EESE 8/1996

Nina Taunton (Brunel University College, London)1

Patterns of Sadomasochism and Fashion-fetishism in The Taming of the Shrew

Michel Foucault, in an interview for Advocate, had this to say about SM:

In this paper I want to address the application of these notions to Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew by examining the Kate/Petruchio story in terms of the creative eroticising and empowering of the body in S&M through games, strategies and role reversals. There is no room here to incorporate discussion of the Sly frame, important though it is in the setting up of the two central questions posed by the play: has it encouraged misogyny? Does it sanction male brutality? This paper broaches these questions by relating them to certain patterns of dominance and submission in several key parts of the play, and proceeds by exploring the implications of their existence in Kate's relationships with all her family - with her father and sister as well as her husband-to-be. I want to argue that once identified, the patterns, practices and rituals of S&M work to perform several textual functions. In the first instance, the specific area of human relations that has its origins and emergence in sadomasochistic practices in the play will be shown to facilitate the harmonious resolution generically required of it. Secondly, this set of practices provides the main female character with options about her role as submissive in the kind of coupling that expands the boundaries of self-knowledge rather than closing them off. This side-steps the issue of categorising the play as farce rather than comedy in order to account for its unacceptable elements - the argument being that since farce has more to do with the mechanics of staging and the exploitation of social types rather than with development of character, the issue of misogyny is irrelevant.3 And finally an SM reading helps to offset the problem of construing Kate as victim in the final 'submission' speech and thus provides an alternative to some feminists' objections to the play,4 as well as an alternative to subsequent attempts to deal with these objections by rather tortuously rendering this speech as ironic, insincere, tongue-in-cheek.5

The problem of how to account for the Kate/Petruchio plot has taxed critics, feminists and feminist critics since 1904 when the play's editor, interpreting the moment in the final scene when Kate is commanded to take off her cap and trample upon it as one of unintended humiliation yet is struck 'by the needless affront to her feelings'.6 One strand of feminist criticism continues along this line, assuming for Kate the position of victim and has read the movement of the play as a downward spiral from single-status outspokenness to marital submission and forfeiture of the right to protest. Kate's decline is thus measured in what has been seen as successive degrees of surrender to male domination through isolation, coercion, confusion, deprivation and public humiliation. Marilyn French for example sees the play as a depressing but uncomplicated demonstration of the way in which the male principle (represented by violence, will to succeed and power to destroy) is pitted against the female principle (which stands for such life-forces as the power of generation and the provision of sustenance and care.)7 Another strand of feminist criticism, however, moves away from this bleak polarisation. Lisa Jardine examines the question of male/female sexuality and relations rather in the interconnection between real social conditions and the various ways in which they are translated onto the stage. Thus she locates Kate's 'frowardness' in traditional representations of the scolding woman as the embodiment of all that is beyond reason to control, starting with Socrates's loud and quarrelsome wife Xanthippe, and continuing on down via classical comedy , medieval legend and biblical anecdote. In all of these representations, garrulity makes a woman 'provocative and threatening'. Her 'moist humours, which make her lascivious, also loosen her tongue'.8 A third view is provided by Marianne Novy, an 'apologist' critic9 who explains Petruchio's behaviour as a way of demonstrating the importance of 'mutuality' in this and other Shakespeare plays that have a married couple as the pivotal relationship. Petruchio extinguishes Kate's aggression (tames her) by initiating and finally involving her in a series of games. However, this element of play which results in final harmony between the two is achieved only within the confines of a patriarchal system that assumes the absolute authority of man over woman - be it father over daughter, brother over sister or husband over wife. The changes effected in Kate's behaviour are thus never presented as a challenge to the existing social order, but are rather invariably accomplished within it.10

Ann Thompson in her discussion of the play's stage history and its critical reception11 notes that stage critics 'from George Bernard Shaw to Michael Billington' finding the play' "disgusting" and "barbaric" have 'simply censored it by omission'.12 Others have categorised it as farce rather than comedy - that is, as more to do with the mechanics of staging and the exploitation of social 'types' than the development of character, so that within this genre love takes the form of a game or intrigue. Thus the unacceptable becomes, through redefinition, easily accounted for. Hence Heilman's belief that the woman-bashing scenes that have caused most offence would be 'possible because one husband and three wives are not endowed with full human personalities; if they were, they simply could not function as trainer, retriever and sticks'.13 Ann Thompson succinctly punctures this argument by pointing out that it 'could ... be made to serve as the justification for any piece of sadistic pornography: if the characters are 'not endowed with full human personalities' it ceases to matter how much they are abused or tortured.'14

