"Look not big, nor stamp, nor stare": Acting Up in The Taming of the Shrew and the Coventry Herod Plays.
That Shakespeare knew of the conventions and characters of Corpus Christi cycle drama is beyond question. What remains unclear is whether his knowledge was derived, either wholly or at least in part, from first-hand childhood experience as an audience member. Although the young Shakespeare may have developed a taste for live theater in Stratford itself, which frequently played host to licensed traveling players from 1569, (2) his home town had no tradition of Corpus Christi drama. But as many scholars have speculated, Shakespeare may have witnessed one or more performances of the biblical cycle play staged during the week-long Great Fair of Corpus Christi at nearby Coventry. He certainly had ample opportunity to do so. Although no longer the regular annual event it had been before the Reformation--it was not performed during the plague years of 1564 and 1575, for example--the city's cycle play was staged on numerous occasions during Shakespeare's childhood prior to its discontinuation in 1580, when he was sixteen. The Coventry Fair was evidently a large tourist draw, attracting thousands of visitors and their purses. One seventeenth-century antiquary noted that "the confluence of people from farr and neare to see that Shew was extraordinary great, and yielded noe small advantage to this Cittye." (3) As the son of one of Stratford's leading local politicians in the 1560s and 1570s, whose official administrative business took him to Coventry on several occasions, it is hard to imagine Shakespeare and his father not attending a nearby event invested with considerable civic and even national significance. In the absence of any incontrovertible evidence that Shakespeare was an audience member at a performance of the Coventry cycle, however, potentially illuminating points of contact between the mystery drama and his own have been for the most part neglected. (4)
A passage in the wedding scene of The Taming of the Shrew--a play that contains more references to Warwickshire locations than any other by Shakespeare (5)--hints that he did see the Coventry cycle, and that one of its episodes may have made a lasting impression on him. The specific connection I shall sketch between the Coventry play and The Taming of the Shrew differs from the type of strictly intertextual relation conventionally adduced by scholars of source studies. I am proposing instead a relation of intertheatricality. This different relation, I shall argue, consists less in textual transmission--although there may be elements of that too--than in critical reproduction of a style of performance most notable for the actor's over-the-top self-presentation, including exaggerated gestural techniques, dazzling costumes, and deafening verbal delivery. I shall term this style "acting up." The phrase not only suggests the hyperbolic tendencies of the style, which required the actor's volume knob to be decisively turned up (loud delivery! loud body language! loud apparel!); it also captures something of the socially transgressive behavior tyranny, shrewishness--that the style was frequently employed to represent on the early English stage. The phrase additionally hints at the potentially transgressive status gap that so frequently obtained between the player and his character; to impersonate a middle eastern tyrant or even a young woman from a rich Paduan mercantile family, the player of the provincial Corpus Christi stage and the London commercial theater alike had to act "up" in a class as much as a histrionic sense.
Shakespeare's reproduction of cycle-drama performance styles in The Taming of the Shrew bespeaks not only a personal history of dramatic influence, however, but also an institutional history of theatrical rivalry and transformation. For I wish to argue that if the play contains echoes of the Coventry cycle drama--and I believe it does--it is because Shakespeare and his company were engaged in a project of theatrical and cultural redefinition that entailed a critical relation to not only the artisanal Corpus Christi drama of the provinces, but also the acting up demanded by the most popular plays from the London commercial stage of the late 1580s and early 1590s. It is not just shrews that Shakespeare's play endeavors to tame, I shall argue, but also those contemporary London players who perpetuate the histrionic bodily techniques of the artisans who performed the Coventry Herod.
After Petruchio has peremptorily announced in the bizarre wedding scene of The Taming of the Shrew that he and Katherine will forgo their banquet and return immediately to his country house, he tells his surprised guests to "look not big, nor stamp, nor stare" (3.2.230). The line stands out for the explicit attention it draws to players' facial gestures and body language. In doing so, it foregrounds the hyperbolic style of performance demanded less of the actors who play the wedding guests than of those who play the larger-than-life Katherine and Petruchio themselves. Katherine has in all likelihood just exhibited the kind of body language from which Petruchio enjoins the wedding guests to refrain: she may very well look big, stamp, and stare as she delivers the lines preceding Petruchio's, for example, in which she exclaims that "I will be angry ... Father, be quiet: he shall stay my leisure" (3.2.218-9). And Petruchio, giving Katherine a taste of her own melodramatic medicine, doubtless resorts to some serious stamping and staring himself. We are told that he "stamp'd and swore" during the wedding ceremony (3.2.169), an over-the-top (albeit unseen) technique of acting up that erupts onto the stage during his honeymoon, when he physically abuses his servants and throws his dinner at them in feigned disgust (4.1.136).
Petruchio's wedding-scene invocation of exaggerated theatrical body language is all the more striking given how seldom Shakespeare explicitly instructs his actors to resort to it. (6) Stage directions call for Cardinal Beaufort to "rave and stare as if he were mad" (I Henry VI, 3.1.1) and the raging Cleopatra to "strike" a messenger, "hale him up and down," and "draw a knife" on him (Antony and Cleopatra, 2.5.61,64, 73); Prince Edward remarks how King Louis "stamps as he were nettled" (3 Henry VI, 3.3.169), and Brutus notes the passionate Cassius' "rash choler" and "staring" eyes (Julius Caesar, 4.2.93-4). But such cues to hyperbolic performance are the exception rather than the rule. Shakespeare largely avoids asking his actors to look big, stamp, or stare; in this respect, his playscripts subtly reinforce the advice of Hamlet to the players: "do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently" (Hamlet, 3.2.4-5).
As a result, Petruchio's line sounds like it has been interpolated from a completely different tradition of theater. And indeed it may have been: it recalls one of the more memorable lines in the Shearmen and Taylors' play from the Coventry cycle. Like the other surviving Coventry cycle pageant of the Weavers, the Shearmen and Taylors' play is an omnibus entertainment, telescoping themes and episodes from the life of Christ that the cycle dramas of larger cities, such as York, usually divided up among separate guilds. After presenting the Annunciation, the play turns to the Nativity and a sequence of prophecies, and concludes with the Slaughter of the Innocents. The most dramatically powerful sequences occur in this last episode, during which Herod commands the stage. Having discovered that the three kings have eluded his trap for them, Herod responds with an angry outburst in distinctive language that closely resembles Petruchio's: "I stampe! I stare! I loke all abowtt!" (779). (7) Herod's tantrum is punctuated by an equally noteworthy stage direction, moreover, one that translates his previous remark into a bravura performance of sustained stamping, staring, and looking all about: "Here Erode ragis in the pagond and in the strete also" (783).
The potential echo of Herod's declamation in Petruchio's "look not big, nor stamp, nor stare"--which, if indeed an echo, is a command not to behave like Herod--demands careful, not to mention sceptical, attention. Stamping and staring were two of the symptoms conventionally associated by early modern English writers with rage; Joseph Hall, for example, speaks of anger as a "stamping with the feet" and a "glaring of the eies." (8) Indeed, the OED asserts that "to stamp and stare" was a commonplace phrase denoting the expression of uncontrolled fury, and cites the line from the Shearmen and Taylors' pageant as an early instance. One cannot rule out the possibility that the well-attended annual performances of the Coventry cycle drama may have been at least partly responsible for the popularization of the phrase, and that use of it in the sixteenth century may often have deliberately conjured up, or at least implicitly presumed, the stage Herod's behavior. Nevertheless, variations on "to stamp and to stare" were frequently employed by playwrights who almost certainly had no direct experience, let alone knowledge, of the Coventry cycle drama. In Christopher Marlowe's Jew of Malta, for example, Pilia-Borzia reports that Barabas "star'd and stamp'd and turned aside" while reading Ithamore's letter of extortion. (9) Marlowe was born and raised in Canterbury, whose Corpus Christi play had been discontinued in 1500; his reference to stamping and staring obviously cannot be regarded as firm evidence of any first-hand experience of a cycle-drama Herod, let alone that of the Coventry Shearmen and Taylors. Likewise, Shakespeare's rendition of the phrase cannot stand by itself as proof of his familiarity with the Coventry cycle.
