How to Tame a Shrew: From Renaissance to Restoration

Nell Novara


The works of William Shakespeare have been analyzed and appreciated for centuries.  Yet, perhaps even more importantly, they also been revised and adapted as a way of becoming more applicable to a society’s changing ideas.  One of Shakespeare’s most popular works is The Taming of the Shrew, which first appeared on stage sometime in the late 16th century and was printed in the Folio of 1623.  Among the many debates surrounding this work is the existence of another play, The Taming of a Shrew, around the same time.  With two texts to see and work from, adaptations could borrow from both as they sought to build upon the popularity of the shrew story and adapt the story to the expectations and desires of an ever changing audience.

One of the most popular adaptations of The Shrew was John Lacy’s Sauny the Scot: or, The Taming of the Shrew which first appeared on the London stage during the 1660’s.  At this period of time, England was in the Restoration era, during which many new ideas and perspectives were formed as to the importance of drama.  While an increase in theatrics and spectacle existed, so too did a desire to look upon works as ultimate portrayals of universal truths.  Powell writes, “the brilliance of the period was rooted in paradox.  The greedy, almost predatory, intensity of act and emotion was coupled with an obsession for definition, lucidity, and proof” (25).  As societies and audiences expected more from their dramatic forms, playwrights adapted to the needs and thus Shakespeare’s shrew story was reworked.

Lacy’s Sauny most notably borrowed from the plot structure of The Shrew.  Lacy’s Petruchio seeks to tame Margaret as a way of allowing another to be able to marry her younger, more virtuous sister, Biancha.  Yet the three main plots of the original: the Sly frame, the lovers’ subplot, and the taming plot each differ in Sauny.  Sauny eliminates the frame, adds more dimensions to the lovers’ story, and, most notably, adds several scenes in which Petruchio attempts to tame Margaret.  These additions greatly changed the thematic quality of Shakespeare’s work in order to show that it is “a realistic presentation of contemporary society, a position both moral zealots and defenders of the play have taken” (Scouten and Hume 49). Sauny places a heavy emphasis on economic and financial gain which would have been influenced by the changing focus on capitalism during the time of the Restoration.  During this time in history, the culture of conspicuous consumption was brought to the forefront of society.  Lavish acts of indulgence and pleasure became commonplace in contrast to the stifled Puritan ideas that had previously been seen.  (Hume 4). Furthermore, with the changing ideas of taming, misogyny and patriarchy are called into question.  While Lacy takes steps to eliminate some of these ideas, he also adds more brutality and leaves the issue essentially unresolved.

John Lacy’s Sauny the Scot: or, The Taming of the Shrew must be considered in terms of its historical context and its relationship to both of the earlier shrew texts.  As the beginning of the Restoration changed society and drama, Lacy altered the Shakespeare text to consider the new focus of the London audience.  As a result of his change, new themes came forth, most notably those reflecting the changing ideas of capitalism and misogyny.

Historical Background

            The period of 1660-1700 is generally referred to the Restoration period in the history of Great Britain.  In terms of theater, Restoration drama was particularly important because prior to 1660, “the theatres of England had been dark since 1642, when Parliament decreed the stoppage of all dramatic performances” (Powell 3).  The stopping of the theaters was due to the Establishments’ belief that plays were “a spectacle of pleasure, too commonly expressing lascivious Mirth and Levitie” (Murray 15).  With the legislature and church set against the theatre, the ban lasted 18 years until King Charles II was restored to his kingdom.   Thus, upon the new reign of Charles II, a new type of drama and performance was ushered into London where previously theatre audiences had been deprived of seeing any true performances.

            With the theatre back in the forefront of social life in London, a new type of theatrical performance became commonplace.  Of the many changes that occurred with the advent of Restoration drama, Hume states that “the important factors are the creation of a patent monopoly; the introduction of actresses; new designs for playhouses; a rapid increase in the use of scenery and machines, and growing emphasis on music and dance” (2).  Thus an increase in theatrics came along with the new type of drama.  Yet while theatrics played an important part, so too did the changing philosophy of the era.  Restoration drama sought neoclassical ideas of poetic justice and essential truths, ideas which may not have necessarily corresponded with the ideals presented in Shakespeare’s works.  Marsden writes:

For Restoration theatre managers, Shakespeare’s works presented substantial problems.  In the plays, the forces of good appear muddled: a princess uses harsh words to tell her father she loves him…the good and the vicious suffer alike.  Bothered by these problems (as we still are today), the adapters used what we see as a radical approach to the problem – they rewrote the plays, reshaped the character, and thus resolved the problem (Re-Imagined 13).