Perhaps a more scholarly and critically sophisticated reading of the play is furnished by Lorna Hutson.15 She argues for its audacious subversion of Terentian/Ovidian plots in Gascoigne's translation of Ariosto's I Suppositi (itself a derivation of Terence's The Eunuch). The need to bring clandestine marriage within the sanction of the community is subverted into a drama which startlingly transforms 'a mere fiction of taming into something ... emotionally complex and credible'.16 She locates this emotional truth in the fact that the play 'transcend[s] its historical moment'17 by reworking Terence, Ariosto and Gascoigne's ''supposes'' into a discursive area which posits the theatre as a forum for sexual scandal - yet at the same time neutralises such (Puritan anti-theatre) anxieties about lessons learned at the plays. It does this in the Induction, which 'makes strange' the taming plot through the distance and irony provided by the Sly frame18 and by displacing the confusion and uncertainty from the counterfeit "supposes" of Lucentio and Tranio onto the gradual exposure of Bianca as immodest, disobedient, shrewish and deceitful. This last is for Hutson 'a devastating rewriting of Ariosto's own solution to the problem of employing a Terentian plot of conjecture and error as the vehicle, not of an academic stylisation of Roman drama, but of a drama of sixteenth-century society'.'19 In the face of the right of this society to 'witness' ceremony and impose its authority upon individual acts, Petruchio subversively reverses the expected movement of the clandestine marriage by doing everything in the full glare of the public eye before his wedding day - 'but only ... to make good in law his right to vanish from the sight of the community'20 after it. Thus his wedding is a 'triumph of open clandestinity ' which he constructs into a public event designed to exclude the community.21 By this 'abortion of ceremony' and in his goods and chattels speech (III.ii.220-237) Petruchio imposes the action of common law over canon law which invests the community with powers to witness, participate in and control marriage. Petruchio's clandestinity is, claims Hutson, the same kind of clandestinity to be found in humanist interpretations of Xenophon. Vives's De Officio Mariti and Erasmus's Coniugium for example are for Hutson works in which men's friendship is made to signify textually, and which ratify a husband's right to keep all matters between himself and his wife outside the bounds of community jurisdiction - thereby 'rais[ing] levels of anxiety' about the security of family honour.22

Arresting as this interpretation is, however, it still places Petruchio in patriarchal command; Hutson sees him as having 'created for himself a mobile and histrionic oikonomia, a conceptual household over which he rules, and in which he may innovate at will, unimpeded by old customs perpetrated by neighbourhood'23 with Kate as usual occupying little more space than as a cipher for 'persuasive fictions' of women and a 'fiction of woman as persuasive'.24

In what follows this paper attempts to deal with the construction of a relationship in the play which depends on a removal from some aspects of traditional feminisms skimmed through above; and whilst it is in sympathy with much of Hutson's reading of the play, it nevertheless relocates the issue of clandestinity and the sources of Petruchio's 'control'. This paper therefore aims at a recuperation of Kate as a woman with agency rather than as a victim, or even 'a persuasive fiction'.25 This can be achieved through a disruptive exploration of practices normally categorised as perverse and also by exploring the text in ways that argue against what can be considered as reductive feminist readings. In so doing the paper participates in the currently fashionable debate about bodies by suggesting that SM bodies set up different economies of bodily pleasures - ones that are not reducible to heterosexual reproductive discourse. They must however obey the rigours of generic convention.

Many of the needs that find expression in the activities of sadomasochism have their origins in the infant's early experiences of its parents.26 Kate comes from a one-parent family where her younger sister is her father's favourite. A motherless daughter with a younger sister who is singled out for her father's love will very early on devise strategies for reclaiming her share and will perceive her younger sister as enemy and rival. Two of the ways in which a deprived child may vent its feelings are either by conspicuously flouting the authority of the father (in an effort to capture his attention as much as anything else) or in acts of aggression against the sibling rival. The opening scenes of the play show that Katherina has opted for a combination of the two. Baptista appears on stage in the company of his two daughters and a gaggle of men clamouring for Bianca's hand in marriage. His attempt to act as a responsible parent by refusing suitors for the younger until he has found a husband for the elder is undermined first of all by his own display of exasperation at the persistence of Kate's unmarried state. Secondly, he has placed her in the humiliating position of having this drawn to the attention of a gathering composed entirely of men who are suitors for her sister Bianca's hand, not hers. This humiliation has to be renegotiated later on in the play in the context of her relations with Petruchio.

The conditioning climate of the masochist is thus mapped out, as is the tracery of guilt, compensation, punishment and control that underlies much masochistic activity. Kate's powerlessness to capture her father's attention emerges as aggression; she punishes his coldness towards her by her 'scolding tongue' - yet in so doing forfeits the possibility of earning his approval, which goes instead to the passive and sweet-seeming Bianca. The guilt for her behaviour towards her sister propels her into further acts of aggression against her, yet Kate's bids for her father's attention are doomed to failure because of the mode of 'unwomanly' violence in which they are conveyed.