Petruchio's "look not big, nor stamp, nor stare" certainly parallels the Coventry Herod's line much more closely than does Pilia-Borzia's: I have been unable to locate any other instances, dramatic or otherwise, in which the three verbs "stamp," "stare" and "look" are freighted as they are in both the Shearmen and Taylors' pageant and The Taming of the Shrew. But fifteen or so years separate the Coventry cycle drama's last performance from The Taming of the Shrew's first; how likely is it that Shakespeare could have remembered the exact content of the utterances of the Shearmen and Taylor's Herod? Moreover, if we admit such a verbal "echo" as evidence of Shakespeare's familiarity with the Coventry cycle, what are we to do with those equally suggestive parallels between the language of The Taming of the Shrew and the Herod plays of other cities and towns that Shakespeare surely did not see? Christopher Sly's swearing by St. Anne after the first scene of the play-within-a-play staged for him (1.1.255), for example, invokes the saint to whom the Digby play of Herod, Candlemas Day and the Killing of the Children of Israel, is dedicated. (10) And the very title of Shakespeare's play finds numerous parallels in the language of those surviving mysteries that treat the theme of the Slaughter of the Innocents. The Towneley Herod announces that he will "tame" the intolerable "talkyng" of his subjects; (11) in the York Girdlers and Nailers' play of the Massacre of the Innocents, Herod tells his soldiers to kill "that schorwe ... pat menes to maistir me" (12); and the Chester Goldsmiths' play on the same theme employs "shrew" as Herod's and his men's favored derogatory epithet for Jesus, resorting to it no less than seven times in less than one hundred and seventy lines. (13)
I do not propose to draw any conclusions about Shakespeare's pre-London theater experiences on the basis of verbal parallels alone, of course; otherwise I would be forced to make the implausible case that the youthful Shakespeare was not only a decidedly mobile tourist, but also a precocious theater-going infant with an even more precocious memory (the York pageants were last performed in 1579; the Chester cycle in 1575). Nor am I interested in fleshing out suggestive thematic links between the Herod plays and The Taming of the Shrew, such as the topoi of shrewtaming and festive gender inversion enacted in the Shearmen and Taylors' pageant, which like other medieval plays of the Slaughter of the Innocents depicts the rebellion of mothers and wives against Herod and his soldiers. (14) Rather, it is the style of spectacular, hyperbolic performance distinguishing The Taming of the Shrew, one glimpsed in Petruchio's order to "look not big, nor stamp, nor stare," that strikes me as redolent of the Coventry Herod. And this connection presumes on Shakespeare's part not a highly attentive reader's (or auditor's) acquaintance with the specific verbal peccadillos of cycle-drama playscripts, nor a dramatic poet's investment in its themes and motifs, but a first-hand experience of the distinctive bodily techniques of the cycle-drama actor--a dimension normally overlooked in narrowly textual discussions of Shakespeare's sources.
If Shakespeare had attended a performance of the Coventry cycle, he would have seen not one, but two plays of Herod. Although no script has survived, records of payments by the Smiths' company make clear that its pageant of the Passion was as dominated by Herod Antipas as the Shearmen and Taylors' pageant was by Herod the Great. In 1478, the actor who performed Herod was paid 4s--no mean sum, especially when compared to the compensation paid to the pageant's Jesus, who received only 2d. (15) The Herod player's already expensive performance fee was far outstripped, however, by the company's investment in his character's accessories. In 1489, for example, the Smiths paid 7s 4d for "a gowen to Arrode," a further 6s 4d "for peynttyng and steynyng thereoff" and 8d for having the gown mended by a tailor; in the same year they paid an additional 20d for "Arrodes garment peynttyng that he went a prossassyon in," as well as up to 3s for repairs to Herod's crest. When that year's payment of 3s 4d to the actor who played Herod is factored into the costs of production, the extent of the Smiths' investment in the character becomes clear: they spent a total of 20s 8d in preparing Herod for the Corpus Christi entertainments in 1489--an enormous sum of money, especially during a period of catastrophic economic decline that decimated the wealth of the Coventry craft guilds and severely compromised their ability to produce the annual play. (16)
The records of payment underscore the importance of Herod's physical appearance in the pageant. His costume was doubtless one of the most spectacular of the Coventry Corpus Christi entertainments; the many references in the records to the hire and upkeep of Herod's gown--probaby a garment made of blue satin, the material conventionally associated with his character in medieval tradition (17)--demonstrates how crucial it was to his theatrical presentation, functioning as an emblem of his considerable wealth and power. During the 1570s, when Shakespeare would have most likely seen the play, the Smiths were in the habit of renting the gown for 8d from Sir William Wigston, a scion of a powerful mercantile family from Coventry and Leicester; (18) in a late medieval version of product placement, the contemporary class (if not personal) provenance of the gown would have been evident to the audience, thereby literally investing the performance of Herod with a topical resonance. (19) Equally important in establishing Herod's appearance were his crest and falchion, or sword. Large amounts of money were spent on preparing and repairing these two accessories. In 1544, a painter named John Hewitt was paid 2s for "dressyng of Errod hed and the faychon"; by 1565, his fee had gone up to 2s 6d. (20) "Dressyng" entailed far more than simply painting stage properties. The record of payment in 1495 of 13d to John Hatfield for "dressyng of Herods Creste" notes that his labor entailed the addition to the crest of "iii platis ... of Iron"; in 1500, Hatfield's services were again required when he gilded both crest and falchion with "gold foyle & sylver foyle" (21) Adding further visual impact to this already striking spectacle, the Smiths' Herod was on at least one occasion seated on a horse; the company records of 1476 document a payment of 3d for the animal's hire, a unique transaction replicated nowhere else in records of payment for the Coventry play or other towns' cycle plays. (22) The Smiths' Herod, in other words, was designed to dazzle the audience's eyes.
Unfortunately, the Shearmen and Taylors' records of payment have not survived, so it is impossible to know with certainty whether their Herod the Great was as spectacular as the Smiths' Herod Antipas. When Queen Elizabeth visited Coventry in 1567, the Smiths' pageant was performed for her at Little Park Street's End, but not the Shearmen and Taylors'; perhaps the latter was deemed to be less entertaining, although a more likely explanation is that the prominence of the Virgin Mary in their pageant made it potentially too Catholic an entertainment for the Protestant queen. (23) In any case, it is hard not to conclude that Herod the Great had acquired an equally spectacular appearance in the Shearmen and Taylors' pageant. In the playscript, Herod asks the audience to behold "my contenance and my colur,/ Bryghtur then the sun in the meddis of the dey" (507-8), which suggests he sported a gilded crest identical to that of the Smiths' Herod; he refers also to "my fawcun and my fassion, with my gorgis araye" (511), indicating that he possessed not only the same distinctive accessories but also a similarly sumptuous costume. There may, moreover, have even been small-scale collaboration between the two guilds. A record of payment in 1579, the last year that the Coventry cycle was performed, notes that the Smiths paid 10d--quite possibly a rental fee--"for a gowne to the tayllers & sheremen." This record suggests that the Smiths replenished or supplemented their stock with the Shearmen and Taylors' Herod's theatrical hand-me-downs. The gown would almost certainly have been a high-quality, eye-catching garment designed to publicize its makers' artisanal skill; the Coventry Herod in both his incarnations, in other words, may have functioned as something of a late-medieval fashion model. (24)
What the Smiths' records of payment cannot communicate, however, is the extent to which Herod's theatrical impact did not derive from his spectacular visual dimensions alone. As early as Chaucer's Miller's Tale, Herod had become synonymous with a thunderous mode of delivery; hence the obvious irony in the Miller's well-known description of Absolon's theatrical pastimes: "Sumtyme to shew his lightnesse and maistrye/He pleyeth Herodes upon a scaffold hye" (25) The decibel level required of the actor who played the Shearmen and Taylor's Herod is hinted at by the line "I stampe! I stare! I looke all abowte!" whose verbs contain a sequence of increasingly strong phonemes: the sixth most powerful phoneme the human voice can make in English, [al, is followed by the third most intense phoneme, [a:], which win a particularly good example of what Bruce R. Smith has termed the "O-Factor" in early English theatrical acoustics yields to two instances of [0:], the loudest in the language. (26) But it was more than the noisiness of his delivery that made Herod's speech so arresting. His theatrical impact depended equally on the distinctive syntax and rhythm of his speech, both of which appear to have underpinned a highly gestural mode of bodily comportment. Despite the differences between the various versions of Herod in the surviving mystery cycles, there are certain syntactical and rhythmic features they share, all of which testify to a powerful collective impression of not only his character's traits, but also how these should be realized in performance. (27)
In medieval dramatic versions of Herod, Robert Weimann has observed, "physical action and emotional excitement, raging violence and angry speech coalesce and interact to such a degree that ... emphasis is placed not on a description of the outcome of action but on the process of doing, which is itself performed as verbal and physical action." (28) Weimann's general remarks apply particularly well to Herod's characteristic reports of his emotional states, which, in a striking yoking of constative and performative modes of utterance, entail a theatrical subjectivity that consists not in ineffable interiority, but in action directed by histrionic self-commentary. The deafening "I stampe! I stare! I looke all abowtt!" of the Coventry Shearmen and Taylors' Herod whose largely iambic coupling of "I" and intransitive, present tense verbs is replicated two lines later by "I rent! I rawe! and now run I wode!" (781)--is but one illustrative instance of a widespread phenomenon. The utterances of the Digby Herod, for example, are similarly characterized by intransitive verbs that demand frantic gesture: "Oute! I am madde!/ ... I chille and chevere for this orrible chaunce!" (29) The Chester Herod repeats this pattern: "All for wroth, see how I sweate!" (30) The Herod of the Towneley plays likewise follows his Coventry counterpart in adopting a largely iambic rhythm of histrionic self-commentary. In the "oblacio Magorum" he exclaims that "I wold be rent and al to-torne/For doyll and care!/Alas, alas, I am full wo!"; and in his other play, "magnus Herode" he states that "me thynk I brast/For anger and for teyn." (31) Despite the differences between his many local incarnations, these lines make clear that throughout England, the cycle-drama Herod's audiences were exposed to an array of distinctive, hyperbolic gestures: stamping, staring, rending, running, chilling, shivering, tearing, bursting. When one adds to these actions unique stage directions like the Shearmen and Taylors' "Erode ragis in the pagond and in the strete also," one begins to get a sense of the enormous impact that their Herod in particular must have had. Excessive in self-actualizing speech as well as gesture and dress, he literally refused theatrical and bodily confinement.
