Review of

"The Dreaming of the Shrew"

Jayne, Sears. "The Dreaming of the Shrew."
Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Winter, 1966), 41-56.

Background:Shakespeare's play has a shadow, another comedy, the anonymous The Taming of a Shrew. (Note that there is only a one-word difference between the title of this play and the title of Shakespeare's play. As a result critics often refer to the anonymous play as A Shrew.) All of the references to a shrew play during Shakespeare's life are to A Shrew, and the First Folio, published after Shakespeare's death, contains the only text of Shakespeare's play. At first glance, it seems that A Shrew could well be a source for Shakespeare's play, since there are so many elements in common. A Shrew has a frame in which Sly, a drunken tinker, is fooled into believing he is a great lord. It also has a shrew, Kate, and a shrew-tamer (named Ferando, not Petruchio), who must win Kate before her two sisters can be married. However, there are so many significant differences between the plays that critics have theorized that A Shrew is an imitation of Shakespeare's play, or is derived from an older, lost play which Shakespeare also used as a source.

Despite the questionable relationship between the two plays, and despite the fact that A Shrew is a much inferior play, editors and theatrical producers have long borrowed from A Shrew because it has one thing that Shakespeare's play does not — a complete frame. In Shakespeare's play, Sly, the audience for the shrew-taming play, just disappears. After the Induction we see Sly only once more; at the end of the first scene of the inner play a servant tells Sly that he is nodding off and not paying attention. Sly claims that he is paying attention, but wishes the play were over, and after that we see or hear no more of him.

In contrast, in A Shrew Sly is present until just before the last scene, until the lord who played the trick on him gets tired of his tendency to fall asleep. The lord has his servants take Sly away, dress him in his own clothes, and deposit him at the door of the ale-house where he was first found. Then, when the last scene of the inner play is over, the last scene of the frame shows Sly waking up and claiming that he is no longer afraid of his wife because he has had a marvelous dream in which he learned how to tame a shrew.

Thesis: Jayne says that for the producer of Shakespeare's play, the most difficult problem is deciding what to do about Sly. Just performing Shakespeare's text as it exists is unsatisfactory because there's a huge loose end, but cutting the Sly material cuts out some charming comedy. Also, the Induction also has an important thematic function; it introduces the idea of "supposes." (See Seronsy's "'Supposes' as the Unifying Theme in The Taming of the Shrew.") Specifically, when Sly is treated as though he were a lord, he begins to think of himself as a lord, and that is a prologue to Petruchio's plan to tame Katherine by treating her as though she were already tame, and just presumed ("supposed") to be a shrew.

According to Jayne, the way most theatrical producers solve these problems is as follows:
. . . produce all of Shakespeare's play, including the induction and Sly's comment after I.i., but then to add to it the additional Sly interludes and eipilogue form A Shrew. This solution, which combines the superior power of Shakespeare's play with the logical completeness of A Shrew, has been on the whole the most popular solution to the problem in twentieth-century productions. The disadvantages of this solution are that the resulting play is not Shakespeare's and that the conclusion tends to be anticlimactic. (42-43)
Jayne's own solution, "in one sentence," is this: "The inner play should be played as though it were Sly's dream, with Sly playing Petruchio; at the end of the inner play, Sly should wake up as Sly again, and try to puzzle out his dream in a comic pantomime" (43).

As Jayne admits, there is no play in Shakespeare's time which presents the whole thing as someone's dream, no support in the contemporary theory of dreams for such a production, and only the slightest correlation between the proposed solution and Shakespeare's treatment of dreams in other plays. On the other hand, Jayne asserts, it was common for comedies to be followed by unscripted "jigs" (song and dance acts loosely connected to the preceding play), and Sly's pantomime could be justified as a jig.

Jayne offers other justifications for presenting the whole play as Sly's dream: it would explain the play's emphasis on clothes and disguises, since Sly's clothes have been changed to disguise himself from himself; it would explain the theme of women's character, since Sly's problems concern women (the ale-wife and his supposed lady); most importantly, it would supply an interpretation of the relationship between Katherine and Petruchio, and of the most famous speech of the play, Katherine's long declamation about women's submission:
The final relation between Kate and Petruchio is a relation which could occur only in a man's dream. In her long final speech Kate says what she says only because Sly-Petruchio dreams that she says it. The speech is addressed to women and is divided into two parts; in the first part she paints the man's romantic-vision of himself as the noble, self-sacrificing hero, out in the wind and the rain, bravely fighting and suffering for his wife. The second part of the speech paints the man's romantic-vision of the ideal woman at home, soft and warm and ready to bring said hero's slippers when he comes in from said wind and rain. Kate is not a real wife but a dream wife; she should read this speech with the same comic exaggeration of tone that characterizes the rest of the play. This is not serious moralization; it is quick, high, and absurd, like the fishwives' flyting which introduces it. The speech is part of the play's point that a man's achievement of absolute dominion over his wife can happen only in a dream.  (55)

Evaluation: Jayne doesn't approve of adding text from A Shrew to Shakespeare's play, but he is perfectly willing to add a pantomime, extra actors (to stand in for Sly and others, when they become characters in the inner play), and a moral to the story. It's not only the inconsistency that bothers me, but the narrowness of meaning imposed by adopting the proposed solution to the Sly problem. Katherine may deliver her speech with "comic exaggeration," but it could be an exaggeration of genuine loyalty to her husband.

Bottom Line: The vision of an author who loves the play so much that he would love it to death.