The connection of all this to sadomasochistic strains is to be found in both the language and the structure of the play. Kate's initial appropriation of the dominant's position vis-a-vis father and sister is signalled at the same time as are its limitations and unsatisfactoriness. So in this opening scene she challenges customary social attitudes and copes with her father's conspicuous favouritism with the whiplash of her tongue: 'I pray you, sir, is it your will / To make a stale of me amongst these mates?' Use of the word 'stale' heralds the sexual theme in a situation in which the two girls are set up against each other as rival marriage-fodder. It also introduces complex associations of ideas that expose the powerful undercurrent of the sadomasochistic theme. The gloss on 'stale' in relation to 'mates' provided by the Arden edition of the play is revealing on both these counts: '... the word 'stale' could mean (i) decoy, (ii) prostitute, (iii) someone whose love is ridiculed for the amusement of a rival, (iv) stalemate in chess.... A 'mate' could be (i) the final position in a game of chess, (ii) a habitual companion, (iii) one of a pair, especially husband or wife .... The dominant sense of Katherina's question is 'Do you want to make me a laughing-stock among these fellows?' but the several other meanings play beneath the surface'.27

Unravelling this from the point of view of SM, there is in the first place the suggestion that Kate is involved in exchanges that require her to consent to a passive, exploited, sold, humiliated position - in other words, that of submissive or 'slave' in the conventional sense of subjugation and exploitation. This she rebels against if it is to be in a 'stalemated' (static) partnership or one that she must enter into without her consent. In the second place, the element of games-playing (involving getting the measure of one's partner or adversary by bluffing, feinting, outwitting and outmanoeuvring them as in the game of chess) is introduced by the quibbling on 'mate'; Kate rejects the conventionally inferior, passively accepting role of wife in favour of a situation in which the couple have negotiated spaces and boundaries for companionship and equality in the kind of relationship which finds its level in check- rather than stale-mate. The ambiguities in her riposte thus play around the notion of sadomasochism at a subliminal level - and the adjective 'dominant' which the editor chooses to describe Kate's overt meaning reveals the way in which the language in this scene and the language of criticism combine to give the key to unconscious processes.

In Freudian terms, Kate's initial assumption of the dominant position in her first steps towards SM has its origins in the mind-body split inaugurated from the earliest days of childhood when gender distinctions consolidate into specific sets of responses and modes of behaviour. As a symptom of a particular type of perversion this assumption is conveyed to us indirectly, through language that is multi-layered. The second act opens with Kate 'making real' performatively Freud's account of beating fantasies or dreams.28 This early childhood fantasy marks a crucial stage in Freud's view of the perversions since its meaning alters according to whether it belongs to a boy or a girl. The first two stages of this fantasy in girls are relevant here. In the first stage the beating is usually being administered by a father to a brother or sister, with the sadistic element serving to appease jealousy. In the second, more significantly, it is the dreamer or fantasist herself who is being beaten. This sign of masochism serves to repress the guilt aroused by the pleasure of seeing a sister being chastised by the father at the same time as it serves to punish this pleasure. This fantasy, taken up by Freud and constructed by him as one of the sources of (sado)masochism, is enacted when Kate usurps her sister's body at the opening of the second act of the play. The curtain goes up on Bianca wailing:

Here is a statement of all the most important elements of SM, though inappropriately applied: bondage, enactment of master/slave roles, dressing-up, divestment of finery as penance, physical chastisement (the stage directions tell us that Kate strikes Bianca - and in the previous scene Lucentio and Tranio have drawn attention to the importance of dressing-up in acting out master/slave roles. Tranio (the 'man') must needs agree to changing places with Lucentio (his master) since he is 'tied to be obedient', and the disguise is effected so that Lucentio can 'be a slave'. (I.i.212, 219.) It also illustrates one of SM's major givens - that it is the submissive (like the child) who is in control - the child by its noisy demands for parental attention, and the submissive by defining the parameters of pain. Like all sadomasochists, Kate is experimenting with the role of dominant, and is forcing Bianca into the submissive's part. That this is a false position for both sisters is shown by Bianca's 'disdain' for the bondage and slave set-up. Her aim is to effect release for herself, not to gratify the deep-seated urges of the masochist for shame and chastisement, and Kate's violence has neither the control nor the judgement required for the sadist's part. Her brief appearance as dominant is soon exposed as mere schoolroom bullying by her ready abandonment of it as soon as she has Baptista's attention, and can reproach him in her more customary way with sharp words.

