the play offers a prologuelike scene of gender hostility that its Kate and Petruchio story will subsequently dramatize as the site for deflecting, absorbing, and relocating the conflict that the Induction embodies before us. To rechannel the implied class resentment into the arena of gender, the frame effectively transposes the woman's and the landlord's positional relations to Sly. What is thereby produced is a narrative in which the woman becomes the agent of dispossession who throws the impoverished Sly out of domicile and the Lord becomes the benefactor who welcomes him, makes him lord of the castle, and lavishes on him sumptuous food and soft bedding.

As the disgruntlements of class are being transferred into the space of gender,41 the statuses that in reality quite strongly demarcate male class positions are simultaneously being made invisible by the pretense of their interchangeability: Sly can be the Lord and the Lord will be one of his servants; Tranio can be Lucentio and Lucentio change to Cambio; and, just as Sly can fill the Lord's position of "a mighty man," a Mantuan pedant can fill up the role even of Vincentio, the "mighty man of Pisa" (2.1.104). By means of such displacements and erasures, Sly, the lower-class male who has been dispossessed from all terms of husbandry, is set up as lord to a lady and husband to an estate, who sits by his lady to watch, in the story of Petruchio, a gendered model of male success. What he watches is an implicit pattern for obtaining social and financial prestige plus the domestic rewards of "peace … and love, and quiet life. / An awful rule and right supremacy; / And, to be short, what not, that's sweet and happy" (5.2.108-10). But all of this good fortune itself depends on a husband's ability to demonstrate that he "will be master of what is [his] own" (3.2.229), which, within the narrative of The Shrew, is a mastery whose demonstration lies in compelling "headstrong women" to know "what duty they do owe their lords and husbands" (5.2.130-31). These two terms, "lord" and "husband," which are at the end of the play again paired as they were by Sly's "Madam Wife" in the Induction, are, of course, interchangeable cognates not in the world of male relations but only within the domestic sphere. All other venues being restricted by class and economic position, the statuses of "lord," "master," and "husband" are available to all men only through marriage. It is through Kate's public submission that Petruchio, having become a husband, becomes a lord indeed—and a "king," and "governor." And, as he reminds the disempowered Lucentio just before exiting the stage, it is Petruchio, alone among the men to have secured this entitlement, who exits "a winner."

Besides acquiring a dominant position in society through women, inside the compensatory fiction that The Shrew offers, all men—from the Lord to the tinker, from the the landed owner who produces and controls this fiction to the dispossessed vagrant who constitutes its target audience—are all bonded together by a common enemy: the shrewish female. Within that fantasy of egalitarian fraternity, distinctions of class get suspended and ultimately supplanted by the inner play's narration of woman taming. Through the comic mirror embedded in the play's conclusion, every man is made into potential lord in his own castle, confirmed in a status analogous to that of the landowner by the marriage covenant that guarantees him private husbandry over the wife/servant who is compelled to "serve, love, honor, and obey"—the wife/servant figure whom the Lord had placed next to Sly's bed as the reassuring sign of his status as an owner and the figure whose submission is literally staged in the inner play as the sign of Petruchio's public covenant with patriarchy. In the play's final scene, as all the players converge on Padua into the space of marriage celebration, the acting out of the shrew-taming scene transforms the celebration of "bridal" into a masculine arena of wager and competitive husbandry. Within this marketplace, disobedient wives, ironically enough, are by far the culture's most essential object. Like dragons to be conquered in medieval romance or maidens to be deflowered in love stories, the shrew appears in sixteenth- and seventeeth-century narratives as the test obstacle essential for positing the culture's terms for male dominance not only over women but over other men as well. Compelled during this era into an imaginatively heightened existence, the disobedient female is thrust into cultural centrality as a lightning rod to absorb and contain the society's amorphously circulating anxieties about the interlocked issues of dominance and subordination.

Inside The Shrew's narrative model of male success, Kate's ultimate function is to make Petruchio a winner, which status he achieves through the wager42 he makes on his wife's proficiency in subjection. And, by the terms of his bet—"Twenty crowns! / I'll venture so much of my hawk or hound, / But twenty times so much upon my wife" (5.2.71-73), Petruchio acquires the preemptive privilege of a narrative entrance into the emparkment of superior status previously owned by the aristocratic Lord, who had entered the stage likewise venturing a bet beyond twenty pounds on his well-trained prize bitch.