How can we begin tracing the elusive links between Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew and the Coventry Herod(s)? It is certainly tempting to see counterparts to the distinctive personality traits of the Shearmen and Taylors' Herod in the volatile, wilful personalities of The Taming of the Shrew's two principals. Herod's incendiary anger is duplicated by Katherine's; his boastfulness parallels Petruchio's. Likewise, the repeated emphasis that Herod places on his will--"My wyll vtturly loke that yt be wroght" (803), "my wyll thatt ye wyrke bothe be dey and nyght" (815)--finds many parallels in Petruchio's peremptory behavior as he enforces his "reign" in marriage (4.1.201): his comic usurpation of divine powers to "create" the sun and the moon (4.5.2-22), for example, is of a piece with the claim of the Shearmen and Taylors' Herod to have "made bothe hevin and hell" (488) and to be "the cawse of this grett lyght and thunder" (493). (32) Given that Petruchio in effect enjoins Katherine and the wedding guests to avoid the precedent of Herod, however, one might speculate about vestiges of the latter's stage appearance in what Petruchio denies his wife: the fashionable dress and headgear crafted by artisans (4.3.63-170), the chance to ride a horse (4.1.74-87). But it is less any specific echoes of Herod's character or accessories than The Taming of the Shrew's general style of acting up that most recalls--albeit critically--the Coventry Herod plays. That this style captured Shakespeare's attention is suggested also by his explicit references to the theatrical Herod in his other, later works.
Shakespeare stands alone among the major playwrights of the early modern London stage in making repeated reference to Herod. The latter fails to be the subject of even a single allusion in any of Marlowe's and Jonson's plays; inasmuch as he does make an appearance in the drama of Shakespeare's contemporaries, such as Elizabeth Cary's Tragedy of Maryam, the anonymous Second Maiden's Tragedy, and Herod and Antipater, it is as a historical character lifted from the pages of Thomas Lodge's 1602 translation of Josephus' Of the Antiquities of the Jews, and unrelated to the pageant Herod. (33) When Shakespeare alludes to Herod in his plays, by contrast, it is in almost every instance less the Herod of classical history or of scripture than his cycle-drama incarnation that informs the reference.
Mistress Page, speaking in The Merry Wives of Windsor of Falstaff's unwelcome love-letter to her, declaims:
What a Herod of Jewry is this! 0 wicked, wicked world! One that is well-nigh worn to pieces with age, to show himself a young gallant! (2.1.18-20)
Mistress Page condemns Falstaff's wickedness, for which the Herod of scripture and classical history would have served as a sufficient exemplum. But her final exclamation, with its invocation of a raise "show" hints at a theatrical reference: Falstaff, like the cycle-drama Herod, is a vainglorious braggart. The memory of Herod as a loud, melodramatic, "strutting player" is even more apparent in Hamlet's legendary censure of noisy actors. Speaking of the player who "tear[s] a passion to tatters" and "split[s] the ears of the groundlings" Hamlet complains that "I would have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant. It out-Herods Herod" (3.2.10-11,13-15). Not only does Hamlet's allusion invoke the character in an explicitly theatrical context; the reference also has no corollary in the scriptural representation of Herod, whom the Geneva Bible proclaims to be "exceading wroth" (St. Matthew 2:16), but not loud.
One might counter that Shakespeare's allusions to the cycle-drama Herod in The Merry Wives of Windsor and Hamlet need not presume a first-hand acquaintance with the Coventry Herods. As Chaucer's description of Absolon's dramatic pastimes in The Miller's Tale shows, the character's bragging and ranting tendencies were legion; moreover, Hamlet criticizes what had become an obsolete style of acting, and it is precisely such obsolescence that means the allusion by itself can prove no more than Shakespeare's knowledge of the ear-splitting stereotype associated with Herod, and not any first-hand familiarity with the character in performance (let alone on the Coventry stage). Another of Shakespeare's explicit allusions to Herod, however, furnishes strong evidence that he was calling to mind a memory of a specific dramatic performance. In Henry V, Harry tells the inhabitants of Harfleur that they can expect to see
Your naked infants spitted upon pikes, Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen. (3.3.115-19)
Editors tend to gloss Harry's speech with a reference to the pertinent passage concerning the Slaughter of the Innocents in St. Matthew (2:13-18). But the dominant image in Shakespeare's rendition of the episode ---the description of the "howls" of upset mothers that "break the clouds"--arguably derives less from an acquaintance with scripture, which refers in any case only to the single voice of Rachel mourning for her children (2:18), than from a memory of an entertainment such as the Coventry Shearmen and Taylors' pageant. Like other theatrical versions of the episode, the latter directs the actors playing the mothers of the slaughtered children to create a hullaballoo of distress: (34) after the children have been murdered, the first soldier asks "Who hard eyuer soche a cry/ Of wemen that there chyldur haue lost?" (870-71).
As Henry V's reference to the howling mothers of the Innocents suggests, it is parallel details of staging rather than linguistic, narrative, or thematic echoes that offer the most compelling evidence for Shakespeare's having seen the Coventry cycle play. Shakespeare's allusions to Herod and the Slaughter of the Innocents are all distinguished by their sensitivity to larger-than-life performance, whether embodied in the bragging strutter of Merry Wives, the deafening ranter of Hamlet, or the shrieking mothers of Henry V. If the theatrical Herod sprang readily to Shakespeare's mind as an emblem of performative excess when he wrote these three plays, it is only a small leap to assume that the few instances of over-the-top acting up demanded by his other plays were always potentially mediated by a memory of the Coventry Herod, even in the absence of any explicit allusion to the character. Such a memory may well have informed three of The Taming of the Shrew's most distinctive details of staging: thunderously loud delivery; hyperbolic gesture, including stamping; and self-consciously extravagant costuming.
Hamlet foregrounds Shakespeare's particular sensitivity to the auditory dimensions of the theatrical Herod. This was a detail that, for the most part, he does not seem to have been eager to reproduce in his own plays. The enormous volume demanded of the actors in the Herod episode of the Shearmen and Taylors' pageant is matched by few works in the Shakespeare canon: Bottom might bellow in the "lofty" vein of a tyrant (A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1.2.32), and Lear might "rage" and "blow" in competition with the storm on the heath (King Lear, 3.2.1), but these are isolated (and even parodic) moments of loudness within their respective plays. The sustained vociferation of the Shearmen and Taylors' Herod episode is rivaled in the Shakespeare canon only by the opening acts of The Taming of the Shrew. No other work by Shakespeare asks players to attack their audience's eardrums to quite the same extent. (35) The play starts loud, only to get louder: the racket that opens the play as the bellowing Christopher Sly is thrown out of the inn by the Hostess is quickly surpassed by the eclat of Katherine's first appearance, in which she loudly threatens Hortensio with physical violence and impresses herself on Tranio, as "stark mad or wonderful froward"(1.1.69). Petruchio's first scene continues the aural onslaught. Having raised the decibel level already with his verbal and physical abuse of Grumio ("I'll try how you can sol fa, and sing if' [1.2.18], a line that suggests a brisk blow to Grumio's groin and an appropriately piercing, soprano shriek from the latter), he proposes to deal with Katherine's noise by getting noisier still, a strategy underlined by the ranting style of his language in the following passage:
Think you a little din can daunt mine ears? Have I not in time heard lions roar? Have I not heard the sea puff'd up with winds Rage like an angry boar chafed with sweat? Have I not heard great ordnance in the field, And heaven's artillery thunder in the skies? Have I not in a pitched battle heard Loud 'larums, neighing steeds, and trumpets' clang? (1.2.200-207)
Given the volume that the speech demands of the player, John Draper may have been far closer to the mark than he realized in claiming that Petruchio's "method is to out-Herod Herod." But this is no simple, uncritical reproduction of cycle-drama loudness. If Shakespeare directs the actor playing Petruchio to emulate the ranting bluster of Herod, it is not because his character is angry; for all the speech's hyperbolic excess, this is a controlled demonstration of noise--a soundcheck of sorts, in which the actor can test his levels of amplification. Shakespeare calls for histrionic loudness, in other words, to draw metatheatrical attention to the actor's vocal technique, not the character's emotion.
In other plays, Shakespeare seems likewise to have recalled by signaling his critical distance from a second distinctive dramaturgical detail of the Shearmen and Taylor's pageant: Herod's melodramatic stamping. Shakespeare's references to stamping appear almost exclusively in his early plays. (36) In King John, Constance berates the Duke of Austria by calling him "A ramping fool, to brag and stamp, and swear/Upon my party" (3.1.48-9); in 3 Henry V/, Margaret commands York to "Stamp, rave, and fret" in response to Rutland's death (1.4.92). Both remarks hint at a lexicon of theatrical body language appropriate to stage tyrants, one that in its ensemble of stamping, bragging, and raving seems pointedly to derive from Herod's antics. Constance's and Margaret's remarks are just as notable, however, for not mandating any actual stamping on stage. Only once in the two plays is the performance of the gesture explicitly called for: Prince Edward notes in 3 Henry V/how King Louis "stamps as he were nettled" upon hearing of the marriage of King Edward IV to Lady Gray (3.3.169). By comparison, The Taming of the Shrew is chockful with histrionic stamping. The two explicit references to the gesture in the wedding scene probably represent a small fraction of the stamping required in performances of a play that repeatedly "planteth anger" in its title character (4.1.75). Indeed, Katherine's imperious displays of larger-than-life rage in the first acts of the play can conceivably be construed as a sustained parody of a stamping stage tyrant: threatening violence with a "three-legg'd stool" (1.1.64) in order to massacre the "innocent" Hortensio; driving Bianca onstage with her hands bound (2.1.4); "fuming" at Hortensio's "frets" and crowning him with his lute (2.1.153). There is no end of exaggerated, knockabout violence in those other theatrical traditions to which The Taming of the Shrew is more obviously indebted, such as the commedia dell'arte or skimmington. But Katherine's bodily comportment reproduces that of Herod in one particularly crucial respect. As both her first appearance and the wedding scene indicate, Katherine's performances of anger spill out into the streets of Padua, exceeding the bounds of Baptista's house just as the Coventry Herod's rage catapaults him off the pageant wagon and into the street. Stamping serves as graphic bodily shorthand for this violent irruption into the public sphere; it emblematizes Katherine's as much as Herod's disregard for emotional, social, and theatrical containment alike. Hence Petruchio's command to "look not big, nor stamp, nor stare" recalls the Shearmen and Taylors' entertainment less because of its verbal echo of the latter, than because of its metatheatrical reference to (and disparagement of) a Herod-like style of melodramatic acting up that refuses confinement and teeters noisily on the platea at the threshold between stage and audience.
