English professor reveals gender roles, sexism in Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’

the Shrew’ Dr. Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, Assistant English Professor, will be giving a presentation

on gender roles in Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” on Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. in Riley Hall, room 201.

This presentation will be based on the research Pollack-Pelzner conducted during the summer of 2013 for the Portland Shakespeare

Project, a non-profit theater company that produces classical and contemporary works.

Linfield senior, Kyra Rickards, and 2013 Linfield graduate, Kate McMullan, also participated in the investigation on the gender roles

in Shakespeare’s controversial play.

“‘The Taming of the Shrew’ is about a man [named Petruchio] who appears to tame his wife [Katherine],” Pollack-Pelzner said.

The three researchers also studied John Fletcher’s sequel to the play called “The Tamer Tamed.”

This play was written 15 to 20 years after “Taming of the Shrew” and reverses the role of the tamer, where Petruchio’s new wife

tames him instead.

Pollack-Pelzner said that to begin and guide the investigation, they started with the question of “whether audience discomfort

with ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ was a relatively recent response, or whether there was evidence that Shakespeare’s own audience

might have questioned the spectacle of wife-taming, or even whether the play itself prompts audiences to challenge its surface story.”

Pollack-Pelzner and his students compared original textual works, read various criticisms, interviewed actors and directors and

viewed films of the play.

The team found evidence that Shakespeare’s audience might have shared current audiences’ resistance to the dominating male

tamer in the production.

“We presented our research, ‘Shrew by Any Other Name: Balancing Female Power and Performance’ in Shakespeare’s ‘The

Taming of the Shrew’ and Fletcher’s ‘The Tamer Tamed’ to the Linfield Center for the Northwest.

The next day, we finished the project with the Alumni Shakespeare Trip to Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival,” Rickards said.

Rickards and McMullan were able to join the Shakespeare alumni trip on their quest of viewing another version of “The Taming of

They also taught a class on the play to the Linfield alumni.

Linfield Center for the Northwest, which is located in T.J. Day Hall, offers students opportunities to conduct research around the

Northwest region.

In the process of the research, Pollack-Pelzner came across a possible original version of Shakespeare’s play with a very similar

title: “The Taming of a Shrew.”

This version is a play within a play where the piece begins with an English lord who plays a prank on a drunk drifter and puts on the

play for him about Petruchio taming Katherine.

During summer 2013, The Portland Shakespeare Project also performed “The Taming of the Shrew”, which drew from the original

version above, and John Fletcher’s “The Tamer Tamed”.

When asked how the audience reacted to both the plays, Pollack-Pelzner said that the audience seemed able to laugh a bit more

because of the switch in gender dominant roles in each production.

“People were willing to see the play critically, not just accept it at face value”, said Pollack-Pelzner.

Pollack-Pelzner is currently developing his research from his project into a conference paper for the Shakespeare Association of

America Conference in St. Louis, Miss., in April 2014.

Pollack-Pelzner also wrote a series of articles for Oregon Art Watch magazine on his findings from his summer research.

Along with teaching at Linfield, Pollack-Pelzner is the Scholar-in-residence at Portland Shakespeare Project and a visiting scholar at

the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

He graduated with a bachelor’s from Yale University, and a master’s and a doctorate from Harvard University.

Pollack-Pelzner is also in the process of completing a book on Shakespeare and the Victorian novel.

Mariah Gonzales / Culture editor

Mariah Gonzales can be reached at linfieldreviewculture@gmail.com