For a theater audience, it is Petruchio who carries the middle- and lower-class male viewer's fused fantasies of erotic reward, financial success, and upward social mobility. What we know from the terms of the play is that, although Petruchio seems to have inherited a respectable amount of land, to guarantee an apparently otherwise precarious hold on upward mobility he has by necessity embarked on an openly acknowledged quest to wive it wealthily and, if wealthily, then well. As Gremio tells us, his master is flat broke and would marry an old trot if she had money enough. And although Hortensio can afford to insist that he would not marry a shrew for a mine of gold, Petruchio's financial exigencies make him assert, "thou know'st not gold's effect" (1.2.93). In the play's subliminal class structure, everything we know about Petruchio's situation suggests that he is in the predicament of a land-poor son whose father acquired enough land to stake a claim on the future, but who, like many others trying during this era to defend their newly won status, urgently needs ready cash to protect his gains against the various new fines, taxes, costs of enclosing, and other assessments that powerful and land-hungry owners kept successfully pushing into county legislation to force their less solvent neighbors to sell.43 In wiving it wealthily, Petruchio manages to prove himself not only a good husband to his patrimonial inheritance but a better son-in-law than even Lucentio, the rich young Pisan whose class background announces itself in various ways throughout his opening speech of act 1, including the information he there provides about his father, "A merchant of great traffic through the world, / Vincentio, come of the Bentivolii; / Vincentio's son, brought up in Florence" (1.1.12-14).44

In this play, the fantasy of a bourgeois (male) culture achieves a fully satisfying statement: upward mobility, displacement of one's supposed betters through the entrepreneurial success of deeds, and a new hierarchy of male relations no longer strictly defined by social class as birthright. The story is, essentially, a paradigm of the success story of the English yeomanry. And the fact of Petruchio's location in that class origin is strongly suggested through the connection the Induction sets up between Petruchio and the actor whom the Lord apparently singles out to play him45—the actor whom the Lord praises for his verisimilitude in playing "a farmer's eldest son" in a play "where you wooed the gentlewoman so well" that the "part / Was aptly fitted and naturally perform'd" (Ind. 1.84-87). The yeomanry was likewise the status group that defined Shakespeare's own origins and was the social class within which at least some—including both John and William Shakespeare—made significant gains during the shift to agrarian capitalism.46 But furthermore, it was the class that in the early 1590s seems already to have evolved into something of a universal signifier, as capable as is the status of "middle class" in present-day America of carrying the projections of even the Slys of the world, as unmaterializable as their desires might ultimately prove to be.

In terms of this implied status, Petruchio actually belongs to a large group of aspiring hero figures who fill up the comic stage of the era: impoverished males like Bassanio, who may standardly appear in these fictions as down-on-their-luck young aristocrats with whom the upper tier of the audience can identify but whose penniless state nonetheless simultaneously suggests an unspoken class differential that lurks beneath such male portraits and creates much of the desiring energy that drives their narratives. Inside such stories, success is defined by winning the golden fleece/wife, who signifies for not only Petruchio but also Bassanio (in Merchant), Orlando (in As You Like It), Claudio (in Much Ado), and Sebastian (in Twelfth Night) a thoroughly affirmed upward shift in economic and social status achieved through becoming "husbands." Placed onstage to act out that trajectory, such figures suggestively represent a cultural unconscious being writ large and played out on the popular stage by playwrights and actors who were themselves prototypical of all the anxious class desires their fictions surreptitiously embody. Within the fiction that Petruchio enacts, "deeds" are in every way preeminent. It is a new world of opportunity and opportunism, one in which Sly's claim to being a "lord indeed" translates into Petruchio's entitlement to being a lord in deeds. For Petruchio is, as he several times says, the man who "would fain be doing" (2.1.74). And yet, as the dowry negotiations that so repeatedly enter into this play attest, "deeds" is never wholly separate from a reference to land titles.

Even the famous Kate and Petruchio battle of wills is waged through the vocabularly of class, most of which for an audience today no longer carry the same weight. At the moment Signior Baptista's elder daughter enters the stage, Petruchio greets her with an instant demotion from the aristocratic "Katherine" by which she defines herself to the distinctly common "Kate"—and "plain Kate, / And bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst" (2.1.1 85-86). In her suggestion to Petruchio to "Remove you hence. I knew you at the first / You were a movable" (196-97) lies the disdaining insult by which Kate identifies her suitor as one of England's newly mobile social groups, either a vagabond or a social climber attempting to move up. In saying she is "too light for such a swain as you to catch" (204), she mocks his courtship as that of a country bumpkin. The tenor of most of the courtship consists, in fact, of a series of loaded class insults in which Kate repeatedly hits at the evident inferiority of Petruchio's status while Petruchio parries by repeatedly bringing Kate down to level terms and treating her more like a barnyard wench than a gentlewoman:

Pet.   What, with my tongue in your tail? Nay,                                  come again.                    Good Kath, I am a gentleman—Kath.  That I'll try.  [She strikes him.]Pet.  I swear I'll cuff you if you strike again.Kath.  So may you lose your arms.              If you strike me, you are no gentleman,              And if no gentleman, why then no arms.Pet.  A herald, Kate? O put me in thy books!Kath. What is your crest—a coxcomb?                                             (2.1.218-25)