Lastly, Petruchio's invocation and censure of Herod-like gesture is paralleled throughout the play by another, similar dramaturgical gambit: reproduction and criticism of Herod-like displays of apparel. The boastful nature of the Shearmen and Taylors' Herod is most forcefully realized on stage by the latter's vain commands to the audience to behold his "gorgis araye" (511). While The Taming of the Shrew might not replicate specific details of Herod's attire (tempting though it might be to see a parodic doubling of the latter's gown in the blue livery of Petruchio's servants [4.1.93]), Shakespeare's play follows the example of the Shearmen and Taylors' pageant by repeatedly focusing attention on its spectacular apparel, some of it garish, some of it fashionable. Petruchio's ostentatiously ill-matched "accoutrements" (3.2.121) for his wedding, the Tailor's and Haberdasher's magnificent garments that "fit the time" (4.3.69), and Tranio's "Silken doublet, ... velvet hose, ... scarlet cloak, and ... copintank hat" (5.1.55-6) are all in their very different ways over-the-top costumes that, like the apparel of the Shearmen and Taylors' Herod, occasion extended onstage discussion. But The Taming of the Shrew is a play that ridicules even as it flaunts its costumes. "To me she's married, not unto my clothes," observes Petruchio at the wedding (3.2.119); he derides the fashionable garments that Katherine covets as ridiculous "masquing stuff' (4.3.87); and, in a final display of costumes that "fit the time," he commands her to trample her cap before the other wives (5.2.125). Like its reproduction of Herod-like volume and gesture, then, the play's displays of extravagant costume possess a sustainedly metatheatrical and critical dimension. (37) Shakespeare calls for acting up, in other words, to discredit it.
But why would Shakespeare have had occasion in The Taming of the Shrew to remember and subject to sustained critique a style of performance that in his other plays he seems to have simply shunned? One contributing factor may have been a contemporary theatrical event--or, perhaps more accurately, trend. It is not inconceivable that Herod's acting up would have sprung to Shakespeare's mind as he witnessed the performance of what was one of the Tudor London commercial stage's most successful and influential plays, whose popularity reached its apogee in the years immediately before he wrote The Taming of the Shrew.
As a simply textual artifact, Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great owes far less to any native English theatrical tradition than to the model of Seneca. To those members of early modern London audiences familiar with provincial cycle drama, however, Tamburlaine on stage may well have seemed like Herod resurrected. Indeed, despite Marlowe's undoubted ignorance of Corpus Christi drama and his manifest debt to the Senecan Hercules in fashioning his larger-than-life action hero, (38) Harry Levin and others have regarded the cycle-drama Herod as Tamburlaine's dramatic prototype: like Herod, Tamburlaine orders a slaughter of innocents, swears oaths by Mahomet, and makes claims of world domination and of superhuman powers. (39) But it is just as much details of staging as of character or plot that lend weight to the comparison. Some of these Herod-like details are discernible in the published playscript alone (from which, interestingly, the publisher Richard Jones claims to have excised "fond and frivolous gestures"--an ambiguous phrase that might refer not simply to Marlowe's verse, but also to stage directions concerning the actors' facial expressions and actions). (40) With its opening lines, Tamburlaine underscores the inadequacy of anything less than "great and thund'ring speech" in a king (I.1.1.3); it constantly refers to Tamburlaine's fierce "looks" and body language (I.1.2.56, 3.2.66-75, II.1.4.76-8, 4.1.173-5, etc.); and its spare stage directions require Tamburlaine to parade a sequence of striking costumes--full armor (I. 1.2.41), suits of white, red and black (I.4.2., 4.4, 5.2)--which were evidently supplemented in performance by other sumptuous garments listed in Henslowe's inventory of costumes, such as Tamburlaine's "cotte with coper lace." (41)
It is in the testimony of early modern viewers, however, that we can glimpse most clearly the Herod-like dimensions of Tamburlaine's performativity. In his Virgidemiarum (1597), Joseph Hall satirizes an actor's performance of "the Turkish Tamberlaine"; in the process, Hall furnishes considerable information about the standard theatrical presentation of the character. The actor wears opulent costume, sporting "princely ... robes of Royaltie"; he speaks loudly, resorting to "huf-cap termes and thundering threats/That his poore hearers hayre quie upright sets"; and he employs melodramatic gesture: "stalking" and "high-set steps." (42) The distinctive details of Hall's satirical portrait are confirmed by other reports. Ben Jonson famously criticized "the Tamerlanes ... of the late Age, which had nothing in them but the scenicall strutting, and furious vociferation." (43) A pamphlet from 1597 tells of a man who "bent his browes and fetcht his stations vp and downe the rome, with such furious Iesture as if he had beene playing Tamberlaine on a stage." (44) Such "furious Iesture" may well have included stamping: in Thomas Dekker's Satiromastix, Tucca asks a player: "doest stampe mad Tamberlaine, dost stampe?" (45) Marlowe's legendary claim to have superseded the "jigging rhymes of mother-wits" (I.Pr. 1) notwithstanding, then, these accounts suggest that the play's immense popularity may have had less to do with its poetic innovation than with its theatrical conventionality. Even though its playwright displays no familiarity with the Slaughter of the Innocent plays in general and the Coventry Shearmen and Taylors' pageant in particular, Tamburlaine in performance seems to have reprised many of the most distinctive dramaturgical features of the Herod cycle-drama pageants.
In this Tamburlaine was not alone. A large number of plays performed in the 1580s and early 1590s demanded Herod-like scenes of furious bluster and gesture. The actor Edward Alleyn became famous as a result of his performances of Tamburlaine, and many of his other roles--such as the leads in Tamar Chain and Orlando Furioso, and Muly Mahomett in Peele's The Battle of Alcazar--seem to have been custommade for his legendary style of "scenicall strutting, and furious vociferation" (46) Other plays followed Tamburlaine's--and Alleyn's--hyperbolic example. In The True Chronicle History of King Leir, performed before 1594, stage directions note that Ragan "frownes and stamps" as she reads a letter. Her gestures are illuminated by the commentary of another character:
See how her colour comes and goes agayne, Now red as scarlet, now as pale as ash: See how she knits her brow, and bytes her lips, And stamps, and makes a dumbe shew of disdayne, Mixt with reuenge, and violent extreames. (47)
Ragan's acting up is notably presented here as more than simple hyperbolic theatrical convention. By including details about her body that cannot be performed by the actor, King Leir makes sense of the character according to the tenets of humoral psychology. Ragan's vacillation between "red" and "pale" countenances typifies the "skyn red as fyre, or salowe" associated with those suffering from an excess of choler; (48) it also illustrates the conviction of Galenic physicians that anger is a mixed emotion, comprised of grief and desire for vengeance. (49) The "violent extreames" that Ragan is described as experiencing are thus simultaneously gestural and humoral, the former being symptomatic of the latter. Indeed, humoral psychology probably supplied players with many of the their stock gestures; Ragan's "dumbe shewe of disdayne" or staring, for example, supports Thomas Wright's observation that a "rolling eye, quick in moving this way and that way, argueth ... a hot choleric complexion" (50) A similar grounding of gesture in humoral disposition may also inform an anonymous Tudor manuscript's claim that "to stampe with the foote in great contentions is not unseemle." (51) If angry stamping and staring were not considered "unseemly," it was in large part because these gestures were understood to represent the natural bodily expression of internal complexional processes. In this respect, acting up may have been regarded by many players and audiences of the early London commercial stage as highly realistic.