Adaptations of Shakespeare’s works began to come to the stage, altered to more correctly portray the Restoration’s obsession with a “need to observe, categorize, and define” (Powell 25).

            As all drama evolved during this time, so too began a new type of comedic work: Restoration comedy.  With a great amount of reliance upon stock characters and situations, such as the fop stereotype, the structure of Restoration comedy focused on what is commonly known as the “comedy of manners” (Hume 71).  Yet while seemingly constructed and frivolous in nature, Powell writes, “the comedy of manners is really quite as much a comedy of ideas.  Its style is an intellectual one which seeks to impose clarity on the vagaries of feeling, sensation and action, through the power of the mind” (35).  Restoration comedy, unlike the comedy of Shakespeare’s time, drew upon the audience’s perception of societal issues and attempted to create situations that portrayed truth and justice.

            Beyond the bourgeoning importance of ideas of truth in drama came changes to society as well.  With more attendees to the theatre came financial benefits reminiscent of a changing economic London society.  Because the Restoration signaled an end to the stifling ideologies of the Puritan era, citizens started to become more lavish and consume to a far greater extent than ever before. By the end of the 17th century, the monarchy was ever mindful of their dependence “to a large extent on the delicacy with which they could balance the financial interests of the merchant classes against the interests of the nobility and landed gentry” (Powell 12).  Thus, as capitalism became more prominent in London, the tensions between the classes and the financial motivations behind a changing society carried into all realms of life, including the theatre.

            A final important separation in drama between the years of the Renaissance and the Restoration was the use of female actresses in the Restoration period.  Previously, all female characters would have been played by young men or boys, which would inevitably lend a lack of authenticity to women’s roles.  Marsden states, “Restoration playwrights were quick to rework Shakespeare’s plots in order to take advantage of the new dramatic possibilities that actresses offered.  On the most basic level, there was the simple titillation value of seeing women on the stage, and many adaptations exploit this voyeuristic impulse” (“Rewritten” 43).  Yet besides focusing on sexual voyeurism, the use of women actresses provided them more power in the dramatic structure of England theatre.  As “the original production of Shakespeare…with all male casts served the purpose of excluding women from the entire process of producing plays” (Lublin 404), the new rush of female actresses cued a more profound respect for the sex in terms of theatre politics and thus could also sway reactions to the works produced.

            Overall, the Restoration brought many changes to society, politics, and lifestyles in England.  With these societal changes and the resurrection of the theatre, Restoration drama became the norm.  As adaptation and restructuring became ever present, the reworking of the most popular Shakespeare plays was inevitable.

Textual Differences

            The authoritative text of The Shrew is the Folio version of 1623 while the first printing of A Shrew appeared in 1594 (Thompson 1).  There has been a great amount of mystery and speculation surrounding both plays and thus it has been hard for anyone to concretely date the first performance of The Shrew.  Yet while both plays share many similarities, there are also many differences between them, most notably those relating to the structure and characters.  The great debate seems to lie in determining which work came first and who developed the original plot.  Brunvand explains the argument as follows:

…different scholars have worked out the following theories concerning the two plays: (1) A Shrew was written by another author and later revised by Shakespeare; (2) A Shrew was written by Shakespeare himself but her later revised it; (3) A Shrew is a “bad quarto” of a lost original of Shakespeare’s The Shrew.  All of the theorists have also considered the possibility of joint authorship of the plays (172).

Though the struggle to accurately determine the relationship between the two works remains, it remains clear that with a Folio printing not occurring until 1623, the interest in the Shrew story must have remained popular with audiences almost 30 years after the first appearance of A Shrew.  This popularity of The Shrew, as with any successful project, led to new adaptations and versions continued to be produced and appear on the London stage. With John Fletcher’s popular The Tamer Tamed, a sequel to the original story, appearing in 1612 and thriving for decades after,  playwrights looked towards the shrew plays as inspiration, thus, regardless of which of the two plays came first, it is clear that the story was able to generate enough publicity to be enticing to any theatre producer.

