Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Taming of a Heart

Shawna, the kids and I, along with Mother and Dad and a few other friends, went, this weekend, to see The Taming of the Shrew, by William Shakespeare. A group of budding thespians has, for the past few years, put together a Shakespeare Festival, showing various plays at an amphitheater in a local park.

They did a fine job-in fact, we plan on seeing it once more before the festival ends. For those of you who've never read the story, nor seen the play, you'll not understand the context of the passage quoted below, but it's not really necessary to be quite honest. The thing to note is that this entire passage is a speech by Katherine, a key character in the story, to an entire group of friends and acquaintances. She uses the venue to chastise her sister, and another friend, for their irreverent treatment of their husbands (or, to be more fair-and perhaps, politically correct-disregard of their husbands).

But, I'm not trying to make a point here about the appropriate behavior of a wife. The passage struck me-hard, in fact. Because, in my mind, it speaks directly to the spiritual condition of so many Americans. Religion is popular again, but I'm afraid that so many of us have religion, or more specifically, relationship with God (because, really, that's the purpose of religion) completely wrong. But I'll let Katherine tell it.

Fie, fie! unknit that threatening unkind brow,
And dart not scornful glances from those eyes
To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor:
It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads,
Confounds thy fame as whirlwinds shake fair buds,
And in no sense is meet or amiable.
A woman mov'd is like a fountain troubled,
Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty;
And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty
Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks, and true obedience;
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?--
I am asham'd that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace,
Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.
Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,
Unapt to toll and trouble in the world,
But that our soft conditions and our hearts
Should well agree with our external parts?
Come, come, you froward and unable worms!
My mind hath been as big as one of yours,
My heart as great, my reason haply more,
To bandy word for word and frown for frown;
But now I see our lances are but straws,
Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.
Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot,
And place your hands below your husband's foot:
In token of which duty, if he please,
My hand is ready; may it do him ease.

And, so, I ask you: does this passage, in your mind, tell the story of religion in modern America? Explain, if you will.

1 comment:

SheGazelle said...

Ooo ooo ooo! Email me when you guys plan to go again (if you don't mind two more tagging along.) We went earlier in the season to see the tragic story, Othello, and the troupe did a spectacular job.

(By the way, I do realize this comment is not true to the purpose of your post...sorry!)