There seems, however, to have been a significant transformation in the bodily techniques of anger and dramaturgical taste alike during the 1590s and 1600s. Richard Levin has shown how the earliest audience responses to Tamburlaine and his hyperbolic excess were almost uniformly positive; (52) but the comments of later playwrights display a growing, widespread discomfort with and even hostility to the gestures of acting up that Marlowe's play demanded. John Marston has the aggrieved Pandolph ask in 1.5 of Antonio's Revenge (1602):
would'st have me turn rank mad, Or wring my face with mimick action; Stampe, curse, weepe, rage, & then my bosome strike? Away tis apish action, player-like. (53)
By the turn of the seventeenth century, in other words, hyperbolic acting up had come to be regarded by certain playwrights not as the outward expression of natural humoral process, (54) but as embarrassingly histrionic bluster--"player-like"--with no necessary connection to passion. As a result, Marlowe's hero was increasingly regarded as a model to be avoided. Indeed, Hamlet's invective against stage-Herods and Termagants might mask an oblique critique also of Edward Alleyn as Tamburlaine: in the name of the true imitation of life, Hamlet rebukes actors who "neither having th'accent of Christians, nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of Nature's journeymen had made men, and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably" 3.2.29-34). Here the excessive noise and body language of the oriental Herod and Termagant blur almost seamlessly, if only implicitly, into that of Marlowe's "Turkish" Tamburlaine and, more specifically, of the actor who made the role famous. (55)
Alleyn's famously bombastic acting style--if not Alleyn himself--is held up for repeated ridicule in Shakespeare's plays. In the years before Hamlet's critique of "strutting and bellowing" Shakespeare had already thoroughly parodied the style in Ancient Pistol's histrionic excess and Nick Bottom's ridiculous "lofty" ranting in the vein of tyrants. But why would Shakespeare have been so scornful of Alleyn's acting up? David Bevington may be correct to conclude that "Hamlet simply expresses the aim of all actors in all ages, who perennially correct what they perceive to be the formal strutting and bellowing of their ancestors." (56) But there are, I would suggest, historically specific determinants for Shakespeare's attempts at "correction." I suspect that the target of Shakespeare's critique of acting up--in The Taming of the Shrew as much as in Hamlet--was less Alleyn than a more general style of hyperbolic performance that he associated in part with provincial cycle drama, and from which he and his urban playing company sought to distance themselves. This distancing arose from a larger, complicated process of institutional and cultural redefinition in which Shakespeare's theater company was involved, a process that also found expression in debates about the acceptability of the artisanal player and the relationship between acting and rhetoric. These debates had high class stakes; they were part and parcel of the gradual bourgeoisification of the English theater.
Tamburlaine's "strutting and bellowing" shows how the London commercial stage of the 1580s and early 1590s duplicated much of the distinctive acting up of the Coventry Herod. It is probably no accident, then, that the sudden unfashionability of Tamburlainian styles of performance by the early seventeenth century coincided with subtle but significant attempts by London playwrights to distance themselves from provincial cycle-drama tradition. This much is obvious from Thomas Heywood's Apologie for Actors (1612). Defending the professional actors of the London stage from the criticisms of the antitheatricalists, Heywood elaborates what is basically an argument based on historical precedent: theater has served noble ends in the past; it continues to do so in the present. Notably, however, his account of the history of the theater stir-consciously excludes medieval cycle drama: "I omit the shewes and ceeremonies even in these times generally used amongst the Catholikes, in which the Churchmen & most religious, ditters pageants, as of the Nativity, Passion, and Ascension, with other Historicall places of the Bible, are at divers times & seasons of the yeare usually celebrated; sed hac praeter me."(57)
It is not simply the taint of Catholicism that puts Heywood off the Corpus Christi entertainments. A pronounced class bias apparent in his account of Greek actors suggests another explanation for the omission of cycle drama from his history of the theater. Heywood notes with approval that "the Sages and Princes of Grecia, who for the refinednesse of their language, were in such reputation through the world, that all other tongues were esteemed barbarous; These that were the first understanders, trained up their youthfull Nobility to bee Actors, debarring the base Mechanicks so worthy imployment" (sigs. C2v-C3). It is precisely such "base Mechanicks"-- Smiths, Shearmen, and Tailors--who mounted the provincial cycle drama, of course, and for Heywood to acknowledge this precedent would undermine his invocation of ennobling Greek theatrical example.(58) His support for the Greek ban on artisanal actors strongly suggests, therefore, that he regards the artisanal "shewes and ceeremonies" of Corpus Christi not just "praeter," but also "sub me."
Heywood's class bias against "base Mechanicks" notably operates in tandem with his attempts to associate the theater with the prestige of the university. In discussing the value placed by the latter institution on theatrical performance, he moves into a telling consideration of the affinities between acting and the scholar's study of rhetoric. Initially he emphasizes the ways in which rhetoric inculcates a high-class decorum of speech: "To come to Rhetoricke, it not onely emboldens a scholer to speake, but instructs him to speake well, and with judgement, to observe his comma's, colons, & full poynts, his parentheses, his breathing spaces, and distinctions ..." (sig. C3v). Heywood insists, however, that command of rhetoric involves far more than facility with "commas, colons, & full-poynts." The scholar and the actor alike also need to know how to manage their bodily comportment in decorous fashion:
to keep a decorum in his countenance, neither to frowne when he should smile, not to make unseemely and disguised faces in the delivery of his words, not to stare with eies, draw awry his mouth, confound his voice in the hollow of his throat, or teare his words hastily betwixt his teeth, neither to buffet his deske like a mad-man ... (sigs. C3v-C4).
Heywood's linking of the body language of rhetoric and acting is in many respects commonplace; the well-known frontispiece to John Bulwer's Chironomia: or, the Art of Manuall Rhetorique (1644), for example, depicts a pair of Roman actors instructing Cicero and Demosthenes in the art of pantomime. (59) Yet Heywood and Bulwer propose an equivalence that other early modern rhetoricians disputed. Abraham Fraunce, for instance, insisted on the orator's superiority to the actor, arguing that the former's gesture should change with the voice, "yet not parasiticallie as stage players use, but gravelie, and decentlie as becommeth men of greater calling." (60) Heywood's attempts to differentiate actors from "base Mechanicks" and identify them with "men of greater calling" versed in the art of rhetoric is thus all the more striking for its potential contentiousness. It entails an implicit redefinition of professional actors' conventional bodily techniques as well as class status.
Heywood's bodily and class redefinition of acting demands to be calibrated with the ongoing institutional redefinition of theater prompted by two statutes: that of 1572 concerning the punishment of vagabonds, which mandated that playing companies be licensed exclusively through patronage by a nobleman or two judicial dignitaries of the realm; and the subsequent statute of 1598, which limited theatrical patronage to nobles alone. As a consequence, professional players may have been increasingly likely to view themselves as neo-feudal servants of nobility rather than as itinerant vagrants or base artisans. The effects of this institutional redefinition on the offstage status of players have been written about extensively. (61) In light of Heywood's comments, however, it is arguable that the elevation of the players' status through aristocratic patronage--always a tenuous gesture, and one that needed reinforcement by other means (Shakespeare's purchase of a family coat of arms being a good case in point)--also prompted in many of them a heightened anxiety about their onstage bodily techniques. Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, I will suggest, lends expression to, and lays bare the enabling patronal relations for, such anxiety.
Heywood's treatise was written more than two decades after Shakespeare started writing for the London commercial stage. But it in effect codifies what is implicit in the "appropriate" acting styles espoused by plays written by Shakespeare as early as the 1590s. Heywood's remarks about the scholar's and actor's shared regard for punctuation, for example, might especially recall Theseus' observation in A Midsummer Night's Dream about the mistakes of the hapless artisanal actor, Peter Quince the carpenter: "this fellow doth not stand upon points" (5.1.118). It is Heywood's commentary upon gesture, however, that most echoes Shakespeare. What links rhetoric and playing, Heywood makes clear, is decorous action:
A deliucry & sweet action is the glosse & beauty of any discourse that belongs to a scholler. And this is the action behoouefull in any that professe this quality, not to use any impudent or forced motion in any part of the body, no rough, or other violent gesture ... for in over-acting trickes, and toyling too much in the anticke habit of humors, men of the ripest desert, greatest opinions, and best reputations, may breake into the most violent absurdities. (sig. C4)
Heywood may as well be speaking about both the actor who played the Coventry Shearmen and Taylors' Herod and Edward Alleyn as Tamburlaine. He thus echoes Hamlet's request that players avoid out-dated artisanal models of acting, and employ decorous body language as much as speech: "use all gently: for in the very torrent, tempest, and as I may say the whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. 0, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious, periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings" (3.2.5-9). Such "robustious" behavior, for the Wittenberg-educated Hamlet and the Oxford-educated Heywood alike, lacks class; it is too redolent of the cycle drama of "base Mechanicks." In this regard, Hamlet's claim to be "offended" by Herod-like acting up is significant. His affective response represents a small but notable chapter in the widespread shift plotted by Norbert Elias in early modern techniques of the body.(62) With the growing ascendancy of the bourgeoisie, and its appropriation of courtly ideals of restrained, "grave" behavior, an increasing embarrassment came to be registered by playwrights as much as their characters in reaction to the lack of bodily restraint demanded by the cycle Herod and his descendants on London's commercial stage. Such embarrassment, I would argue, is evident in Shakespeare's career as early as The Taming of the Shrew.
Petruchio resorts to "rope-tricks" (1.2.107), a cant term for rhetoric, to get the better of Katherine.(63) But it is not just the verbal precocity of the rhetorician that Shakespeare's play seeks to emulate: like Heywood's treatise, The Taming of the Shrew places a premium on the rhetorician's decorous action. It may not seem that way at first. In the opening acts the play's most transgressive characters--the drunken Sly, the shrewish Katherine, the swashbuckling Petruchio--notably fail to respect the rhetorician's bodily decorum, engaging in multiple "whirlwinds of passion" without "temperance." The hyperbolic body language Heywood forbids, such as "staring eyes" and mad "buffeting" of furniture, are gestures to which Katherine in particular quite pointedly resorts. Yet if The Taming of the Shrew draws metatheatrical attention to Katherine's whirlwinds as the hyperbolic tempests of the stage, it is not the contemporary London stage that it evokes. When she makes her first entrance, Lucentio asks: "what company is this?" Tranio replies: "Master, some show to welcome us to town" (1.1.46-47). Despite the play's urban Italian setting and its commercial London staging, therefore, Katherine and her high-jinks are represented by Shakespeare in terms that evoke English provincial drama. The echo of Herod in Petruchio's "look not big, nor stamp, nor stare" continues this strand of representation, yet it also undoes it: it is, as we have seen, a command to give up the antics of Herod. In this respect, the play dovetails Petruchio's critique of Katherine's acting up with Hamlet's later critique of the styles of acting of the provincial entertainments.
