How Shakespeare Met Regency
In Christy English’s Novel
HOW TO TAME A WILLFUL WIFE
Elizabeth Taylor in The Taming of the Shrew
One of the most popular Shakespearean comedies is The Taming of the Shrew. It tells the tale of how Katherine, a woman despised by all who meet her, the “shrew” of the play, meets her match in the wisecracking, sometimes charming Petrucchio. He marries her, almost against her will, then proceeds to tame her with mind games, sleep deprivation, and by withholding food. Needless to say, taken out of the medieval mindset in which this play was first written, it is a tough sell. What is romantic about any of that? And what does it have to do with Regency England? The answer lies within Katherine herself, and she is the bridge I used to create my own Regency heroine, Caroline Montague.
Caroline rides astride a war horse wearing breeches, fights with a knife and a rapier. At archery, she can best any man she has ever met. In The Taming of the Shrew, Katherine does not own a horse, nor does she fight with a knife. Her only weapons are her sharp tongue and her rapier wit, both of which she uses against every man she meets. She does not seem to possess much of a sense of duty to her father. In contrast, my heroine, Caroline, does possess a deep attachment to her father and a need to do her duty, to marry where her father bids her so that his estate can be brought out of penury. She and Katherine diverge on that point, but when both women meet their husbands-to-be, neither is thrilled with the idea of marrying.
This attitude changes over the course of the play. Katherine does agree to marry Petrucchio, and she begins slowly to come around to his way of thinking, to be “tamed.” So in the final moments of the play, when Katherine tells her fellow wives to obey their husbands, she believes every word. Modern interpretations of this scene often cast an ironic light on it, a bit of a wink at the audience to indicate that Katherine has not really undergone a complete personality shift. As I began my own novel, I knew that I would not endorse this transformation. Indeed, if anyone was to be tamed in HOW TO TAME A WILLFUL WIFE, it would be Caroline’s husband, Anthony.
A Modern Dagger
Of course, Anthony and Petrucchio have little in common. Anthony does not possess much of a sense of humor, but he also does not try to starve his wife into submission. Instead, over the course of my novel, Anthony and Caroline both strive to meet somewhere in the middle, to understand each other, and to live together with their daggers sheathed. This growth in their relationship takes months of their lives to achieve, not days as in the play, and in the end, neither is tamed. Anthony begins to see that Caroline is a woman of intelligence who he can respect as well as lust after, and Caroline finds that her husband is not as unreasonable as he first appeared. They learn to talk to each other, and those conversations, more than any sexual attachment, cement the foundation of their marriage. At the end of the novel, as I leave Caroline and Anthony alone with each other, I find myself hopeful that they will make a go of it, and truly live happily ever after.
Description of HOW TO TAME A WILLFUL WIFE:
Anthony Carrington, Earl of Ravensbrook, expects a biddable bride. A man of fiery passion tempered by the rigors of war into steely self-control, he demands obedience from his troops and his future wife. But Caroline Montague is no simpering miss. She rides a war stallion named Hercules, fights with a blade, and can best most men with both bow and rifle. She finds Anthony autocratic, domineering, and...gorgeous.
It's a duel of wit and wills in this charming retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. But the question is...who's taming whom?
|Photos courtesy of the author|
After years of acting in Shakespeare’s plays, Christy is excited to bring the Bard to Regency England. She can often be found hunched over her computer, immersed in the past. Her latest novel is HOW TO TAME A WILLFUL WIFE, a re-telling of The Taming of the Shrew. She is also the author of the historical novels TO BE QUEEN and THE QUEEN’S PAWN.
Please join her on her website http://www.ChristyEnglish.com and on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/ShakespeareInLoveSeries?ref=ts&fref=ts