We are prepared for the idea of Kate and Petruchio as a regular sadomasochistic couple in a number of significant ways. The scene in which the couple first meet is central to the SM theme. Structurally, it is significant in that it immediately follows the episode in which Kate chastises her sister by tying her up and punishes her father by customary lashes of the tongue. And it is significant in terms of language: the distinctive contours of an SM partnership begin to emerge through double-edged badinage. Petruchio is talking about Kate 'sitting on' him, and women being made to bear (the weight of a man). Kate is talking of being too light (frivolous and wanton) for 'such a swain as you to catch': and what turns out to be Kate's last-ditch attempt to assert her dominance is suggestively parried by Petruchio:

When Petruchio undertakes to woo Kate before he has met her, he chooses to recommend himself to her father as dominant: 'and so she yields to me/For I am rough and woo not like a babe'. (II.i.136-137.) He also anticipates that theirs will be the kind of marriage 'where two raging fires meet together' (II.i.132) - that is, they are complicit. Reporting back to Baptista on the progress of his wooing, Petruchio turns the actual event up on its head, telling him that it is a match, that 'in a twink she won me to her love' (II.i.303). He refuses any discussion of the matter quite conclusively: 'If she and I be pleas'd, what's that to you?' (II.i.296). Speaking the truth in jest is thus utilised as a strategy to accentuate their mutual free choice. It also fulfils those conditions essential to all successful SM partnerships - complicity, secrecy and a theatricality that requires the casting, supervision and recognition of roles. Kate signals the change being wrought in her almost immediately by abandoning her volubility. By her unexpected silence she tacitly consents to her position as 'the bottom' in these first steps of the sadomasochistic strategy. Petruchio has just articulated the secret, private movement of their meeting: forget what she says in public, in private we know different. Their assumption of roles is thus inaugurated by all the crucial elements of successful SM coupling - complicity, secrecy, games-playing. Kate and Petruchio are already united by secret bonds against the pack of them.

Other characteristics in this kind of relationship are disguise, fetishistic clothing, and public (and also private) shaming rituals. In terms of the play's structure, there has already been a preview of the importance of disguise when master and servant dress up in each other's clothes - in scenes which significantly precede demonstrations of bondage and spanking. These shows of sadomasochistic agency provide for an atmosphere of elaborate ritual, preparation and dressing-up familiar to sadomasochistic couples. In an articulation very similar to Pat Califia's description of the way she sets up a 'scene',29 Petruchio takes on the role of the tamer, the dominant who will wield the whip. That this is a performance, an exhibition of the will to control is clear when Petruchio, left alone on stage, sets out the first of his 'supposes' games (II.i.170-180). By planning to interpret Kate's 'railing' as the sweet song of a nightingale, her frowns as the smoothness of a dewy rose, her silence as 'piercing eloquence', and

- he too (in company with Bianca's suitors) assumes a disguise. There is also the suggestion of masquerade in the hawking metaphor employed by Petruchio when he is describing to the audience how he has 'politicly begun' his 'reign' over Katherina. Like the skilled actor-manager of an SM scene, his preparations are painstakingly thorough. He thinks of everything, leaves nothing to chance, and is careful to keep the audience well informed beforehand of the carefully organised surprises he will spring on his partner. His fantasy is that of a falconer taming a wild hawk :
In contemporary hawking manuals, the hawk is typically a 'she'. Gervase Markham in a treatise published in 1615 describes how she is 'manned'. She is kept awake ('watching') by being carried continually upon the falconer's fist. 'By a most familiar stroking and playing with' her 'and by often gazing and looking of' her 'in the face, with a loving and gentle countenance' he makes her 'acquainted with the man'.30 In another by George Turberville, the essential qualities of a falconer are set down: 'he which taketh in hand to be a falconer, ought first to be very patient, and therewithal to take singular delight in an hawk, so that he may seeme to be in love (as it were naturally) with' her.31 And in a recently published story by Aarona Griffin called Passage32 the domina Carrie uses routines very similar to the kind that hawk tamers use (and that Petruchio adopts as his model). All three (Carrie, the hawk tamer and Petruchio) keep their trainees famished ('sharp') and sleepless while the rites of passage are performed. Kate, like Carrie's initiate Nina, complains about it:
In all three cases, though, love is a necessary prerequisite.

Figure 1

Hawk-taming also involves the use of leather devices and fetishistic clothing. The hawk has to wear a hood (see fig.1)33 and the falconer equips himself with the standard SM accessories of leather straps, gloves, thongs and leashes.34 This kind of fetishism, associated with taming rituals, could not have been far from Max Beerbohm Tree's mind when (in his 1897 production of Garrick's eighteenth-century rewritten version) he had the actor playing Petruchio (it was actually Kemble) appear on stage with a whip. Kemble brandished this 'in Token of his Love' and himself inserted stage directions requiring Petruchio to 'Exit ... cracking his whip'35 - a tradition that was visually represented in Cruickshank's drawing and which went on well into the twentieth century.36 Like the 'haggard' hawk, Nina the initiate in the story is blindfolded, with leather straps bound round various parts of her body similar to the jesses (short leather straps) tied to each of the hawk's legs and used by the falconer to control its movements.

