Taming of the Shrew
Written by Cass Foster
Why does Shakespeare endure after over 400 years? It’s not the stories told. Everyone agrees that his stories are mostly borrowed from other sources. Although most of the stories are very appealing. It really doesn’t even matter whether he was the blue-collar bard from Stratford-upon-Avon or some nobleman looking to hide his body of work. He endures because of the language. If there wasn’t a word to express his thoughts, he made one up. As a means of introducing this language to fifth graders and above, Foster created a series of works called “Sixty-Minute Shakespeare.” This is the seventh in the series. In these volumes, he condenses some very long plays for those with short attention spans. All of the language is Shakespeare. He tries very hard to preserve that language. Remember: even the bard was constantly tinkering and cutting scenes, so condensing has a long tradition.
As a play, the work is meant to be performed. The stage directions and blank space for notes are useful toward that end. Foster even includes a section on how to perform what he calls stage combat, including slaps. Of course, this makes the book itself the ultimate reading activity. Just perform the play.
The author’s page on the publisher’s website, www.getshakespeare.com, also provides a lot of information for teachers and the merely curious.
As a story, Taming of the Shrew is firmly entrenched in the world of sixteenth century England. A younger sister cannot marry until her older sister finds a husband. The older sister refuses to be obedient and demure as women of good breeding were expected to be. But the themes of social status and the roles of women are universal. The scheming and interactions make the play exciting and fun. The treatment of women is not politically correct for today, but the play is very funny if you can ignore that.