Likewise, Kate's complaint to her father

Call you me "daughter"? … You have show'd a tender fatherly regard, To wish me wed to one half-lunatic, A madcap ruffian and a swearing Jack, That thinks with oaths to face the matter out                                         (285-89)

is likewise grounded in terms that protest the class basis of the proposed match. And although Signior Baptista—happy that anyone will marry Kate—never mentions such a class differential, it seems obvious enough to the rich old nobleman Gremio, whose caustic observations about Petruchio and comments to him throughout the play reveal a distinct class disdain. On the wedding day, when Petruchio arrives dressed as a vagabond in order to humiliate Kate and bring her to par, it is Signior Gremio, for instance, who comments, "A bridegroom, say you? 'tis a groom indeed, / A grumbling groom, and that the girl shall find" (3.2.151-52).

But it is the term "gentle" and Petruchio's ability to manipulate it that defines the ultimate weapon in the play's arsenal of class threats and insults because slippage in this term was propelling it into an insidious link between the discourses of gender and class. When Petruchio says to Kate, "I find you passing gentle" (2.1.242), his reference is to a term of gender, not class. When he denies her the cap that all the "gentlewomen wear" by saying, "When you are gentle you shall have one too, / And not till then" (4.3.71-72), he again switches the reference from her assumption of entitlement based on class status to one that makes it contingent on the exhibition of appropriately submissive female behavior, a standard of gender defined by male authority. And though it is most likely true, as Kate angrily exclaims, that "your betters have endur'd me say my mind" (75), Petruchio has by marriage acquired the power to manipulate the signifiers that define Kate's social status and determine just who her "betters" will be. For, as Pierre Bourdieu discusses extensively, class status is established through its own totemically selfconscious representations and is thus heavily dependent on the expenditure of cultural capital displayed through an intricate series of social signs: the vocabulary one uses, the fashion and the implied expense of the clothing one wears, and so on.47 And whether Kate will ever show herself off in the class finery of the "silken coats and caps, and golden rings" (56) that Petruchio promises her or will be kept forever in the "honest, mean habiliments" (170) in which he forces her to return to Padua is a determination over which Petruchio, as the play demonstrates, has acquired complete control.

What has always been so especially disturbing about Kate's final speech is that it is staged as if it were a matter of her own joyful choice. Momentarily setting aside the matter of coercion, it is nonetheless true that for Petruchio to be uncontested lord and master, Kate must, at the minimum, agree to stop "crossing" his assertions. She does; but what she receives in return for her acceptance of patriarchal hierarchy is not, as many wishful readers have hitherto argued, anything that could ever be rightly equated with marital mutuality. Kate's submission to the hierarchy of gender is predicated on the retention of her social position in the hierarchy of class; and leading up to her final speech, Petruchio has employed a consistent strategy to compel her toward that trade-off. Beginning with her public humiliation at the wedding, every time Kate resists submission in the arena of gender, she is punished by degradation in the arena of class. Ultimately, what the play is designed to teach Kate is that, in the area of gender, the only privileges she may claim are the passive, receptive ones of femininity. She may, however, have access to the privileged signs of class; but as this play clearly demonstrates, by 1590 those signs were themselves in the midst of being reconstituted so that they were no longer separate from but were becoming co-implicit in the controlling norms of gender. Furthermore, the class privileges that Kate acquired through birth are now, ironically enough, privileges to which she has access only through her husband. Like the signifying cap and gown that Petruchio dangles in front of her own to whisk away, retention of her class status is a privilege that he has made contingent on her conceding male supremacy. In her final speech of the play, it thus may be said that Kate "masters" a new understanding of the possible trade-offs of her situation. It may also be said that she sells out to the only vision of pleasure that Petruchio will allow—a vision that is almost a comic prototype of the consumerist, middle-class, bourgeois desires that will shortly come to commodify the stage representation of the Restoration gentlewoman and thereby contain it as a comic stereotype.48

Within this emerging vision, Kate's rebellious demand for self-sovereignty falls prey to the substitute pleasures of a highly gendered, patriarchally overlaid model of social class in which femaleness is conceived as a privileged object made to decorate male life, at once constituted so as to be wholly derivative of male status and yet always defined inside a binary opposition to male subjectivity and male power. To be female is constructed as the fine art of thinking one's actions from the position of otherness while simultaneously always seeing oneself as the other—of being careful to preserve one's attractiveness, not blot one's beauty with threatening brows or scornful glances nor let anger muddy up the offered fountain lest that worst of apparent eventualities occur and no man ever deign to drink of it. Feminine achievement is conceived as making it successfully into wifehood, and therein becoming the pampered object of a dedicated provider who, "for thy maintenance; commits his body / To painful labour … Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe" (5.2.148-49, 151). Gone is the Katherina whom Hortensio described as like to prove herself a soldier after she had quite literally broken the lute on him; gone is the Kate who struck Petruchio and threatened to comb old Gremio's noddle with a three-legged stool (1.1.64). In its place in Kate's concluding vision is the model of physical helplessness that will shortly become the romantic axiom for the eroticized feminine object. The speech thus marks a clear historical point at which womanhood has been reconceived into the erotic fantasy of exquisitely helpless fragility, of having a body that is "soft, and weak, and smooth, / Unapt to toil and trouble in the world" (5.2.165-66); a body whose "soft condition," being endowed with only "strength as weak, [and] weakness past compare" (174) must physically yield agency to the mastery of those who are imagined as exact opposites to the soft, weak, and smooth of the feminine—to those opposites whose lances, in Kate's subtending fantasy, are (presumably) not just straws.49