Figure 2

Clothing plays a crucial role in SM fantasy sequences. The advertisement for the Minuit shop in Brussels (fig.2) highlights headgear and presents a spectacle in which the 'slave' is completely naked and vulnerable. She spreads her body across her master's knees in a posture of abandonment. Her languorous limbs and proffered breasts suggest her compliance with the power that he wields. Yet the overall impression is one of poised control; though her arms trail, her legs are tensed as she appears to perform the role of the good and beautiful slave. His fist is raised not to strike but to display a muscular torso and both bodies stretch alluringly to meet each other's taut ribcage. Even though this picture hints at bondage, there is nothing to worry us into reading 'victim' or 'bully'. So it is able to evoke a compelling image in human terms of the bond of mutuality and tensile strength forged by the hawk and its falconer through the training process - and, by analogy, of the bond being forged between Kate and Petruchio. Thus the hood that the female 'slave' wears (it is her only garment) covering her whole head (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, everything) is a symbol of her complete trust and desire to relinquish herself entirely to the 'master's' mercy as well as of anonymity. Just as the hooded hawk must accept nourishment from none other than her tamer and accept no other as her tamer than the man who fondles and feeds her so that she can fly free and stoop to the lure, so Kate in the vocabulary of SM will consent to be 'manned' and to 'know her keeper's call' (IV.i.181). By taking on the role of the submissive she replaces the sharpness of tongue and sterility of haranguing to which she has been condemned hitherto by the misplaced dominance in her relationships with father and sister. It is therefore significant that the one item conspicuously appropriate to the couple's emerging status as partners in SM on their wedding day is Petruchio's hat. In the disarray of his bridal costume - old, patched clothes, worn-out boots (one buckled, the other laced), his rusty, broken sword and even more bizarrely clad horse - his hat alone is strikingly new. This hat, symbol of the inauguration of a new mode of existence, together with Petruchio's repudiation of fashionably conventional clothing in favour of something more idiosyncratic, heralds the transformation of two separate, awkward, eccentric individuals into a couple who have begun the entry into the 'strategic negotiations'37 of SM.

Kate, too, begins to make significant choices on her wedding-day. Though her metamorphosis is accomplished only in stages, it is set in motion, paradoxically, through the public shame of being kept waiting at the altar:

Shame in the masochistic vocabulary is a complex emotion deriving its force from a combination of pleasure and pain. Even though Kate suffers, there is nonetheless a certain still small satisfied voice discernible behind the self-pity of 'Now must the world point at poor Katherine'. Public humiliation is only one of several forces at work here. Embedded in her just complaint at Petruchio's act of seeming disrespect there is also a willingness publicly to proclaim her relationship to the man who has shamed her: she is Petruchio's wife if only he would hurry up and claim her. 'If it would please him come and marry her' are the words not only of an impatient, sharp-tongued woman who does not accept wrongs done to her in silence - of course in conventional terms being kept waiting at the alter is undoubtedly a wrong. It is also the language of a 'bottom' feeling her way to describing the mixture of pleasure and pain in anticipation of compliance with the 'top'. Here the double-edged meaning of shame is present. Outwardly, it is present in its dictionary definition as a 'painful emotion arising from the consciousness of something dishonouring, ridiculous, or indecorous in one's own ... circumstances (or in those of others whose honour or disgrace one regards as one's own)'. But even more importantly, it is present in its inward complex sadomasochistic sense which involves the interlacing of exhibitionistic tendencies, pleasure in exposure to humiliation, and a certain unacknowledged (perhaps unconscious) satisfaction at being cast publicly in the role of victim.

That this is a particular kind of rite of passage (marking the transition of something much stranger than the step from single to married status) is indicated by the comments of relatives, guests and bystanders. Kate must acquire a different set of responses to those conventionally required of her on her wedding-day. Her bridegroom's clothing and behaviour would indeed be 'an injury' to 'vex a saint' in conventional terms - 'much more', as her father says, 'a shrew of thy impatient humour' (III.ii.28-29). That Petruchio's manners and clothes are an encoded way of introducing a new and secret set of rules (or a private world of complicity) which is not divulged to those assembled to celebrate the marriage is suggested by Tranio, Petruchio's servant. He hints that they are a part of a plan, 'some odd humour' that 'pricks him to this fashion' (III.ii.70). This unfamiliarity elicits uneasiness in Baptista, so that he is prompted to urge Petruchio to return to normal:

The mystery is intensified by references to a meaning that must for the time being be kept secret:
Subsequent stages in this process of self-recognition for Kate require her to learn obedience by witnessing the shredding of a conventionally modish cap and gown yet one she finds 'quaint', 'pleasing' and 'commendable' (IV.iii.102). Symbolically, conventional modes of headgear and raiment have to be jettisoned in favour of the falconer's hood and jesses (the visible representation of the fashioning of a sadomasochist). In the final submission scene and as her definitive act of public submission Kate throws her cap ('that bauble') 'underfoot' since it 'becomes [her] not'.(V.ii.122-123). Of course, she wants instead to wear the cap that fits her! But before her initiation is complete, she must demonstrate that essential qualification for the submissive's part, obedience. This she does by accepting Petruchio's assertion that the moon is the sun despite the evidence of her own eyes (IV.v.1-7). That she begins to settle enjoyably into the games-playing afforded by her new role is clear from the way she extends the scope of her obedience:
By the time the couple are next seen Kate's understanding of her sexual identity has advanced to the extent that the 'shaming' rituals begun on the wedding day are now being tested out against what can or can not appropriately be done in public: Kate is embarrassed to kiss Petruchio 'in the midst of the street'. (V.i.132). The whole issue of exhibitionism, theatricality and the simultaneous need for both secrecy and openness in SM games has been noticed by David Holt,38 Cliff Ashcroft39 and Glyn Hughes,40 all of whom have written recently in SKIN TWO about the way in which actions considered shameful can be brought out into the open only with enormous difficulty - and the correspondingly enormous relief and sense of instant well-being once this has been accomplished. Kate and Petruchio achieve a kind of 'outing' that operates on two levels in this play. On one level it has to be worked out through mutual private testing and adjusting. On another level they have to place themselves on the larger map of their society. So they have to steer a course between two sets of customs and rules - the private and the public, side by side with the individual and the societal. They must try to balance out successfully the multivalent demands involved in the public versus the private rituals of dressing up, making public pronouncements, putting on a show for the family and neighbours that does not cause in them as a newly-fashioned sadomasochistic couple too wide a rift to breach between public duty and mutual private satisfaction.

The preparation for full entry into the private, secret, ritualised environment of a sadomasochistic marriage is complete by the time Kate and Petruchio attend their first public event together. All that remains is for Kate to demonstrate her consent that Petruchio, as her partner, is 'more shrew than she' (IV.i.76). That is, it is she who must publicly proclaim him in his role as dominant, ('master of what is mine own' (III.ii.227) in order to maintain the public/private tension in their games-playing. Structurally, this is achieved through the device of a bet and an obedience test and is communicated to the personages on stage and the audience through the formal strategy of a set speech.

In terms of form, this set speech, showing Kate's 'new-built virtue and obedience' (V.ii.119) is the necessary resolution to a comedy whose ostensible subject-matter has been the transformation of a rebel into a conformist. In terms of the sadomasochistic substrata of the play, however, this transformation is to do with private, recondite emotional reversals and upheavals that have nevertheless had to settle into a communicable view of marriage that sustains the personally idiosyncratic at the same time as evincing public approval.

In terms of language, critics have noted that in the final scene, where all has to be resolved harmoniously according to the formal conventions of comedy, Lucentio and Hortensio 'bid' and 'entreat' their wives to present themselves to the gathering. Petruchio in contrast uses the language of the dominant. He 'commands' Kate's presence and 'charges' her to 'tell these headstrong women / What duty they do owe their lords and husbands'(V.ii.131-2). In conventional accounts this is called woman-bashing. In the kind of interpretation I have been suggesting, Petruchio is asking her to give an only very lightly encoded account of what it is like to be a submissive in an SM relationship. Kate responds in the words of the true submissive: 'What is your will, sir, that you send for me?' (V.ii.101) It is clear that the pattern of their marriage has crystallised and the rest of the scene is taken up with the construction of the husband in the dominant role, the wife in the submissive, and an expression of the tacit secret understanding that is now jointly theirs. Their life together as an SM couple bodes 'peace ... and love, and quiet life' where the 'awful rule' and 'right supremacy' are freely given to the partner who plays the dominant part so that all may be 'sweet and happy' (V.ii.109-111). Kate's speech (V.ii.137-180) may thus be read as an affirmation of the pleasures that await her in her assumption of the role of 'bottom' or 'slave' in sado-masochistic economies. All hinges on our understanding of 'true' obedience. 'True' can I think be understood as a proper and fitting sense of what it means to take up one's role in such a relationship; what this role means for Kate, and what we may understand it to mean in the context of sadomasochism as it written, spoken about, analysed and enacted today. To go against her own choosing and inclination is to be a 'foul contending rebel, / And graceless traitor to her loving lord' (V.ii.160-161). And in describing such a relationship and her part in it she uses a language that will not be strange to the practitioners of sadomasochism as it is understood today. She 'kneel[s] for peace' (163) in her abandonment of the warring , aggressive, intransigent self that she was at the beginning of the play. She no longer 'seek[s] for rule, supremacy' (165) and chooses to lay aside her former self, the one that she now recognises as that of a 'froward and unable' worm (170.). Her self-realisation has led her instead to 'Unknit that threatening unkind brow' and 'dart not scornful glances from those eyes' to wound her 'lord' (137-139). She acknowledges her 'soft condition' (168) and her 'weakness' (175), and declares herself 'bound to serve, love, and obey' (165). All of this culminates in a gesture of submission that is clearly understood across the centuries. The gloss in the Arden edition on Kate's talk of the abasement of pride when she offers to place her hand beneath her husband's foot is that in so doing she makes 'some traditional act of allegiance or submission ... which itself may recall the Emperor's submission to the Pope'.41 So it is no shame for a woman to make such a gesture; it is an obeisance made by men also. And as such, it shows how people play power games in all sorts of institutionalised contexts. In short, the language and gesture of sadomasochism has enabled Kate to find a way to express in public the nature of her fantasy. The words David Holt uses to tell the story of an experimental couple may equally be applied to the couple in this play: Kate and Petruchio have 'moved into their scene of humiliation and punishment' by 'using words of love and tenderness which add [..] to the sado-masochistic enjoyment'.42

