Review of

"Shrewd and Kindly Farce"

Saccio, Peter. "Shrewd and Kindly Farce."
Shakespeare Survey 37. Ed. Stanley Wells. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984. 33-40.

Thesis: Saccio's article is an extended response to Robert Heilman's influential 1966 essay, "The Taming Untamed, or, The Return of the Shrew." (This is a link to my review of Heilman's essay.) Heilman, in my opinion, uses the category of "farce" to explain away the parts of the play that he considers offensively sexist. Saccio responds to this approach by redefining farce, at least in Shakespeare's play, as "shrewd and kindly" (i.e., intelligent and humane), rather than reactionary and dehumanizing, and thus does away with the need to make excuses for any part of the play. Saccio's view of the taming of the shrew is wholly positive: "The play enacts a transformation from shrewdness into kindness, from what is turbulent, curst, keen and noisy — natural in the sense of fallen nature — to what is generous, gentle, dutiful, and loving — natural in the sense of belonging properly to human relationships in families and communities" (40).

Evaluation: Saccio does a good job of pointing out the flaws in Heilman's definition of farce, but his own account of the play, like Heilman's, has too little persuasive detail.

Bottom Line: Only OK.