            One such version of the story was John Lacy’s Sauny the Scot: or, The Taming of the Shrew.  Exact dating of its first appearance is difficult as Schafer writes, “it is not clear precisely when Sauny superseded Shakespeare’s play.  Sir Henry Herbert recorded fees paid for or due for licensing a ‘Re[vived] Play Taming ye Shrew some time after 3 November 1663’” (6).  The first definite recorded performance came in 1667, while the play was not published until 1698.  Lacy, a comic actor and playwright, reworked the original Shakespearean version of the Shrew play and greatly increased the role of Petruchio’s servant, naming him Sauny, which is closely linked to the character’s name of Sander in A Shrew. While not directly borrowing any lines from A Shrew that were not found in The Shrew, the connection between the names could not have been a mere coincidence, as both are referred to as “Saundy” in their respective plays.  Therefore, Lacy would have been familiar with the two versions and been thus able to borrow and adapt from both.  Lacy wrote the character of Sauny for himself to play (Murray 69).  Known as “the greatest comedian of the [decade]” Lacy was also “an important member of the King’s Company of Comedians, a heavy holder both of troupe and theatre shares, and at one time a co-manager of the company” (Cooper 759). 

            Lacy’s Sauny is generally more closely linked to the plot structure of The Shrew, yet still contains many differences.  While both A Shrew and The Shrew begin with an induction involving Sly the drunkard as a way of framing the play within a play, Lacy’s version completely omits this scene.  The return to the frame at the end of A Shrew allows for audience members to perhaps see the shrew play as using a heightened sense of dramatic approach for the characters in the induction, including an over-reliance of romantic language and more relationships being formed within the play.  The omission of the ending frame in The Shrew alleviates some of the overdramatics of the other play and focuses more greatly upon the conniving aspects of the characters.  By completely eliminating the frame, Lacy’s Sauny becomes a more independent work in general, for the audience sees only the shrew play and can evaluate it more thoroughly as it stands alone instead of seeing it as only a trick played upon a outside character.  Furthermore, as A Shrew returns to the frame at the end, we see Sly state “Ile to my / Wife presently and tame her too” (G2 verso 1622-1623).  For viewers who look upon the character of Sly with contempt, his endorsement of the taming method would set the audience against such acts.  In The Shrew, with Sly fading away, audiences can forget about Sly and view the play as an important societal example.  Yet with Sauny, the complete elimination leaves endorsement of the act left up to interpretation based on other textual evidence.

            In terms of the lovers’ subplot, the additional relationship in A Shrew has been eliminated in both Sauny and The Shrew.  Yet the character of Woodall, who is closely tied to Gremio in The Shrew, plays a far longer and greater role in Sauny.  He appears in more scenes and has a great deal of dialogue as he attempts to win Biancha from Winlove.  Furthermore, Winlove’s role in Sauny is created as more comical as he takes on the role of a Frenchman to tutor Biancha, thus employing a fake French accent while his friend Tranio convinces Lord Beaufoy to allow the marriage.  Transforming the French culture into farcical characters would have been typical of this time period in London drama. The lovers’ subplot is further complicated in Sauny in terms of the actual marriage.  In Sauny, Biancha and Winlove face struggles not only from the impending arrival of Winlove’s father but also from Woodall as well.

            Perhaps the most obvious derivations from the earlier shrew texts in Sauny are found in the taming plot.  Petruchio’s first appearance in the play expands upon his desire to earn money for the actions he takes toward taming Margaret.  He deals with Biancha’s suitors and negotiates his way toward Margaret.  Later, in terms of Margaret’s character, Lacy adds scenes of her telling her sister that she has not truly been tamed and is in fact planning on seeking revenge from Petruchio for the brutality he has inflicted upon her.  The most frequently discussed additions in Sauny come as an extension to Petruchio’s method of taming, both in the home and at Margaret’s father’s house.  Beyond the starvation scenes, Lacy includes a bedroom scene in which “Sauny is ordered to undress Margaret because no maidservants are available” (Haring-Smith 10), further lending to her embarrassment.  Once they arrive at Lord Beaufoy’s and Margaret has retreated back to her shrewish ways, Petruchio sends for a barber to pull out Margaret’s teeth and then threatens to bury her when she refuses to speak.  Lastly, Margaret’s last speech in Sauny is far shorter than those of the Kate characters in the other plays.  With such obvious reworking to the taming plot, we can perhaps view Lacy as attempting to deal with the misogynic undertones of the play, ideas which will be discussed in more depth later.