The vision of true womanhood that Kate presents us with is, finally, the fantasy of being a gentle/woman—a putatively helpless object of leisure, enclosed and immured in masculine protection, born to shop and displayed forth in the fashionable signs of aristocratic status which Petruchio makes Kate realize he can and will withhold from her. Unless Kate becomes a gentle woman, she will remain in the low status of having to beg the servants for food, in every way infantilized, deprived of all authority, indefinitely dressed in "honest, mean habiliments," and thus signified with all the low-status cultural capital that announces her position in the world as perilously close to that of the beggar who watches this play.

The offered fantasies with which the play concludes are strongly gendered ones that exist in inverse relationship to each other. From the position of male desire, the fantasies that subscribe The Taming of the Shrew "work" through the unconscious displacement of class hostilities onto gender; for women, who are the locus of that displacement, the fantasies this play offers must "work" in precisely the inverse way, through a displacement of gender hostilities which ensures the dispersal of counterpart aggressions against men. For women, the invited trajectory is away from gender and onto anxieties about social class. Within the vision that Kate is constructed to dramatize, the trade-offs for which she settles exchange desire for equality in one hierarchy for the guaranteed material and social privileges of another.

What the play's various displacements contrive throughout to deny, of course, is the very site upon which the whole design is constructed: the enormous difference in the masculine positions of social class and the hostilities that such distributions engender. Despite such avoidances, however, both the displacement and the difference it denies are historically collocated in the title noun that foregrounds them. For the term "shrew" actually belongs to a whole class of words that underwent a semantic shift that the pattern of this play—and, by inference, the culture in which it was constructed—actually duplicates. Like the struggle over land tenure and the trajectory of displacement which I posit, this semantic shift also occurred between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was within those several centuries, which frame England's transition from the late medieval to the early modern world, from the feudalist agrarian economy to the capitalist one, that a whole category of words such as "harlot," "shrew," "hoyden," "scold," "baggage," "brothel," "bordello," and "bawd"50 were transposed from their origin as contemptuous expressions for lower-class males into terms that gendered such hostility, displacing it away from the threat of male class revolt which remained real throughout the era and redirecting it at women.

If we grant for the moment the Folio text of The Taming of the Shrew, the Sly Induction works to lay bare a mechanism of social control that the play then retreats from exploring. Having exposed the ground on which the Padua displacement is constructed, the text then refuses to return to the scene in Warwickshire, withdraws from the exploration of the class-gender nexus that it initially seemed poised to query, and essentially abandons its audience suspended within the displacement. Leah Marcus has argued for adopting an intertextual approach that accepts Shakespeare as the author of The Taming of A Shrew, the infamous other, "unauthoritative" text that exists in a historically undecipherable relationship to this play. In Marcus's analysis, the two Shrews should be viewed "as a cluster of related texts which can be fruitfully read together and against each other as 'Shakespeare.'"51 With the use of A Shrew's closing frame plus several of the interruptions it stages within the taming story, the Sly plot narrative—in which issues of class difference remain active onstage and thus become all but ineradicable—could work at strategic intervals to disrupt the otherwise seamless enactment that the authorized text provides of a social displacement that ends without waking its dreamer/audience. In the closing frame of A Shrew, when Sly awakens on the cold, hard ground, recalling his most rare dream of being a lord and preparing now to go recuperate it by lording it over his own shrewish wife, the return to reality works, at least in part, to collapse the romanticized patriarchal fiction in which The Shrew leaves its audience suspended. Moreover, one could also say that the ending of A Shrew actually constitutes a morally damning critique of the way that The Shrew ends, for what A Shrew's return to Warwickshire dramatizes is just how persuasively such representations of power and dominance as that which the taming narrative has played out can work on the disempowered to induce the kinds of aggressive displacements that Sly, the modeled audience, departs the stage hoping to effect for himself.