Finally, one of the most significant 'fields of play' (in language, action and signification) in both the novella Passage and the play is the bed. In neither is a bed used as a site for sexual activity before the rite of passage is complete. Bed is a possibility in either story only when the ground rules of the relationship have been established and are clearly understood and accepted by both partners. Thus in Passage Nina and Carrie make love in a bed only when demarcation lines have been drawn and love has been declared. Only an act of love as a seal on commitment can be performed in a bed. And it is only at the end of Kate's submission speech where the part to be played by each in relation to the other has been determined and defined that the couple can (literally as well as metaphorically) retire to bed. In both texts, erotic play cannot be undertaken in bed until roles have been resolved and love and commitment to the partnership have been established. In Passage, before the final sequence, bed is simply a resting place where Nina can draw breath before the beginning of the next round of sexual activity. As a relief from the rigours of whipping, enchainment and all sorts of other high-blooded games and role-reversals, she is permitted to sink into a 'huge soft bed',43 and to snuggle 'under a plump comforter'.44 Bed performs a different (though related) function in the process of Kate's initiation. It is yet another area of chaos and confusion. On their wedding-night Petruchio plans to transfer the lesson into the bedroom: 'here I'll fling the pillow, there the bolster, / This way the coverlet, another way the sheets' (IV.i.188-89). Since one of the main objectives of an SM scene is to defer consummation/completion/orgasm for as long as possible, and since the marriage cannot be consummated until they are settled into their SM pattern, Kate is given 'a sermon of continency' (IV.i.170) and an apple-pie bed.

In short, the clothes the couple wear and discard, the self-conscious theatricality of their exchanges, the public and private rituals they evolve, the controls they place on their own and each other's exhibitionism and the practices they establish for themselves are rounded up in Petruchio's two final commands:

In leaving the matter there however we are compelled to accept a foreclosure of the complexity of SM games.45 The conventions of comedy in Shakespeare's day require that the sparring couple end up in a harmonious heterosexual union. But in The Taming of the Shrew this concordant resolution suggests a last-minute regulation of the practices of SM by tying it into copulation. The couple who have through the course of the main action been experimenting with alternative, less conventional pleasures are finally (due to the demands of the forms of comedy) robbed of the perverse riotous possibilities suggested by the apple-pie bed and are instead subdued to the orderly (reproductive) pleasures of the marriage bed.