            Yet despite the great amount of change and addition to the play, it would seem that it still may not fit the Restoration stereotype completely.  A more complete Restoration comedy would probably consisted of Margaret completing her revenge scenario upon Petruchio and making him a cuckold to reflect upon the prominent era themes of justice and truth with emphasis upon entertaining theatrics.  Yet Scouten and Hume write, “Restoration theatre depended … on a variety of different modes of comedy…which frequently contained an underlying current of contemporary social satire” (38), which shows that while the “comedy of manners” may not be strictly established within the play, the use of characters such as Sauny and the entertaining methods of Petruchio still establish it within that realm. Furthermore, ambiguity and found in the end of the play would clearly fit in with the idea of Restoration comedy farce. Thus, through the satire and societal reflections present in the thematic strands of the work, its role in the Restoration can be established. 

Thematic Strands


Sauny presents ideas relating to an evolving capitalist society as was present in London, England during the Restoration Era.  Lacy’s use of a London setting can be see beyond a chance to relate to an audience but extends even further to portray issues pertaining to class and wealth.  Schafer states, “Lacy plays overtly to Restoration theatrical taste by making the characters more aristocratic in rank [and] moving them to London” (6). Class issues are far more prominent throughout the piece, which is apparent in the ways the characters status levels are switched.  The character of Alfonso/Baptista from the earlier plays has now become Lord Beaufoy.  The status elevation of the father character creates a more heightened sense of upper class living around his daughters, Margaret and Biancha.  With this change comes a change in the motivation of the suitors themselves.  In The Shrew, before hearing of the prospect of marrying Kate, Petruchio speaks of his desires in life, stating, “I have thrust myself into this maze, / Happily to wive and thrive as best I may. / Crowns in my purse I have, and goods at home, / And so am come abroad to see the world” (1.2.52-55)[1].  Petruchio never hides his desire for money, yet seems to seek adventure from life as well.  Upon hearing from Hortensio that there is a shrew he can marry, he speaks “I come to wive it wealthily in Padua; / If wealthily, then happily in Padua” (1.2.72-73).  Petruchio in The Shrew, while clearly concerned with wealth, looks upon it as a mechanism towards happiness.  Likewise, in A Shrew, Fernando states, “The divel himself dares scarce venter to woo her, / Signior Alfonso’s eldest daughter, / And he hath promised me six thousand crownes / If I can win her once to be my wife” (B2 verso 292-295).  Fernando, like Petruchio, accepts the marriage as a challenge, and while money is certainly an incentive, seems to have an earnest desire to “win” Kate. 

            However, in Sauny, Margaret is of a much higher class and status than her counterparts in the earlier plays. Thus, Petruchio’s role also changes as we see him from the beginning of the play as only seeking a union that will reward him financially.  When asked what he would seek from a wife, Petruchio’s response is solely, “Why money, a good Portion…all other things are in my making” (5).  This response lacks any mention of happiness or adventure which the other two characters speak of.   Thus from the beginning of the play, even before Margaret is introduced to him, we see a sense of financial motivation and desire, looking upon virtually every step of life as a business negotiation.  The idea is brought to the forefront of our minds when Petruchio is approached about Margaret and sends Sauny to negotiate a deal.  Though the suitors are hesitant about giving away their money, Sauny assures them that a refund will be in order if the marriage does not take place and finally achieves from Woodall, “ten pieces, and that ring I’ll pawn to you for ‘tother forty, tis worth a hundred” (6).  The entire scene negotiating the payoff for Margaret has been added in Lacy’s version of the play.  It seems that it has been added to establish notions of the capitalist ideas of the society in the London of both the play and audience as well as illustrating the notion that money is used to motivate the actions of everyone involved.