The only text available for teaching this play fails to unpack the political narrative it produces. What that text does suggest, however, is a clear recognition on Shakespeare's part of the class and gender relations being constituted within his era and the potential manipulability of the theater to become a stage for culturally reproducing only those narratives that affirm the hegemonic and patriarchal.52 It suggests an authorially conscious political reading of how, amidst the turbulence of the class and gender crises of the early 1590s, such a thing as a national ideology was being molded into shape, and what role the theater was playing in that production. If The Shrew represents Shakespeare's own pruned-down version of his original interplot narrative, as Marcus feels is likely, what such a revision seems to suggest is a belated form of self-censorship, a second-thought stage in which the author may have decided to excise the politically more radical line of the Sly narrative, leaving behind only its fossil in the Induction. If so, then it was a move that the writer of this play had already rehearsed through his creation of Kate. For it is the move that Kate also chooses when she, too, selects the hierarchical narrative and, dramatizing her own disempowered relationship to it, tells women to "vail your stomachs, for it is no boot" (5.2.176), as she prostrates herself before the represented sign of authority and its symbolic coercions of power.

In this play, as is frequently true in gender and class relations in general, beneath every asserted dominance is inevitably an unacknowledged, uncredited, and usually unpaid dependency of the higher on the lower. Like Sly, Petruchio moves from his initial status as a needy wanderer to the bed of a highborn wife; and, like Sly, Petruchio depends for his lordship on the signifying speech act of a madam wife who, positioned as she is within the gender hierarchy, is the one person who can make lord and husband interchangeable terms.53 Sly's first anxious demand of his madam wife is that she call him husband. And obediently: "My husband and my lord, my lord and husband, / I am your wife in all obedience" (Ind. 2.104-5), intones Sly's wife. In her words, the play anticipates the parallel lines through which Petruchio's wife will elevate him into metaphoric peerage and women in the audience will be enjoined likewise to elevate their husbands: "Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, / Thy head, thy sovereign" (5.2.151-52), says Kate. But Sly's madam wife has always been, of course, little Bartholomew, the Lord's page, who has been commanded by the Lord to dress up like a lady and serve the Lord's voyeuristic desires by playing out a wifely acquiescence that will convince the hapless Sly that he, too, is a lord indeed. The play thus depends, in large, on Bartholomew's unchosen willingness to mediate the story of a class and gender nexus that is doubly represented in him. And it is Bartholomew/Madam Wife—the figure who embodies an intersection on the class-gender hierarchy and thus occupies the culture's most literal space for understanding—who generically resituates The Taming of the Shrew and insistently removes it from the category of comedy. In doing so, he points toward new locations from which we might profitably consider the cultural fantasies constituted in and reproduced by The Taming of the Shrew. To Sly's query whether the Kate and Petruchio play at hand is a "comonty," a "Christmas gambold," a "tumbling-trick," or some "household stuff" (Ind. 2.138, 140) Bartholomew—speaking right at the juncture between frame and inner play, right between the Warwickshire ground and its Padua displacement—solemnly rejects all these farcical categories. Instead, he insists: "No, my good lord, it is more pleasing stuff. … / It is a kind of history" (Ind. 2.139, 141). And so, perhaps, it is.


1 Ann Thompson's introduction to the New Cambridge Taming of the Shrew illustrates this phenomenon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), p. 24.

2 J. Wickham Legg, Ecclesiological Essays (London: de la More Press, 1903), esp. pp. 189-90; George Elliott Howard, A History of Matrimonial Institution, 2 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1904), 1:302-8; Surtees Society Publications 63 (1875): 20, note; Duncan MacGregor, ed., The Rathen Manuel (Aberdeen: Aberdeen Ecclesiological Society, 1905), p. 36 n. 1. In the York and Rathen rites, the bride was to kiss the husband's foot only if he had endowed her with land; a surviving "MS. Manual of Sarum Use," however, dictates that she must do so "whether there is land in the doury or not" (Howard, A History, p. 307 n. 1). The enactment of this ceremony of prostration and foot-courtesying seems to have been traditional throughout pre-Reformation Europe. For further details, see Lynda E. Boose, "Scolding Brides and Bridling Scolds: Taming the Woman's Unruly Member," Shakespeare Quarterly 42 (1991): 179-213.

3 See Boose, "Scolding Brides and Bridling Scolds."

4 David Underdown, "The Taming of the Scold: The Enforcement of Patriarchal Authority in Early Modern England," in Order and Disorder in Early Modern England, ed. Anthony Fletcher and John Stevenson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 116-36, esp. pp. 116, 136.

5 J. A. Sharpe, "Defamation and Sexual Slander in Early Modern England: The Church Courts at York," Borthwick Papers no. 58 (1980), p. 24.

6 Richard Lachmann, From Manor to Market: Structural Change in England, 1536-1640 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987), esp. pp. 100-149.