The alternative, restrained style of bodily comportment called for by Hamlet and Heywood can be glimpsed also in the significant differences between the language of the Coventry Herod and of The Taming of the Shrew. As I have argued, the former is distinguished by a mode of self-actualization, one whose hallmark is intransitive, first person verbs in the present tense: "I stampe! I stare! I looke all abowtt! ... I rent! I rawe! and now run I wode!" (779, 781). There is only one such construction in Shakespeare's play. After having seen Bianca, Lucentio exclaims: "Tranio, I burn, I pine, I perish, Tranio" (1.1.160). Lucentio's verbs, like Herod's, appear to demand excessive gesticulation. But the style here is deliberately archaic and even parodic. (64) Lucentio's impulsive and rash style of delivery stands in marked contrast to Petruchio's: for all his over-the-top antics, Petruchio purveys a form of self-control that depends not on acting up per se, but on strategic performance of outrage. This is made clear by his two soliloquies, each of which employs verb forms that are markedly different from Lucentio's or Herod's. Unlike the latter characters, Petruchio employs not intransitive present, but transitive future verb forms before his first meeting with Katherine: "I will attend her here" (2.1.169); "I'll tell her plain" (171); "I'll say she looks as clear/As morning roses newly wash'd with dew" (173-4); "I'll commend her volubility" (176); "I'll give her thanks" (178); "I'll crave the day/When I shall ask the banns" (180-1). And in his soliloquy at his country house, his verb forms are identical: "some undeserved fault/I'll find about the making of the bed" (4.1.212-13); "here I'll fling the pillow, there the bolster" (214); "I'll curb her mad and headstrong humour" (222). This language instantiates modes of subjectivity and bodily comportment that differ significantly from Herod's or Lucentio's frantically gesticulating self-actualizations. The future tense in both Petruchio's soliloquies creates a register of strategy and self-possession, diverting audience attention from the body of the actor playing Petruchio to his character's intention. It is a language of interiority, stripped of looking, stamping, and staring.
The more urbane, restrained, and strategically canny Katherine of the play's last act has similarly heeded Petruchio's imperative to "look not big, nor stamp, nor stare." In the process, she is closer to the ideal of not only the obedient wife, but also of the city theater player envisaged by Hamlet. Interestingly, Hamlet's critique of "whirlwinds" in the theater reiterates the language of Katherine's concluding critique of up-start wives, which--like Petruchio's command to "look not big, nor stamp, nor stare"--gets to work on the body of the actor by replacing hyperbolic acting up with "decorous countenances":
Fie, fie! unknit that threatening unkind brow, And dart not scornful glances from those eyes, To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor: It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads, Confounds thy fame as whirlwinds shake fair buds, And in no sense is meet or amiable. (5.2.136-41, emphasis added)
In the multiple invectives leveled in the play against women's insubordination and hyperbolic performance, then, we can see an overlap between gendered discourses of the shrew and class-inflected discourses of indecorous playing. Beneath the stamping shrew with the "curst tongue" is, in the words of The Puritan (1607),"a stalking-stamping Player, that will raise a tempest with his toung, and thunder with his heeles." (65) Shakespeare gets to work on the latter under the conventional guise of disciplining the former. (66)
Such theatrical reeducation is even more apparent in the framing device involving Christopher Sly. Unlike the Sly scenes in the (probably earlier) play The Taming of a Shrew, (67) Shakespeare's induction framework goes out of its way to offer instruction on what entails good performance. And repeatedly, the style commended is a restrained one. Hamlet criticizes Herodlike acting up on the grounds that it is not lifelike; similarly, the Lord insists on low-key, "natural" performance, praising a player for a part that "was aptly fitted and naturally performed" (Ind.1.87), (68) "Natural" performance evidently entails an economy of gesture: when the Lord first gives instructions to his servants to perform the trick on Sly, he says "It will be pastime passing excellent,/If it be husbanded with modesty" (Ind. 1.67-68); he similarly tells the players that "I am doubtful of your modesties/ Lest ... You break into some merry passion" (Ind. 1.94-5, 98). The players' willingness to promulgate the Lord's standards of "modest" performance in the main play seems to accord with Shakespeare's ennobling of their status. Whereas the actors in the Sly framework of A Shrew are poor simpletons who carry their playing gear on their backs, their counterparts in The Shrew are, like Shakespeare's own company, allies of the lord they serve, differentiated from the tinker Sly who has "never heard a play" (Ind. 1.97). In the process, they profess a courtly self-restraint that opposes the artisanal Sly's extremity: "we can contain ourselves,/ Were he the veriest antic in the world" (Ind. l.100-1).
The alliance between the players and the Lord against Sly makes clear how such "modesty" of performance has a determinedly class dimension. Hamlet, we recall, tells the traveling players not to "saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use allgently" (3.2.4-5; emphasis added); his adverb subtly discloses the class vector of bodily self-restraint. Shakespeare uses the term again with its double class and bodily meanings in The Taming of the Shrew. In response to Katherine's angry insistence that "gentlewomen wear caps such as these" Petruchio replies: "When you are gentle, you shall have one too" (4.3.70-1). Petruchio's remark demands to be read metatheatrically, as a call to players to adopt a new mode of theatrical performance aligned with "gentle" bodily techniques. By refusing to act up in a histrionic sense, in other words, players are able to act "up" in a class sense, emulating the decorous self-restraint of the rhetorician and the gentleman courtier.
The Taming of the Shrew, then, might be regarded equally as The Taming of the Player. It performs this more surreptitious taming in a fashion perhaps typical of its playwright and its institution: by utilizing the resources of what it seeks to overcome--by out-Heroding Herod--as a form of theatrical exorcism. (69) The actors playing Petruchio and Katherine thus "stamp, stare, and look big" so Shakespeare and his company may expel the artisanal tradition of acting up typified by Herod from not only Padua, but also the contemporary London playhouses. In this regard, it is significant that Sly the tinker vanishes from the script (if not the stage) by the end of the first act, unlike in A Shrew, where he plays a part to the end. The text of Shakespeare's play thus performs the exclusion of the "antic" artisan in a way that its sister play does not.
As I have suggested here, any narrowly textual reading of The Shrew's relations to medieval cycle drama is likely to overlook the ways in which the play's exorcism of the London commercial stage's provincial, artisanal predecessors was performed primarily at the intertheatrical level of its actors' bodily techniques. This level may be glimpsed also in an observation made at the end of the seventeenth century by James Wright, who claimed that Shakespeare's company above all others "got Money, and Liv'd in Reputation," and "were Men of grave and sober Behaviour." (70) Wright's latter judgment is ostensibly directed at the King's Men's behavior offstage, but it could apply equally to their customarily "grave and sober" comportment onstage. The upward class reorientation of the English theater was a process that was to unfold over several centuries; with Shakespeare's advocacy of "gentle" self-containment at the expense of Herod-like acting up in The Taming of the Shrew, we may recover an early, important chapter in this process.
I am grateful to Julie Crawford, Mario DiGangi, Will Fisher, Bonnie Gordon, Fiona McNeill, Shilpa Prasad, and Elliot Trice for comments and criticisms on an earlier draft.
(1) John W. Draper, The Humors and Shakespeare's Characters (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1945), 52.
(2) See Mark Eccles, Shakespeare in Warwickshire (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1961), 27, 81-83.
(3) William Dugdale, The Antiquities of Warwickshire Illustrated, 2nd ed. William Thomas (rev.) (London, 1730); quoted in R. W. Ingram (ed.), Records of Early English Drama: Coventry (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981), xviii; henceforth referred to as REED: Coventry.
(4) There has been renewed interest in recent years regarding the relations between the cycle drama, especially the Coventry Corpus Christi play, and Shakespeare's theater. See John D. Cox, Shakespeare and the Dramaturgy of Power (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989); Naomi Conn Liebler, "Shakespeare's Medieval Husbandry: Cain and Abel, Richard IL and Brudermord," Mediaevelia 18 (1995 for 1992): 451-73; T. G. Bishop, Shakespeare and the Theatre of Wonder (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), chapter 2; Robert N. Watson, "Othello as Protestant Propaganda," in Claire McEachern and Debora Shuger, Religion and Culture in Renaissance England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 234-57; and Michael O'Connell, "Vital Cultural Practices: Shakespeare and the Mysteries," Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 29 (1999), 149-68.
(5) The "Burton Heath" (Ind.2.17) that Sly refers to, for example, is almost certainly the same locality as Barton on the Heath, fifteen miles south of Stratford, where Shakespeare's aunt Joan Arden had moved upon her marriage to Edmund Lambert in 1559; see Eccles, Shakespeare in Warwickshire, p. 19. Likewise, Wincot (Ind.2.20) and Greet (Ind.2.91) are small towns not far from Stratford; it is quite possible that the people Sly identifies as coming from these locations--Marion Hacket and John Naps--were known to Shakespeare. All references to Shakespeare's plays are to The Norton Shakespeare, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al. (New York and London: Norton, 1997). I have retained the more familiar spelling of Petruchio's name in preference to the latter edition's "Petruccio."