            This notion of business exchange surfaces later in Sauny when Woodall seeks the assistance of the disguised Winlove to capture Biancha and assure she marries him.  This is another scene that has been added to the work, as Woodall’s counterpart in The Shrew, Gremio, has disappeared from this scene and the other suitors do not exist in A Shrew.  Woodall tells Winlove, “Why look you, you are to fetch her; here’s forty ounds in Golld to buy you a pair of gloves, let me take her from you, as you are carrying her thither, I will have two or three with  me, and you may fastly say she was forc’d from you” (31).   Later, as it is revealed that Winlove had been in disguise, both he and Biancha seem to thrill at the deceit, as Winlove tells Woodall, “40 peces to buy a Pair of Gloves, to ler you Steal Madam Biancha this ring was bought with some of it, ha, ha, ha.” (37). Essentially, Biancha and Winlove have just stolen a great sum of money from Woodall.   Yet because they seem to have more pride in themselves for deceiving everyone, they ignore the larger, moral problems associated with their trickery.  Thus, in Sauny, we are confronted with characters whose desire for monetary gain overshadows the dark motivations for their acts: bribery and theft.

            The issue of class and its role in the capitalist society of London can be further explored through the changing roles of the servants in Lacy’s work.  Perhaps the most obvious difference between the three plays is the fact that Sauny is written entirely in prose.  In classical Renaissance drama, including that of Shakespeare, the upper class characters generally speak entirely in verse while the lower class servants would use the more crass and vulgar prose speech of everyday.  Thus, it would seem that by making no distinction between the speech patterns of the characters, Lacy is equalizing their roles in a way.  This idea could also be explored in terms of the title of the work itself: Sauny the Scot:  Or, The Taming of the Shrew.  To name the play for one servant would seem to perhaps reflect upon a changing notion of class struggle by giving greater importance to such a character.  But the character of Sauny becomes even more important in terms of his Scottish background.  His heavy accent is dramatically overdone and Lacy makes a point of referencing Scotland as he speaks, making such statements as “S’breed Sir, send her into the Highlands in Scotland, there’s Hunger and Caud enough, there she may starve her Bally soo” (26).  The accent is clearly farcical in nature and brings to the character of Sauny an extra layer of marginalization in terms of regionalism.  The character of Sauny, though the lead role, is meant to be humorous in nature and would be considered a “scruffy ‘foreign’ role” (Murray 69).

Thus, if Lacy was focused on eliminating class differences, why would he elevate the status of certain characters such as Margaret and Biancha?  And furthermore, because the role of Sauny was written as a comic character to be played by Lacy himself, it would seem that the prominence of his role would be more self-serving than contradictory to a societal norm.  Yet throughout, with the equalizing of the speech patterns, it would seem that Lacy’s over-reliance upon characters obsessed with money is used to show how, as society changes and capitalism comes to the forefront of ethics and ideas, those people who would have previously been seen to be “out of reach” (Lord Beaufoy and his daughters) can be seen as on a more equal level to those who may seek out money in new ways.  Furthermore, the use of more vulgar and crass language would also have been appealing to the audience during the Restoration era by “making the plot, characters, and dialogue both rude and improbable…its very offenses made it popular in its time” (Haring-Smith 11).

            The changing economy and capitalist society present in London at the time of the Restoration is seen throughout this work of Restoration drama.  Lacy specifically moves the action to London and adds both financial motivation and vulgarity to his characters as a way to illustrate the new obsessions of the times.  As ideas of monetary wealth without aristocracy became present in the audience’s mindset, so too did these ideas become present in the works presented.


            Perhaps the most problematic aspect of The Taming of the Shrew and its counterparts has always been the idea that, taken at face value, the play seems to commend misogynistic practices and stifle any hint of female liberation.  Lublin states, “it has been compellingly argued…that Shakespeare has played and may continue to play a significant role in the establishment and maintenance of gender roles that subordinate women” (401). Therefore, for centuries, critics and adaptors alike have sought to “excuse” Shakespeare for the behaviors present in the play, relating it to its historical context and “the women’s abjected position in the social order of early modern England” (Boose 180). Yet in Sauny, Lacy reworks the original Shakespearean tradition to leave hope that Margaret has not really been tamed through the brutal acts of Petruchio while also adding to the story’s brutality, leading us to wonder if he is endorsing or defying the misogyny and patriarchy of the times.  The first main difference present in Sauny is the continual emphasis on Margaret’s discontent at the situation at hand.  In both earlier shrew plays, Kate’s starvation and humiliation at the hands of her husband is focused on more from the male point of view and we rarely see the truly devastating emotional effects such brutality can have upon a person.  Yet in Sauny, Lacy continually shows Margaret weeping from the pain of her situation. Furthermore, we see her long to return home to her father, as she states, “But there’s some Comfort in going Home; there’s Meat and Sleeping-room.” (27). By illustrating the stress of Margaret’s situation, it seems that Lacy is not entirely excusing Petruchio’s behavior as necessary.  Instead, he is showing the emotional consequences of bestowing such brutality upon another person, thus perhaps attempting to illicit sympathy from an audience.