7 Ibid., pp. 118-19. See also The historians' debate over enclosure and the other land reallocations that initiated agrarian capitalism in sixteenth-century England has heated up again of late, spurred on by revisionist theses such as that of Eric Kerridge in Agrarian Problems in the Sixteenth Century and After (London: Allen and Unwin, 1969). To a poststructuralist literary scholar whose assumptions include recognizing a politics of the critic, the debate seems distinctly ideological. Although Kerridge never acknowledges a politics informing his own perspective and instead sees it as a problem only in Tawney, a political perspective seems quite evident in his introductory comments: "In Tawney … a harmful prejudice was all too evident. Tawney the politician barred the way to Tawney the scholar. Time which he might have given to studying history was devoted instead to the Fabian Society and … socialist dogma. Hence his wholly untrue picture of early capitalism as cruel and greedy, destructive alike of social welfare and true spiritual values" (p. 15). Like "Shakespeare" in 1980s literary politics, the social history of the 1590s apparently locates a similar site for ideological contest among early modern British historians. Ian W. Archer's comments are instructive. While acknowledging the important correctives that revisionist urban historians have offered to the so-called doom and gloom school of urban history, Archer points out that "because the stability of the city is always in view, these writers tend to be biased towards the success stories. Their attention is focused on upwardly mobile Londoners. … Consensual explanations are always favoured over those which recognise a degree of coercion, so that there is no discussion … of the repressive side to social policy." Ian W. Archer, The Pursuit of Stability: Social Relations in Elizabethan London, Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 15.

8 The wide variance in my figures reflects the apparent difficulty of finding a national calculation based on tabulations that differ from county to county. Estimates of the number of those dispossessed by enclosure vary, sometimes greatly, among historians. Perhaps because the assessment is inextricable from an ideological perspective it would appear to verify, history—whether of the sixteenth or twentieth century—seems to have a hard time counting up its homeless.

9 In Lachmann, From Manor to Market, p. 121 and table 1.1., p. 17, the sources for this figure are given extensive citation.

10 Ibid., p. 140. In seeing the strategies taken by the lords and gentry as designed to clear the land of a peasantry that had made gains both tenurially and materially during the fifteenth century and not as premeditated steps toward agrarian capitalism, Andrew Charlesworth essentially agrees with Lachmann. By enclosing the commons, raising rents, driving out the tenants, and subsequently leasing the property to graziers, the landlords increased their seigneurial power and prevented tenants from converting the land to freehold. See Andrew Charlesworth, "The Geography of Land Protests, 1548-1860," in An Atlas of Rural Protest in Britain, 1548-1900, ed. Andrew Charlesworth (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983), pp. 9-11.

11 Lachmann, From Manor to Market, p. 135.

12 Roger B. Manning, Village Revolts: Social Protest and Popular Disturbance in England, 1509-1640 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), p. 23.

13 Joan Thirsk, The Rural Economy of England (London: Hambledon Press, 1984), p. 81. For an excellent summary of the contradictory discourses in which enclosure exists in even the sixteenth century, see James Siemon, '"Landlord … Not King' : Property and Propriety in the Heteroglot England of Richard III" in Enclosure Acts: Sexuality, Property, and Culture in Early Modern England, ed. Richard A. Burt and John Archer (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994).

14 Thirsk, Rural Economy, p. 80.

15 All Shakespeare quotations are from The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans et al. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974).

16 Lachmann, From Manor to Market, p. 104; see also

17 Manning, Village Revolts, p. 187. Manning sees this concentration of disorder as primarily a crisis in urbanization, Annabel Patterson as one of economic distress, in Shakespeare and the Popular Voice (London: Blackwell, 1989), pp. 34-35.

18 Patterson, Shakespeare and the Popular Voice, p. 35.

19 Thirsk discusses how, long before the 1607 Midland Revolt, the authorities as far back as the enclosure commissions of 1548 and 1565 were already concentrating on the Midland counties. In 1548 the commission inquired into engrossing, enclosing, and emparking in Warwickshire and Cambridgeshire, and, in 1565, in Buckinghamshire and Leicestershire (Rural Economy, p. 72).

20 Manning, Village Revolts, p. 104. This Richard Quiney seems to have been not only William Shakespeare's friend but Judith Shakespeare's father-in-law.

21 Underdown comments: "The customary world has been turned upside-down by enclosers; the protesters symbolically turn it upside-down again (dressing as women, parodying the titles and offices of their social superiors) in order to turn it right-side-up." David Underdown, Revel, Riot, and Rebellion: Popular Politics and Culture in England, 1603-1660 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), pp. 106-12. Charlesworth notes women's instrumentality in a number of the food riots in the era (Atlas of Rural Protest, p. 74), as does Buchanan Sharp, In Contempt of All Authority: Rural Artisans and Riot in the West of England, 1586-1660 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), pp. 11-42.

22 In Revel, Riot, and Rebellion, Underdown cites the 1598 riot at Datchet, Buckinghamshire, near Windsor, and discusses the use of cross-dressing under the figurative aegis of "Lady Skimmington" in the Braydon rebellions of the early seventeeth century (see esp. pp. 106-12). Also see Sharp, In Contempt, pp. 100-108, 129.