1 This is an amended and extended version of a piece originally published in Skin Two Issue 15. Fig. 1 appears by kind permission of the British Library and Fig. 2 appears by kind permission of Minuit, Brussels. All citations and quotations are from The Taming of the Shrew, Arden Shakespeare, ed. Brian Morris. London: Routledge, 1981.
2 Cited in David Macey (1993): The Lives of Michel Foucault. London: Hutchinson, 368-9.
3 See for example Robert Heilman (1966): "The 'Taming' untamed, or the return of the shrew". In: MLQ 27, 147-61, p. 154 and H. J. Oliver in his introduction to the Oxford Shakespeare of the play: H. J. Oliver, ed. (1982): The Taming of the Shrew. Oxford: World's Classics paperback, Oxford University Press, 48-57. Heilman's reasons for adopting this viewpoint are entirely antithetical to the argument of this essay. He tries to persuade us that "If we can see The Taming in this way, we can have it untamed, freed from the artifices of a critical falconry that endeavors to domesticate it within the confines of recent sensibility: and we can have a return of the shrew without turning Kate into only a shrew". MLQ 27, 161.
4 See for example Marilyn French (1982): Shakespeare's Division of Experience. London: Jonathan Cape, 317: "Kate is tamed by serious confusion, fear, isolation, deprivation and capricious authority".
5 Coppélia Kahn (1981): Man's Estate: Masculine Identity in Shakespeare. Berkeley: U. of California P., 116-118.
6 R. Warwick-Bond, ed (1904): The Taming of the Shrew. Arden Shakespeare, London: Methuen, lviii: this act alone is "not excusable like former freaks as part of a wise purpose, but offered at the very moment when she is exhibiting voluntary obedience".
7 French, Division, 21-31.
8 Lisa Jardine (1983): Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 104.
9 Designated thus by Ann Thompson in her overview of feminist criticism on Shakespeare: "'The warrant of womanhood': Shakespeare and feminist criticism". In: Graham Holderness, ed. (1988): The Shakespeare Myth Manchester: University Press, 77-78.
10 Marianne Novy (1984): Love's Argument: Gender Relations in Shakespeare. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 45-62.
11 Ann Thompson, ed. (1984): The Taming of the Shrew, New Cambridge Shakespeare. Cambridge: University Press, 17-41.
12 Ibid., 25.
13 Heilman, MLQ, 154.
14 Thompson (ed.): Introduction, 26.
15 Lorna Hutson (1994): The Usurer's Daughter: Male Friendship and Fictions of Women in Sixteenth-Century England. London: Routledge, 209-223.
16 Ibid., 210.
17 Ibid., 211.
18 Ibid., 209; see also Leah Marcus (1992): "The Shakespearean Editor as Shrew-Tamer". In: ELR 22, 177-200, p.178: "Instead of convincing us that the inner play's wife-taming scenario is a possible one in reality, Sly's vow turns it into the wish-fulfillment fantasy of a habitual drunkard who is as likely to be punished by his wife for this night out as he has been for past transgressions. Shrew-taming' thus 'becomes the compensatory fantasy of a socially underprivileged male."
19 Hutson, 215.
20 Ibid., 219.
21 Ibid., 220.
22 Ibid., 221.
23 Ibid., 222.
24 Ibid., 223.
25 Ibid., 223.
26 See Theodor Reik (1957): Masochism in Modern Man, trans. Margaret H. Beigel and Gertrud M. Kurth. New York: Grove Press, 212-229.
27 Arden ed., I.i, n. 58, pp. 174-5.
28 Sigmund Freud, "'A Child is Being Beaten.' A Contribution to the Study of the Origin of Sexual Perversions" (1919), Standard Edition, Vol. XVII, p. 195. Cited in Juliet Mitchell (1990): Psychoanalysis and Feminism. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 113-114.
29 "One night, I might want to be served dinner and then given a backrub ... by a pretty slave girl. On another night I might want to be a teenage boy who is going to tie up the local cock-tease and have his way with her. Or I might be a stern leather daddy showing his boy how to take it like a man. I might want to put on my spike heels, step on somebody's throat, and cane them until my arm is tired. On the other hand ... if I can't have my evenings off with cocoa and animal crakers, I don't want to be your Bitch Goddess". Skin Two Issue 12.
30 Gervase Markham: Country Contentments. London 1615; 4th ed. 1651, 36-7.
31 George Turberuile (1969): The Booke of Faulconrie or Hauking (1575). New York: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum Ltd & Da Capo Press, 141.
32 Aarona Griffin (1992): Passage and Other Stories. Canada: Rosebud; Masquerade Books.
33 Acclimatisaton to the hood takes time, patience and repetition: 'when you haue hooded hir, take hir on your fyste, and holde hir so all night untyll daye appeare agayne' taking 'off hir hood oftentymes, and handling hir gently wyth your hande, strokyng hir softly aboute the wyngs and the bodye, hooding and unhooding hir ... you must watche hir on the fyste, so manye nightes togither, without setting hir downe on anye pearche, that shee may bee wearie, and suffer you to hoode and handle her gently without anye maner of resistaunce, and untill shee haue altogither left and forgotten hir stryking and byting at your hande.' Turberville, p. 143.
34 "He that will furnishe his hawke accordingly, must haue Jesses and Bewettes of good leather, and shrill belles, according to the hugenesse or condition of his hawke. So must he also haue a hoode for hir". Ibid., 129.
35 Arden ed., 98-99.
36 Ibid., 99.
37 Foucault in Macey, 368-9.
38 David Holt: "Sadomasochism and Society". In: Skin Two Issue 9.
39 Cliff Ashcroft: "Shame". In: Skin Two Issue 11.
40 Glyn Hughes: "The Dominant Species". In: Skin Two Issue 10.
41 Arden ed., V.ii, 178n.
42 Skin Two Issue 9.
43 Passage, 141.
44 Ibid., 147.
45 I owe this suggestion to Tanya Krzywinska. I have benefited also from her critical acuity and careful reading of this paper - for which I give thanks.

Nina Taunton
Dept. Arts/English
Brunel University College