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this comedy, Shakespeare followed closely an old play,
entitled The Taming of a Shrew, which was on the stage before 1594, and in that year was printed anonymously, “as it had been sundry times acted by the Right Hon. the Earl of Pembroke's servants.' The piece has considerable humour, and is well planned for stage effect. But the author was probably restrained from giving his name by the consciousness that he had plagiarised largely from Marlowe, whose ornate imagery and "mighty line' are occasionally forced into descriptive passages with which they do not harmonise. The parallelisms are so numerous and direct, that Marlowe has been supposed by an American critic to have been the author of the old comedy. In none of his undoubted works, however, does Marlowe evince any sense of humour; and we agree with Mr Dyce (who has gone minutely into the question), that The Taming of a Shrew appears to be the work of some one who had closely studied Marlowe's writings, and who frequently could not resist the temptation to adopt the very words of his favourite dramatist. The style bears a strong resemblance to that of Greene, but we do not think Greene would have stolen from his friend Marlowe. Shakespeare, seeing the old comedy was well adapted for his theatre, re-wrote it, changing the scene from Athens to Padua, giving new names to some of the characters, but retaining the inimitable Christopher Sly and his drunken transformation, and adding part of the plot of another old drama, The Supposes, a free translation by Gascoigne of Ariosto’s Suppositi. The incident of the pedant personating Vincentio is taken from Gascoigne's play, and in that, too, Shakespeare found the name of Petruchio, the corresponding character in The Taming of a Shrew being called Ferando. The popularity of the old play is evinced by its being reprinted in 1596, and again in 1607. Sir John Harrington, in his Metamorphosis of Ajax, 1596, refers to it: 'Read the book of Taming a Shrew, which hath made a number of us so perfect that now every one can rule a shrew in our country save he that hath her.' Shakespeare's drama must soon have superseded the older performance, for it retained the title (with the slight alteration of the Shrew for a Shrew), and all the incidents which had been so effective on the stage, while the characters and dialogues were vivified and enriched by his genius.
The exact period at which the play was produced is uncertain. The earliest copy we have of it is in the folio of 1623. It is not mentioned in Meres's list of 1598, and it would seem to have been written subsequent to the tragedy of Hamlet. In Hamlet, Shakespeare gives the name of Baptista as that of a woman. This was a blunder, and the poet had discovered it to be such, for in the Taming of the Shrew it appears as the name of a man-Baptista, a rich gentleman of Padua,' and the father of Katharina and Bianca. Hamlet was, in all probability, written about 1602, but at what time afterwards the Taming of the Shrew was produced we have no evidence external or internal. The Induction is, as Farmer remarks, in the poet's best manner, and indeed appears, in point of style, to be of a later date and more careful composition than the rest of the drama.
The original story of the Induction is supposed by Douce to be the tale of “The Sleeper Awakened' in the Arabian Nights' Entertainments. Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, has quoted a similar incident from Marco Polo. A certain Tartar prince had a retired but luxurious palace and garden, and he chose out a young man whom, with a soporiferous potion, he so benumbed that he perceived nothing, and so-fast asleep as he was caused him to be conveyed into this fair garden, where, after he had lived awhile in all such pleasures as a sensual man could desire, he cast him into a sleep again, and brought him forth, that when he waked he might tell others he had been in paradise.' The Emperor
Charles V., and Philip, Duke of Burgundy, played a similar trick on unconscious drunkards, treating them for a time as nobles, and then restoring them to their original rags and depositing them where they had been taken up; and Warton states that this incident formed part of a collection of comic stories printed in 1570 by Richard Edwards. From this English collection most probably the unknown author of The Taming of a Shrew had constructed the story of his amusing prelude. The main incident of the play, the taming of a shrew, was favourite theme in the somewhat rude and boisterous days of Queen Elizabeth, who would herself have tried the patience and skill of Leicester or Essex, if they had been called upon to play the part of Petruchio. Even in the era of Queen Anne we find the Petruchio mode of reformatory discipline described in the Tatler, as adopted in the case of a young lady of high spirit'in Lincolnshire. It was, of course, successful, for such is the moral of the story. But happily, as Mr Charles Knight says, the practice has ceased to be universally considered orthodox, and there is more efficacy in another Shakespearian teaching:
*Your gentleness shall force, More than your force move us to gentleness.'
'In the older comedy, the scene is laid in and near Athens, and Shakespeare removed it to Padua and its neighbourhood ; unnecessary change if he knew no more of one country than of the other. The Dramatis Personæ next attract our attention. Baptista is no longer erroneously the name of a woman, as in Hamlet, but of a man. All the other names, except one, are pure Italian, though most of them are adapted to the English ear. Biondello, the name of a boy, seems chosen with a knowledge of the language, as it signifies a little fair-haired fellow. Even the Shrew has the Italian termination to her name, Katharina. The exception is Curtis, Petruchio's servant, seemingly the housekeeper at his villa; which, as it is an insignificant part, may have been the name of the player ; but, more probably, it is a corruption of