23 Richard Wilson, in "As You Like It and the Enclosure Riots," Shakespeare Quarterly 43 (1992): 1-19, shows how certain central fictions of As You Like It—the relation between brothers and landownership, the band of latter-day Robin Hoods who reside defiantly in Arden Forest, and even the repeated motifs of deer and sheep—draw their impulse from the social realities of enclosure.

24 Sir Walter Raleigh, The Discoverie of the Large, Rich, and Beautiful Empyre of Guiana (London, 1596), p. 96. See also

25 Patterson, Shakespeare and the Popular Voice, p. 44.

26 From Hugh Honour, The New Golden Land, as quoted in Orgel, introduction to The Tempest, p. 33.

27The Dramatic Works of Thomas Heywood, 6 vols. (London: John Pearson, 1874), 1:20,30,23. In a design that undercuts any potential sympathy for the rebellion, its leader, the bastard aristocrat Falconbridge, distances the rebellion both from legendary rebel-heroes and from the generally sympathetic causes of food shortage and enclosure: "We do not rise like Tyler, Cade, and Straw, /. … For mending measures or the price of corne, / Or for some common in the wield of Kent / Thats by some greedy cormorant enclos'd" (p. 9).

28 The connection to Heywood's play was suggested by a paper Jean Howard presented at a conference, "The European Renaissance: National Traditions," in Glasgow, August 1990.

29 George Gascoigne, The Adventures of Master F.J. (1573), in An Anthology of Elizabethan Prose Fiction, ed. Paul Salzman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 3-81; quote is from p. 26.

30Another World and Yet the Same: Bishop Joseph Hall's "Mundus Alter ed Idem, " trans. John Millar Wands (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981). See "Book Two: Viraginia, or New Gynia," pp. 57-67, esp. p. 57.

31 The OED sheds further light on the range of investments and desires that "husband" carries with it during this era. Hus (house) + band (bond) originates as a term of reference for a peasant who owned his own house and land—a freeholder, franklin, or yeoman; a man of rank in his capacity as head or master of a household. From "master of the house" it derives its meaning as a man joined to a woman in marriage. In its meaning as one who tills and cultivates, it had specific application to manorial tenants; and "husbandland" was a northern and lowland Scots term for a freeholder who held a "husband" of land. For "husbandman," the OED cites J. C. Atkinson's statement of "proof that … down to the first half of the seventeenth century, the appellation husbandman still distinguished the man of the class next below the yeoman, and that he was literally the holder of the orthodox husband-land consisting of two oxgangs." Stephen Booth, commenting on Sonnet 94 ("They rightly do inherit heaven's graces / And husband nature's riches from expense; / They are the lords and owners of their faces, / Others but stewards of their excellence"), notes how in the context of a love poem, the verb "husband" (to manage with thrift) "invokes unharnessed overtones of 'to husband' in its marital senses, 'to marry' and 'to get a husband for' … since 'to husband' is ordinarily used in reference to tilling and managing agricultural land, husband joins inherit to prepare the way for the estate metaphor of lines 7 and 8." Stephen Booth, Shakespeare's Sonnets (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), pp. 306-7.

32 Linda Woodbridge, Women and the English Renaissance: Literature and the Nature of Womankind, 1540-1620 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), p. 2.

33 Sharp, In Contempt, pp. 13-16; quote on p. 34.

34 As attacks on symbols of seigneurial perquisites, those on deer parks were more specifically antiaristocratic than any other enclosure protests. Emparkment for aristocratic pleasure interfered directly in the local economy by taking away good farmland (Charlesworth, Atlas of Rural Protest, pp. 11-12), and it further restricted available game. As J. A. Sharpe comments about the poaching laws, "Whatever the provisions of individual statutes … the class basis of the game laws was obvious. … The first Jacobean game statute was specifically directed against 'the vulgar sort, and Men of small worth.'" J. A. Sharpe, Crime in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 168. Recognition of emparkment as a volatile, highly contested social site provides suggestively interesting perspectives for reading the attempted enclosure taking place in the famous "deer park" passage of Venus and Adonis.

35 Manning, Village Revolts, p. 25.

36 Throughout the Middle Ages, women had traditionally been the brewers and men the bakers. According to Alice Clark's analysis in Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century (New York: Harcourt, 1920), by the end of the sixteenth century the brewing trade had changed so as largely to exclude women (pp. 196-97, 234-35). In Annals of the Labouring Poor: Social Change and Agrarian England, 1660-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), K. D. M. Snell shows the overall pattern of gender in employment as connected both to the enclosures and to population growth. As the population grew and agricultural jobs declined, prices rose and male real wages also declined. When male unemployment rose, female labor was curtailed, at which time women's marriage age fell further as a protection against the increased possibility of their unemployment. A. J. Willis, in A Calendar of Southampton Apprenticeship Registers, 1609-1740, shows a drop during the seventeenth century from 48 to 9 percent in the percentage of Southampton apprentices who were female (quoted in Snell, Annals, p. 274).