            While the larger emphasis upon Margaret’s feelings helps to ease a bit of the misogynistic overtones through perhaps condemning Petruchio’s behavior, Lacy makes a bigger statement by leaving audience members with the impression that perhaps Margaret has not really been “tamed.”  In both of the other versions of the play, Kate is seen as “officially” tamed after agreeing with Petruchio/Fernando that the sun has become the moon and that the elderly man they meet is really a young woman.  While this scene is present in Sauny it is important to note that Geraldo is present with the couple and states to Margaret, “Say, as he sayes, or we shall never go.” (32).  It is Geraldo who prompts Margaret to agree with Petruchio and, as seen earlier, her desire to return to her home may cause her to simply go along with the situation at hand in order to gain what she is truly looking for.  Furthermore, once she has returned home and is reunited with Biancha, Margaret tells her sister:

Had I serv’d him as bad as Eve did Adam, he coud not have us’d me worse; I am resolv’d now I’m got home again I’ll be reveng’d, I’ll muster up the Spight of all the Curs’d Women since Noah’s Flood to do him Mischief, and add new Vigour to my Tongue; I have not par’d my Nails this fortnight, they are long enough to do him some Executaion, that’s my comfort (39).

Lacy exposes us to Margaret’s feelings about the situation and we see that she is angry and frustrated and in no way the gentle creature the other versions imagine her to be at this point in the play.  Yet at the same time, Petruchio’s patriarchal tactics become more dominating and present because of her rebellion, thus allowing audiences to view his brutal tactics more frequently.

            This reluctance on the part of Margaret to play the gentle, meek wife comes out again in Lacy’s added scenes with of “taming” Margaret.  One of the most apparent is a scene which takes place in Margaret’s bedchamber.  Petruchio claims that there are no maidservants available and thus orders Sauny, “Here Sauny come hither Sirrah, and undress your Mistress” (25).  The intrusion of the male servant into this scene would have been considered offensive to those in the audience for it would seem to be a violation upon that which would be considered the most sacred of a woman’s virtues: chastity.  By adding this scene, Lacy is essentially endorsing a theory that allows the audience to view Margaret as unvirtuous and thus not subject to the same rights and respect of those women who may be seen as typifying the more ideal woman as seen through Biancha.

Once the couple has finally arrived at Lord Beaufoy’s for the marriage of Biancha, Lacy adds to the dramatics and brutality of his work by inserting more scenes to counteract Margaret’s assertions to never submit.  After she refuses to speak to him, Petruchio sends for a barber to pull out Margaret’s teeth and after she slaps him, Petruchio imagines her to be dead and we see him essentially threaten to bury her alive.  As Petruchio states, “Bless me my hopes are all vanisht again, ‘tis a Demon speaks withing her Body; Take her up again, we’ll bury ‘em together” (45), Margaret finally speaks out, saying, “Hold, hold my dear Petruchio, you have overcome me, and I beg your Pardon, henceforth I will not dare to think a thought shall Cross your Pleasure, set me at Liberty, and on my knees I’ll make my recantation” (45).  At this point in the play, Margaret finally seems to succumb to Petruchio.  Crocker states, “Lacy’s Petruchio manages Margaret through physical violence, and feminine agency, even one directed toward passive aims, is eliminated” (143).  Yet she is clearly a stronger female character than either of her counterparts in The Shrew or A Shrew, for only when threatened with death does she give in to the situation at hand.  The extremity of physical violence coupled with the intrusion upon Margaret’s sexuality clearly emphasizes the power of Petruchio.  Yet the scenes occur because Margaret herself is a stronger feminine force, which in itself may counteract the perception of Petruchio’s power.  It seems that an audience would see Petruchio’s control escalate as Margaret’s feminine agency increases, for “Petruchio needs a Margaret who challenges his dominance. As long as Petruchio tames, he wields power” (Crocker 144).

