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The Taming of the Shrew's sequel was John Fletcher's The Woman's Prize or The Tamer Tamed. Internal evidence for the latter play suggests an earliest composition date of around March 1603-September 1604. The male lead for both plays is named Petruchio. The female lead in Shrew is the harpy Katherine. The female lead in the sequel is Maria. In Shrew, Katherine is tamed by Petruchio into a subdued wife. By contrast, in its sequel, Petruchio is tamed by Maria into a compliant husband. Following the plot of the original, Maria turns the tables on her husband through a trio of episodes wherein he attempts to gain the upper hand and fails. Each of these episodes reflects the Earl of Oxford's ill-starred biography. In The Woman's Prize, Petruchio, his deceased first wife (unnamed), and Maria are models for de Vere, his first wife Anne Cecil, and his second wife Elizabeth Trentham. Fletcher might have hesitated to bait the living Earl, but after June 24, 1604, the Earl of Oxford was dead.
Livia. Tis as easy with a sieve to scoop the ocean, as To tame Petruchio.
The Woman's Prize Act I Scene 2
THE WOMAN'S PRIZE by John Fletcher, also known as The Tamer Tamed, (1) constitutes the only known non-Shakespeare pre-Restoration dramatic sequel to any Shakespearean play. (2) It has been studied and debated by critics primarily through its many connections to Shakespeare's great comedy The Taming of the But one question that has never been answered, or even asked, is why the nature of Petruchio was so altered, and whether or not it was altered to satirize a particular individual at the time that it was written. I propose that this version of Petruchio was intended to satirize the theater patron, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, whose death in 1604 left him vulnerable to the kind of satire that no one would have dared to produce earlier.
Dating The Woman's Prize
Because the play was not published until it appeared in 1647 in the first Beaumont and Fletcher folio, long after Fletcher's death in 1625, the date of composition remains a matter for argument. However, that there is no argument that it was Fletcher alone who wrote it (3) may suggest that it was written before he began his collaboration with Beaumont c.1606. Though others date it later, in From Farce to Melodrama, Tori Haring-Smith dates it to c. 1605 (271 ). In English Comedy, Ashley Thomdike speculatively dates it to 1604-05 (71).
As discussed by Thorndike, a date somewhere in this range may be perceived in lines from Act II Scene 2: "[The] infliction/That kill'd the Prince of Orange, will be sport/To what we purpose" (957-8). Although the Prince of Orange had been murdered back in 1584, an extremely vivid account of the punishment inflicted upon his murderer was published in 1602, which suggests a date for Woman's Prize closer to 1603-4 (Thorndike 71).
A reference to the Siege of Ostend in Scene 3 reflects the same time period. Here the female characters, barricaded in a bedroom and, armed with domestic cannon (loaded chamberpots), prepare for combat: "The chamber's nothing but a mere Ostend/In every window pewter cannons mounted/You'll quickly find with what they are charg'd sir" (483-6). The Siege of Ostend opened on July 5, 1601, and concluded on September 8, 1604. (4)
Thorndike also calls attention to the reference in Scene 3 to Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, the major Irish rebel chieftain during the Nine Years War with the Irish rebel chieftains: "These are the most authentic rebels, next Tyrone, I ever read of' (623-4). Tyrone had surrendered (on good terms) to the Lord Deputy, Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, on March 30, 1603.
Thorndike likewise attends to a portion of this Act II Scene 6 passage of dialogue between Petruchio, Moroso, and Maria, "Captain" of the women's rebellion, in which Petruchio agrees to the women's terms:
Petru. No more wars: puissant ladies, show conditions, And freely I accept 'em.
Mar. Call in Livia. She's in the treaty too.
Enter Livia above.
Mor. How, Livia?
Mar. Hear you that, Sir? There's the conditions for you, pray peruse 'em.
Petru. Yes, there she is; t'had been no right rebellion, Had she held off. What think you, man? (1373-81)
Maria's sister Livia has joined the women's rebellion, though late. In a work styled by George B. Ferguson the "definitive treatment" of the dating of The Woman's Prize--Baldwin Maxwell discerns that Petruchio's lines "merely state that the rebellion is now complete" (qtd. in Ferguson 355). Yet Livia too is accounted for in the battle of the sexes peace conditions. Fletcher underscores this later (Act II Scene 6) when Petruchio warns Petronius, father of the dissidents Maria and Livia: "For Livia's article, you shall observe it. I have tied myself," and Petronius agrees (1452-4).
Tyrone's submission of 1603 resolved the plight of that particular archrebel. But why should the playwright have made such a point of the inclusive nature of the peace agreement? Perhaps because, as part of his terms of agreement in 1604, Lord Mountjoy had amnestied, not only Tyrone, but all rebels across Ireland. After July 4, 1605, a playwright would have been much less likely to have used this event to symbolize amnesty, for it was on that date that King James reversed Lord Mountjoy's generosity.
Probably in response to an appeal from Sir Arthur Chichester, newly appointed to head the English administration in Ireland (Beckett 41), on July 4, 1605, James issued a proclamation denying the reports that he planned "to give liberty of conscience or toleration of religion" to his Irish subjects, claiming that he would never "confirm the hopes of any creature that they should ever have from him any toleration to exercise any other religion than that which is agreeable to God's Word and is established by the laws of the realm;" adding that "all priests whatsoever made and ordained by any authority derived or pretended to be derived by any authority from the See of Rome shall, before the 10th day of December, depart out of the kingdom of Ireland" (Bagwell 19-20). No one in an English audience would have been ignorant of these immensely important events.
Admittedly, there are allusions to post-1604 events, or sources, that might indicate a date for the surviving text of approximately 1611. (5) E.H.C. Oliphant holds to a date of 1604 for the original text, suggesting an extensive rewriting a few years later, around 1610 (152-4). Oliphant identifies various signs of later alteration or abridgement (154-6). There are also some indications of a possible Jacobean revival of Taming of the Shrew (Morris 64). As Oliphant notes, the subtitle, The Tamer Tamed, is obviously a glance at the Shakespearean title (156). Since Fletcher would have been just twenty-five years of age in 1604, The Woman's Prize could possibly be his first play (Wallis 180).
A bold young dramatist
In 2006, Stanley Wells supposed:
Indeed it is fascinating that, only about twenty years after Shakespeare had given expression in The Taming of the Shrew to the orthodox patriarchal view of the place of women in marriage, Fletcher should produce so powerful and so independently plotted a counterblast to it.... [I]t was bold of the young dramatist to take on his senior in this way, especially because The Woman's Prize, or The Tamer Tamed, adopts a very different attitude to the place of women in society from that offered in ... Shrew" (203-5).
In 2003, Gordon McMullen of King's College, London, asserted that Fletcher knowingly "took the risk of writing an irreverent 'sequel' to Shakespeare's Shrew." He adds: "If we ever needed proof (if his plays are somehow not enough) that Shakespeare had a sense of humour, then this is surely it" (xiv).
But are Wells and McMullen correct? Why …