37 Sharp, In Contempt, p. 42.

38 Patterson, Shakespeare and the Popular Voice, pp. 38, 39.

39 The information about Hackett's rebellion (although not the connection to The Shrew) comes from Patterson: see esp. ibid., pp. 32-51.

40 The Riverside edition places Fl's wording, "brach Merriman," in parentheses and notes that most editors emend "brach" (bitch hound) to either "broach" (bleed) or "breathe" (allow to rest).

41 In positing a model of class-to-gender displacement as the appropriate lens for reading The Shrew, I am not attributing a fixed priority to the category of class. It likewise seems inappropriate to assign such status to either gender or race. Each of the three status categories is a social construction that can persuasively masquerade as something innate and organic, and the trajectory of displacement that occurs at any given time among the three will be dictated by the exigencies of the historical moment. Within such a paradigm, the category most likely to be displaced will be whatever category is currently on the hotplate. In the 1590s that issue was the potential for class conflict implicit in the threat of an uprising of the commoners. In the 1991 U.S. Senate's Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas, the issue of gender that was raised by Anita Hill's testimony was successfully displaced by a selective focus on Thomas's race.

42 As Carol Rutter pointed out in a personal communication, "wedding" is derived from "to wager" (German vetten).

43 For the elite strategies, see Lachmann's discussion in From Manor to Market, esp. his chapters "National-Level Elite Conflicts, 1536-1640" (pp. 66-99) and "Local-Level Class Conflicts, 1536-1640" (pp. 100-127). Against the presumption of a brewing social crisis during the 1590s, revisionist historians have made much of the stability of London. Ian Archer emphasizes, however, that this phenomenon should be attributed not to the absence of crisis but to the solidarity of the elite and the tightening of the machinery of social control in the face of the very real threat of potentially widespread disorder (Pursuit of Stability, pp. 18-57).

44 Whether or not an English audience would have classified Lucentio as "nouveau riche" rather than a "real" aristocrat because of his father's association to trade, Lucentio—unlike Petruchio—not only always speaks in aristocratic tones but also clearly has more than enough money to defend his claim to the upper echelon.

45 Although I am aware of the appearance of the speech prefix "Sincklo" before line 98 (Ind. 1), just where one would expect "player," I am not wholly persuaded by the conjecture or tradition that assumes that the prefix is an authorial error for the actor John Sincklo or Sincler. But see Thompson's introduction, p. 4.

46 In Bingo (1975), playwright Edward Bond takes an unflattering look at Shakespeare's own participation, upon his retirement in Stratford, in precisely the kind of land enclosures that had produced the world of "poor naked wretches" dramatized in King Lear.

47 See Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971).

48 See especially Margaret George, "From 'Goodwife' to 'Mistress': The Transformation of the Female in Bourgeois Culture," Science and Society 37 (1973): 152-77. Alice Clark defines the ways that capitalist organization reconstructed the notion of womanhood: "The wife of the prosperous capitalist tended to become idle, the wife of the skilled journeyman lost her economic independence and became his unpaid domestic servant … The alternatives before the women of this class were either to withdraw altogether from productive activity, and so become entirely dependent upon their husband's goodwill, or else to enter the labour market independently … in competition not only with other women, but with men. … At this time the idea that men 'keep' their wives began to prevail" (Working Life of Women, p. 276).

49 Barbara Hodgdon's essay "Katherina Bound; or, Play(K)ating the Strictures of Everyday Life," PMLA 107 (1992): 538-53, offers some valuable insight on the visual pleasures that performance of this play makes available to the female spectator.

50 See Joseph M. Williams, Origins of the English Language: A Social and Linguistic History (New York: Free Press, 1975), pp. 196-97.

51 In "The Shakespearean Editor as Shrew Tamer," English Literary Renaissance 22 (1992): 177-200, Leah Marcus offers a reading of the politics of textual editing. In the steady demotion of A Shrew that began with Edmund Malone, editors were expressing a decided preference for what Marcus classifies as the more authoritarian and patriarchal of the two Shrew texts.

52 Annabel Patterson makes a convincing case that the parody of court patronage and the artisan's fear of offending court tastes in A Midsummer Night's Dream's play-within-the-play demonstrate precisely this sort of awareness (see Shakespeare and the Popular Voice, esp. p. 58).

53 See also As Newman comments: "By enacting Sly's identity as a lord through his wife's social and sexual (if deferred) submission, the induction suggests ironically how in this androcentric culture men depended on women to authorize their sexual and social masculine identities" (p. 38).

Source: "The Taming of the Shrew, Good Husbandry, and Enclosure," in Shakespeare Reread: The Texts in New Contexts, edited by Russ McDonald, Cornell, 1994, pp. 193-225.


Katherine of The Taming of the Shrew. 'A Second Grissel'


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