            At the end of the play, the question is then left for the audience to determine if Margaret’s turnaround is true or if she is simply acting.  In A Shrew, the play ends with Kate’s speech at the dinner gathering in which she speaks of woman’s history of subservience to man, with roots in religious ideology.  She states “Olde Adamn and from his side a sleepe, / A rib was taken, of which the Lord did make, / The woe of man so termed by Adam then” (G1 verso 1563-1565).  In A Shrew, it would seem that Kate focuses on a type of societal order deemed by God that created woman from man and thus subservient to man.  In The Shrew, the ending speech from Kate differs in that she makes no reference to religion or Christian ideas.  Instead she focuses on the woman as a symbol of beauty and the man as her master as she states, “Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, / Thy head, they sovereign; one that cares for thee / and for thy maintenance” (5.2.146-148).  Both speeches seem to reflect upon themes of a great change in Kate, and an overall recognition of gender roles in society. 

            Yet at the end of Sauny, Margaret’s speech is far shorter as she tells the crowd, “Fy Ladys, for shame, How dare you infringe that Duty which you justly owe your Husbands, they are our Lords and we must pay ‘em service” (47).  This ending speech is only two lines long, in contrast to the 43 lines of The Shrew and the 30 lines of A Shrew.  Furthermore, as she is chastising the other women, she does nothing to try and explain the reasoning behind the subjectivity of the female sex, as the Kates try to do in their speeches.  Instead she simply states what is the societal norm, with such brevity as to make one assume that she could perhaps be using sarcasm.  Regarding the final speech, Murray states that it “has the dramatic flaw of an unexpected and unequivocal conversion by the heroine over the space of two lines” (70), which seems to point to a sense of disbelief surrounding the supposed “taming,” leading audience members who thrive on the entertainment of the Restoration era to view Margaret’s conversion as entertaining in its most likely false nature.  As Restoration comedy sought to satirize marriage and other societal practices, the idea that the conversion is farcical in nature would likely have been accepted by the audience at the time.

            Thus with the many additions and revisions of the text, we can see that Lacy is illustrating the Margaret character as simply acting at the end, leading us to believe that she has yet to be tamed.  Therefore, Lacy’s strengthening of the Margaret character, though pointing to the extreme brutality and unnecessary acts of Petruchio can also indicate a continual need for acts of taming in the future, which could only further ensure the power of the male figure and the need for control.  At the end of The Shrew, where the speech is far less ambiguous and Kate physically places her hand underneath the feet of her husband, Crocker states “Katharine’s final gesture of obedience reveals Petruchio’s lack of control” (158).  Essentially, the male-female dynamic can function as a catch-22 in a way.  When Kate is tamed at the end, Petruchio has essentially worn her down, yet when Margaret hints at a strength not yet suppressed at the end of Sauny, an audience would be left with the perception that there is still a “need” for her to be tamed, a need that will still assert the patriarchy present in the work. Thus, throughout this work, we see signs that Sauny is stepping away from the strict misogynistic ideas of earlier performances, and with the use of actresses can clearly be advocating the inclusion of more female-friendly ideas. Yet if Margaret’s strength can only result in more brutality, we can see an inability on the part of Lacy to truly address the problems of patriarchy, for even if he adds more agency and power to the feminine role, he does the same to Petruchio, thus never fully eliminating ideas of patriarchy and misogyny.

All works of art are inextricably tied to the historical occurrences at the time of its production.  So too are works of literature, which are both created and read differently throughout history.  While Shakespeare’s works have been celebrated for centuries, the interpretations and implications of his work have clearly moved with society.  Playwrights have used such changing interpretations to revise and adapt works as a way of earning success and notoriety among theatre goers.  John Lacy’s adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, called Sauny the Scot: Or, The Taming of the Shrew, appeared on stage during England’s Restoration era.  Lacy’s work, while closely following the structure of The Shrew, made several changes and additions, most notably increasing the brutality during the taming scene and the monetary focus and class divisions of its characters.