(6) On Shakespeare's use of gesture, action, and body language, the most comprehensive study is David Bevington, Action is Eloquence: Shakespeare's Language of Gesture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984); see especially chapter 3, "The Language of Gesture and Expression," 67-98. See also Steven Urkowitz, "`I am not made of stone': Theatrical Revision of Gesture in Shakespeare's Plays," Renaissance and Reformation, n.s. 10 (1986): 79-83; Alexander Leggat, "Shakespeare and the Actor's Body," Renaissance and Reformation, n.s. 10 (1986): 95-107; and Meredith Anne Skura, Shakespeare the Actor and the Purposes of Playing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), esp. 49-53, 73-4. Entrances, exits, and deaths aside, Shakespeare's plays contain only a handful of explicit stage directions concerning bodily actions. Some more notable examples: Margaret "boxes" the Duchess of Gloucester "on the ear" (1 Henry VI, 1.3.143); Lady Anne "looks scornfully" on Richard (Richard III, 1.2.158); Coriolanus "holds" Volumnia's hand (5.4.183). More commonly, the body language of the player is clarified by the scripted remarks of other characters, as when Olivia observes that Malvolio smiles manically (Twelfth Night, 3.4.19), Othello notes that Iago contracts and purses his brow and Desdemona asks Othello why he gnaws his nether lip (Othello, 3.3.117, 5.2.43), and Cordelia tells her father to desist from kneeling to her (King Lear, 4.7.59).
(7) All references are to the "Pageant of the Shearmen and Taylors," in Two Coventry Corpus Christi Plays, ed. Hardin Craig, Second Edition, EETS, e.s. 87 (London: Oxford University Press, 1957).
(8) Joseph Hall, Holy Observations, [??] 18, in The Works of Joseph Hall, Doctor in Divinitie, and Deane of Worcester (London, 1625), sig. 02v.
(9) Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, ed. James R. Siemon (New York: Norton, 1994), 4.2.106-7. Compare also a passage in Thomas Nashe's The Unfortunate Traveller; upon discovering Jack Wilton's disappearance, Juliana "fared like a franticke Bacchinall, she stampt, she star'd, shee beate her head against the walls"; The Works of Thomas Nashe, 5 vols., ed. R. B. McKerrow (London: A. H. Bullen, 1904-10), II.318. It is hard to trace the history of the usage of "to stamp and stare" outside of the cycle drama tradition. What might be an influential variation unconnected to the Coventry Herod appears in John Palsgrave's 1530 French/English glossary: "I stampe, I stare, as one that doth that taketh on in his angyr/ Ie me demayne," Lesclarcissement de la Langue Francoyse (London, 1530), fol. 372. Palsgrave's variation by no means suggests that the phrase was commonplace, let alone proverbial; he arguably offers here a pleonastic sequence of synonyms for, rather than a precise translation of, the French se demener. Timothy Kendall reproduces Palsgrave's language almost verbatim, however, in his translation of a poem by Theocritus; describing Cupid's response to being stung by bees, Kendall writes: "He stamps, he stares, he taketh on: he knowes not what to doe"; Flowers of Epigrammes, Out of Sundrie the Moste Singular Authours Selected, As Well Auncient as Late Writers (London, 1577), sig. R8v.
(10) As Theresa Coletti has shown, St. Anne and Herod were invoked together in medieval sermons as the type and antitype of the genealogically legitimate, nurturing parent; see Coletti's essays "Re-Reading the Story of Herod in the Middle English Innocents Plays," in Thomas Hahn and Alan Lupack (eds.), Retelling Tales: Essays in Honor of Russell Peck (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1997), 35-60, and "Genealogy, Sexuality and Sacred Power: The Saint Anne Dedication of the Digby Candlemas Day and the Killing of the Children of Israel," Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 29 (1999): 25-60.
(11) The Towneley Plays, edited by Martin Stevens and A. C. Cawley, 2 vols., EETS, s.s. 13 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 16.116.
(12) The York Plays, edited by Richard Beadle (London: Edward Arnold, 1982), XIX. 169-70.
(13) A "shrewe ... wondrouse sage," "that shrewe would have my soveraintye," "a shrewe would have his crowne," "Goe slaye that shrewe", "a villanye yt weare, iwys,/ for my fellowe and mee,/ to sley a shitten-arsed shrowe," "I knowe not which this shrewe ys," "Soe shall we soone that shrewe distroye"; "Play X, The Gouldsmythes Playe, Pagina Decima: De Occisione Innocensium ex Heredis Tirannica Persuasione" in The Chester Mystery Cycle, edited by R. M. Lumiansky and David Mills, 2 vols., EETS, s.s. 3 (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), 185-204; 11. 29, 35, 62, 139, 155-7, 173, 191.
(14) For a useful discussion on the topos of festive inversion in the Herod plays, see Coletti, "Genealogy, Sexuality and Sacred Power." V. A. Kolve likewise notes the inversions that typify the Herod plays in his The Play Called Corpus Christi (London: Edward Arnold, 1966), 157. For attempts to sketch thematic as opposed to dramaturgical links between Shakespeare and the mysteries, see Liebler, "Shakespeare's Medieval Husbandry: Cain and Abel, Richard II, and Brudermord"; and Watson, "Othello as Protestant Propaganda."
(15) REED: Coventry, 61.
(16) REED: Coventry, 71. Economic decline is apparent from an order of the Coventry lect in 1494, which states that crafts had been "more wealthy, rich and more in number than now be," and that they needed help in shouldering the financial burden of the pageants; see W. B. Stephens (ed.), The Victoria History of the Counties of England: A History of Warwickshire, vol. 8 (London: Oxford University Press, 1969), 213. On Coventry's economic decline in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, see Charles Phythian-Adams, Desolation of a City: Coventry and the Urban Crisis of the Late Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).
(17) See Thomas Sharp, Dissertation on the Pageants or Dramatic Mysteries Anciently Performed at Coventry (Coventry, 1825), 29-30: "It will be remarked that a sattin gown (probably blue) was provided for this character, whereas in other instances a painted dress sufficed."
(18) REED: Coventry, 579.
(19) On "Product placement" in late medieval and early modern drama, see Jonathan Gil Harris, "Properties of Skill: Product Placement in Early English Artisanal Drama," in Harris and Natasha Korda (eds.), Staged Properties in Early Modern English Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, forthcoming). The Smiths' seemingly deliberate use of a stage property with a contemporary resonance lends further support to the growing body of scholarship on the topicality of provincial Herod plays. Many scholars have pointed out the links between the dramatic Herod and feudal tyrants: see G. R. Owst, Literature and Pulpit in Medieval England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1933), 331-34; Rosemary Woolf, English Mystery Plays (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), 205; and Robert Weimann, Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater, ed. Robert Schwartz (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 65-72. More germane to the present discussion, perhaps, is Theresa Coletti's argument that the Herod plays reproduce and critique many of the assumptions about social structure and gender of the urban communities within which they were performed: see "ReReading the Story of Herod" esp. 39-40.
(20) REED: Coventry, 200, 231.
(21) REED: Coventry, 85, 95.
(22) REED: Coventry, 58.
(23) REED: Coventry, 234. In his influential study Mysteries' End: An Investigation of the Last Days of the Medieval Religious Stage (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1946), Harold Gardiner proposes that the four plays performed for the Queen were not the cycle pageants (p. 84); but his conclusion is based on the questionable assumption that the Corpus Christi dramas were unalloyedly Catholic in content, and therefore could not be performed before the sternly Protestant Elizabeth. Paul Whitfield White challenges this assumption, demonstrating that the Coventry plays display a far greater accommodation with Protestantism than Gardiner would allow; see "Reforming Mysteries' End: A New Look at Protestant Intervention in English Provincial Drama," Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 29 (1999): 121-147, esp. 138.
(24) REED: Coventry, 293.
(25) Thomas W. Ross (ed.), A Variorum Edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer: Volume II The Canterbury Tales, Part Three The Miller's Tale (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1983), 11. 3383-4. For a useful discussion of Chaucer's allusion to Herod, see Kelsie B. Harder, "Chaucer's Use of the Mystery Plays in the Miller's Tale," Modern Language Quarterly 17 (1956): 193-98.
(26) I am depending on the table of comparative intensities (in decibel levels) of English phonemes offered by Dennis Fry in The Physics of Speech (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979); Fry's table is reproduced by Bruce R. Smith in his important study The Acoustic World of Early Modern England: Attending to the O-Factor (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 226.
(27) For discussions of the shared features of and differences between Herod's various dramatic incarnations, see Roscoe E. Parker, "The Reputation of Herod in Early English Literature," Speculum 8 (1933): 59-67; S. S. Hussey, "How Many Herods in the Middle English Drama?," Neophiligus 48 (1964): 252-59; Weimann, Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater, 65-72; Miriam Skey, "Herod the Great in Medieval European Drama," Comparative Drama 13 (1979): 330-64; David Staines, "To Out-Herod Herod: The Development of a Dramatic Character" in Clifford Davidson, C. J. Giankaris, and John H. Stroupe (eds.), The Drama of the Middle Ages: Comparative and Critical Essays (New York: AMS Press, 1982), 207-31; Rebecca W. Bushnell, Tragedies of Tyrants: Political Thought and Theater in the English Renaissance (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990), 84-88; Martin Stevens, "Herod as Carnival King in the Medieval Biblical Drama," Mediaevelia 18 (1995, for 1992): 43-66; and Coletti, "Re-Reading the Story of Herod."
(28) Weimann, Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater, 69.
(29) Donald C. Baker, John L. Murphy, and Louis B. Hall Jr. (eds.), The Late Medieval Religious Plays of Bodleian MSS Digby 133 and E Museo 160 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), 11. 365, 374.
