Modern Shrew!

In 1594, when he wrote the tamed shrew, William Shakespeare could not have imagined that his text would find an echo of great relevance nearly 400 years later. Frédérique Lazarini’s daring staging, which transposes the shrew in the Italian cinema of the 1950s, thus emphasizing the timeless character of this comedy, beyond the evolution of mores, is played at the Artistic Theater in Paris with Sarah Biasini, Delphine Depardieu, Cedric Colasfrom December 15, date when the theaters reopen: thank you for being there for this new start to support live performance who needs it the most*!

Petruchio (Cedric Colas) and Catarina (Sarah Biasini)

Shakespeare’s incisive language is at work in this lively exchange between Petruchio and Catarina at the start of the play when their confrontation is very direct. Petruchio attempts to seduce and tame a “rebellious” Catarina:

PETRUCHIO : Hello Cateau, because that’s your name did I hear?

CATHERINE : Wouldn’t you be prematurely senile? In any case, your ears are a bit hard because those who talk about me call me Catarina.

PETRUCHIO : You lie, my word! Because you are simply called Cateau, or the pretty Cateau, or sometimes Cateau-la-harpie: but Cateau, the most ravishing Cateau of Christianity, Cateau du Château-Gâteau, Cateau my super-sweet, because all cake is delicacy , therefore, Cateau, listen a little, Cateau my consolation, to what I have to say to you: having heard, in all the towns that I passed through, praising your sweetness, celebrating your virtues and proclaiming your beauty, much less however than they don’t deserve it, I went looking for you to take you as my wife.

CATHERINE : (spitting in his face) Gate ! Do you see that! Well since you’ve made it this far, win! Right away… I saw right away that you were nothing more than a piece of furniture!

This violent confrontation which runs throughout the play resonates in a very relevant way in our time of sexist denunciation of a has-been male domination but finds its natural place in the cinematographic context of Italy (still very macho) of the years 1950–60 where the inventiveness of Frédéric Lazarini’s staging places this timeless comedy. Acted scenes and filmed scenes alternate, making the actors their own spectators, adding to the comical Shakespearean plot.

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Bianca (on screen – Charlotte Durand Raucher) and Lucentio (Pierre Einaudi)

The big question running through the play is that of male-female relationships in marriage with, whatever the era, female attempts to revolt against male power that was still indisputable at the time. Shakespeare cleverly weaves together the tense and comical situations that emanate from this age-old confrontation to resolve a conflict that everyone knows then – and still now – is insoluble, that of marital conflicts centered on the rivalry for power. In Greek mythology, Mégère (etymologically: hatred) is one of the three Erinyes, these goddesses in charge of punishing the perpetrators of crimes throughout their lives until they drive them mad. This is exactly what couples in long-term conflict often claim: “He/she is driving me crazy!” We understand there that it is a punishment!

Also in mythology, shrews are hideous creatures, having serpent hair, equipped with wings and whips and whose blood flows through their eyes. In other words: “a fury! This age-old image of the angry wife—obviously often in reaction to male domination—has passed down through the centuries to the point where the word “shrew” has become a common noun for a violent, aggressive woman.

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Catarina (Delphine Depardieu)

The men jostle to marry Bianca, sweet and youngest daughter of Baptista who cannot – tradition obliges – marry the youngest before the eldest and especially so that the indomitable Catarina does not remain “on her arms”! Baptista speaks directly to all the suitors, Grémio, Hortenso, Lucentio, Tranio…: “Don’t bother me anymore, gentlemen. As you know, my resolution is firm: I will not grant my youngest daughter Bianca until I have found a husband for the eldest Catarina. If one of you loves Catarina, as I know you well and hold you in friendship, he has my permission to court him. Which leaves Lucentio and Tranio, his valet, perplexed…

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Baptista (Maxime Lombard), Lucentio (Pierre Einaudi) and Tranio (Guillaume Veyre)

Faced with this “fury” that no one knows how to tame, Baptista feels relieved when Petruchio says he wants to marry his eldest daughter: “Lord Petruchio, I send you my daughter! Cheer up! “

PETRUCHIO : Here we are… I court her cheerfully. If she begins to vociferate, well then I tell her that her song is as sweet as that of the nightingale, if she dares to frown, I maintain that her face is as limpid and pure as the morning rose! If she summons me to pack my bags, I thank her as if she were inviting me to stay with her for the week, if she refuses to marry me, I ask her tenderly when I should have the banns published!

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Petruchio (Cédric Colas)

Shakespeare’s play ends with the “taming” of the shrew, according to the mores of an era that was still very misogynistic and distrustful of the power of women:

BAPTIST : Come on, dear Petruchio, congratulations! You have won the pledge and it is still a new dowry that I want to offer you because my daughter Catarina has changed so much that we cannot recognize her.

TRANIO : Oh that ! The panther turned into a gentle dove. (Baptista sings the song again)

PETRUCHIO : My friends, my friends! You have never ceased to marvel, and I will give you further proof of his obedience and merit. Catarina will take care of explaining to you, gentlemen and to your rebellious wives, all the respect they owe to their husbandsCatherine, come sit next to me Catarina, my darling.

Frédérique Lazarini’s fine staging doubles this end with a topical “feminist” reversal that I let you discover by going to attend this timeless comedy which constitutes one of the great moments of universal theatre.

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* The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, directed by Frédéric Lazarini, at the Artistic Théâtre, 45 bis, rue Richard Lenoir
75011 Paris, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 6.30 p.m. (Reservation at 01 43 56 38 32 or at http://artistictheatre.com)

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Modern Shrew!


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