            But while modern readers may easily write off this play for its overarching ideas of lavish capitalism and enforcement of misogynistic ideas, examination of Restoration comedy and the textual differences show that all changes made to the play clearly help establish its relevance to the audience at that time.  Restoration comedy focused on farcical ideas and would rarely end with happy conclusions.  Instead, institutions such as marriage were satirized and audiences would be left with ambiguous endings.  Likewise, Lacy’s additions in terms of patriarchy and misogyny not only heighten the theatrical aspects of the play and its farcical nature, they also allow viewers to see that Margaret has not and presumably will not ever be tamed by Petruchio.  This deliberate departure from the happy endings in both previous shrew plays is supported by the textual additions made by Lacy.

            Furthermore, in terms of the greediness and emphasis upon class structure, we can look towards the Restoration as a time of great economic change in that lavishness was the norm and class was conspicuously apparent.  As Lacy fuels his characters’ motivations with ideas of winning and earning money while also changing class status, we can examine Sauny as a realistic reflection of London society and the actions of the play as satirical in nature. 

            The Taming of the Shrew and The Taming of a Shrew have been revised repeatedly, even now in the 21st century.  Therefore, perhaps the most important way for modern readers to understand adaptations is to consider the historical context of each version.  When John Lacy’s Sauny the Scot became a popular theatrical work, its success was not only due to its borrowing of Shakespeare, but was also due to its use of dialogue and actions that corresponded with the concerns of Restoration society. 



Works Cited

A Pleasant Conceited Historie, called The Taming of A Shrew: As it was sundry acted by the Right honorable Earle of Pembrook his servants. 1594

Boose, Linda.  “Scolding Brides and Bridling Scolds: Taming the Woman’s Unruly Member.”  Shakespeare Quarterly 42 (1991): 179-213. JSTOR.  Southern Illinois University Carbondale: Morris Library. 9 November 2006.  <>.

Brunvand, Jan Harold.  The Taming of the Shrew: A Comparative Study of Oral and Literary Traditions.  New York: Garland Publishing, 1991.

Cooper, Chas W.  “The Triple-Portrait of John Lacy: A Restoration Theatrical Portrait: History and Dispute.”  PMLA 47 (1932): 759-765.  JSTOR.  Southern Illinois University Carbondale: Morris Library.  14 November 2006.  < http://links>.

Crocker, Holly A.  “Affective Resistance: Performing Passivity and Playing a Part in The Taming of the Shrew.” Shakespeare Quarterly 54 (2003): 142-159.  Literature Online.  McKendree College: Holman Library. 14 November 2006. <http://lion.>.

Haring-Smith, Tori.  From Farce to Metadrama: A Stage History of The Taming of the Shrew, 1594-1983.  Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985.

Hume, Robert D.  The Development of English Drama in the Late Seventeenth Century.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976.

Lacy, John.  Sauny the Scot: Or, The Taming of the Shrew: A Comedy. 1698.

Lublin, Robert I.  “Feminist History, Theory, and Practice in the Shakespeare Classroom.”  Theatre Topics 14 (2004): 397-410. Project Muse. McKendree College: Holman Library. 14 November 2006 < top ics /v014/14.2lublin.html>.

 Marsden, Jean I.  The Re-Imagined Text: Shakespeare, Adaptation, & Eighteenth-Century Literary Theory.  Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1995.

Marsden, Jean I. "Rewritten Women : Shakespearean Heroines in the Restoration.” The Appropriations of Shakespeare.  Ed. Jean Marsden. New York, St. Martin’s Press,1992.

Murray, Barbara A. Restoration Shakespeare: Viewing the Voice. London: Associated University Press, 2001.

Powell, Jocelyn. Restoration Theatre Production. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984.

Schafer, Elizabeth, ed.  Shakespeare in Production: The Taming of the Shrew.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Scouten, Arthur H. and Robert D. Hume.  “’Restoration Comedy’ and Its Audiences, 1660-1776.” The Yearbook of English Studies 10 (1980): 45-69.  JSTOR.  Southern Illinois University Carbondale: Morris Library. 14 November 2006.  < http://link>.

Thompson, Ann, ed.  The Taming of the Shrew.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.


[1] All references from The Taming of the Shrew are found in The New Cambridge Shakespeare edition (2003), edited by Ann Thompson