(30) Lumiansky and Mills, The Chester Mystery Cycle, VIII. 195.
(31) Cawley and Stevens, The Towneley Plays, 14.389-91, 16.170-71.
(32) Cf. the York Masons' pageant of the Magi, in which Herod boasts: "Saturne my subgett, bat sotilly is hidde, Listes at my likyng and laies hym full lowe./ The rakke of be rede skye full rappely I ridde,/ Thondres full thrallye by thousandes I thrawe/ When me likis," Beadle, York Plays, XVI. 5-9.
(33) For a discussion of Herods on the early modern commercial stage of London and their literary as well as dramatic sources, see Cox, Dramaturgy of Power, 211.
(34) John Cox suggests that Paulina's confrontation with Leontes in The Winter's Tale finds a dramaturgical precedent in medieval cycle depictions of the mothers of Herod's victims; see Dramaturgy of Power, 2 10.
(35) I am differentiating here, of course, between stage noise created by actors, and leud effects such as cannons, haut-boys, and thunder. Henry VIII is the non-pareil of the latter. It demands regular outbursts of trumpets, comets, and drums, "Noise and tumult within" in 5.3, and the notorious "Chambers discharged" in 1.4 that set the Globe on fire in 1613. See also Smith, The Acoustic World of Early Modern England, 236.
(36) Antony and Cleopatra seems to demand at least one fit of stamping from the hyperbolic Cleopatra; and there is every likelihood that actors would have employed the gesture in other plays without any specific direction from the playscript. But inasmuch as Shakespeare does call for stamping in his early plays, it is invariably in a critical context.
(37) For discussions of the props and fashionable garments of The Taming of the Shrew, see Natasha Korda, "Household Kates: Domesticating Commodities in The Taming of the Shrew," Shakespeare Quarterly 47:2 (1996): 109-3 1, and Lena Cowen Orlin, "The Performance of Things in The Taming of the Shrew," The Yearbook of English Studies 23 (1993): 167-88.
(38) On Tamburlaine's debts to Hercules, see Roy W. Battenhouse, Marlowe's Tamburlaine: A Study in Renaissance Moral Philosophy (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1941), 196-202.
(39) See, for example, Harry Levin, The Overreacher (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952), 31; and Douglas Cole, Suffering and Evil in the Plays of Christopher Marlowe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962), 11-17.
(40) Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine Parts One and Two, ed. Anthony B. Dawson (London: A & C Black, 1997), 5. All further references are cited in the text.
(41) R. A. Foakes and R. T. Rickert (eds.), Henslowe's Diary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961), 320.
(42) Joseph Hall, The Collected Poems of Joseph Hall, Bishop of Exeter and Norwich, ed. Arnold Davenport (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1949), 14-15.
(43) Ben Jonson, Timber; or Discoveries, in C. H. Herford and Percy and Evelyn Simpson, eds., Ben Jonson, 12 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1947), VIII. 587.
(44) E. S., The Discovery of the Knights of the Post (London, 1597), sig. C2v. For this and other references, I am indebted to Richard Levin's painstaking survey of contemporary responses to Tamburlaine, "Contemporary Perception of Marlowe's Tamburlaine," Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 1 (1984): 51-70.
(45) Satiromastix, IV. iii. 169; in Fredson Bowers, ed., The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, 5 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953), 1.364.
(46) On Edward Alleyn's distinctive acting style, see W. A. Armstrong, "Shakespeare and the Acting of Edward Alleyn," Shakespeare Survey 7 (1954): 82-89, and Andrew Gurr's convincing critique of Armstrong, "Who Strutted and Bellowed?" Shakespeare Survey 16 (1963): 95-102. On Alleyn's career, see G. L. Hosking, The Life and Times of Edward Alleyn (London: Jonathan Cape, 1957).
(47) The True Chronicle History of King Leir and His Three Daughters, Gonorill, Ragan, and Cordelia (London, 1605), sigs. El, Ely.
(48) Thomas Elyot, The Castel of Relthe (London, 1539), sig. A2v.
(49) See Bevington, Action is Eloquence, 90. For a discussion of Shakespeare's representations of choler, see Draper, The Humors and Shakespeare's Character, chapter 4.
(50) Thomas Wright, The Passions of the Mind in General, ed. William Webster Newbold (New York: Garland Publishing, 1986), 183.
(51) MS. Ashmole 768. Quoted in B. L. Joseph, Elizabethan Acting (London: Oxford University Press, 195 1), 40.
(52) See Levin, "Contemporary Perception of Marlowe's Tamburlaine," 53.
(53) John Marston, Antonio's Revenge, ed. G. K. Hunter (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1965), 1.2.313-16. See Andrew Gurr, The Shakespearean Stage, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 71, which cites this passage together with the following speech from Wonder of Women, IV.i:
I should now curse the Gods Call on the furies: stampe the patient earth cleave my streachd cheeks with sound speake from all sense But loud and full of players eloquence No, no, what shall we eate.
(54) discuss elsewhere the growing inadequacy in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries of humoral paradigms of psychology and pathology; see Jonathan Gil Harris, Foreign Bodies and the Body Politic: Discourses of Social Pathology in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), esp. chapters 2 and 3.
(55) Tempting as it may be to see in Hamlet's critique of Termagant an invective against theatrical shrewishness of the kind purveyed by Katherine, the character's associations were in Shakespeare's day still exclusively male and pagan. According to the OED, the first recorded use of "termagant" in its modern, female-specific sense was in 1657.
(56) Bevington, Action is Eloquence, 71.
(57) Thomas Heywood, Apologie For Actors (London, 1612), sig. E4. All further references cited in the text.
(58) Heywood does acknowledge the 1490 entertainment of the London Skinners Company at Clerkenwell, which presented a play of Adam and Eve; but he immediately rushes to assure his readers that "the spectators were no worse than the Royalty of England" (sig. G3). "Base mechanicks" evidently require royal deodorant before they can be admitted to the annals of theater history.
(59) See Peter Thomson, "Rogues and Rhetoricians: Acting Styles in Early English Drama,' in John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan (eds.), A New History of Early English Drama (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 321-335, esp. 330. The equation of acting and rhetoric is also remarked on by Joseph, Elizabethan Acting, 146.
(60) Abraham Fraunce, The Arcadian Rhetoric (London, 1588), sig. 17v.
(61) For a useful summary of the effects of these statutes on the players,
see W. R. Streitberger, "Personnel and Professionalization," in Cox and Kastan (eds.), A New History of Early English Drama, 337-55, esp. 343.
(62) See Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process: The History of Manners, trans. Edmund Jephcott (New York: Urizen, 1978), esp. 53-73.
(63) Stephen Bretzius argues for the play's debt to (and subversion of) classical rhetoric in Shakespeare in Theory: Early Modern Theater and the Postmodern Academy (Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan University Press, 1997), 51-62.
(64) In the light of this line, Lucentio's previous lines also acquire a potentially parodic, metatheatrical tone; he tells Tranio that he is "to me as secret and as dear/As Anna to the Queen of Carthage was" (1.1.148-9). This cross-gendered analogy may have been occasioned by a comparatively recent performance of Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage; if Lucentio is meant to stand as an exemplar of an archaic style of acting associated not only with Herod but also with Edward Alleyn's Tamburlaine, the Marlovian reference may be all the more tongue-in-cheek.
(65) W. S., The Puritan (London, 1607), sig. F2v.
(66) In her fascinating essay on The Taming of the Shrew, Juliet Dusinberre argues that "more than in any play, Shakespeare uses the relationships between actors as a commentary on the social relationships represented in the self-contained world of the play,.... The Taming of the Shrew: Women, Acting, and Power]' Studies in the Literary Imagination 26 (1985): 67-84, esp. 67. I am in effect reversing Dusinberre's assessment: the social relationships dramatized in the play provide considerable commentary on the methods of actors.
(67) There has been considerable disagreement about when The Taming of the Shrew was written; much of the debate pivots on the play's uncertain relation to the anonymous Taming of a Shrew, which was entered in the Stationer's Register on May 2, 1594. Those editors who propose an early date of 1590-92 for Shakespeare's play, such as Jean E. Howard in The Norton Shakespeare (140), regard The Shrew as a source for A Shrew. Other critics such as Juliet Dusinberre are inclined to see Shakespeare's play as a revision of A Shrew, and posit a date as late as 1595-7 for it; see Dusinberre, "The Taming of the Shrew: Women, Acting, and Power," 70.
(68) The "natural" style of acting commended in the induction scenes of The Taming of the Shrew is noted by John Russell Brown, "On the Acting of Shakespeare's Plays," in Gerald Eades Bentley (ed.), The Seventeenth-Century Stage: A Collection of Critical Essays (Chicago: Chicago University press, 1968), 41-54; see also Leah S. Marcus, "The Shakespearean Editor as Shrew-Tamer," in Deborah E. Barker and Ivo Kamps (eds.), Shakespeare and Gender: A History (New York: Routledge, 1995), 214-234, esp. 223.
(69) Both Stephen Greenblatt and Steven Mullaney propose similar models of theatrical staging as strategy of cultural exclusion; see Greenblatt, "Invisible Bullets: Renaissance Authority and its Subversion, Henry IV and Henry V," in Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield (eds.), Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985), 18-47; and Mullaney, The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1988), chapter 3.
(70) James Wright, Historia Histrionica (London, 1699), sig. B3; quoted in Gurr, "Who Bellowed and Strutted?," 95.
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|Author:||Harris, Jonathan Gil|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2000|
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