One's interest in the Sothern-Marlowe production of "The Taming of the Shrew" naturally gravitates towards Miss Marlowe, who, after threatened retirement from the stage, is this fall gratifying New York and Boston with another appearance in Shakespearean repertoire. The qualities which have gained her so many admirers, Miss Marlowe today exhibits as gloriously as in past years. One might charge that Katharina does not kick and stamp, box ears, and throw household furnishings with the vim that one expects of a celebrated virago. Miss Marlowe has, undoubtedly, given us a subdued characterization; when one has felt her subtle power to illuminate feminine irrationality, one does not regret the omission of the conventional rough and tumble.
Mr. Sothern's indomitable Petruchio is a match for twenty "lusty wenches" of Katharina's temper. From the time he swaggers into Padua with his father's fortune "happily to wine and thrive" to his winning of the wager at Lucentio's banquet, the audience feels the enthusiastic optimism and tough-skinned common sense of this wife tamer. He seems to enjoy so thoroughly his own sermons and bombasts that we can not but enjoy them with him.
Shakespeare might be startled at the freedom employed in cutting. Some characters dear to the hearts of many are left out entirely, while scenes are re-arranged with audacity to meet the needs of the present production. But none of the action which has made this the longest lived English comedy has been sacrificed, with the result that the laughter rung form a modern audience may be, comparable, if not equal, to the mirth expressed by the pit in the days of Queen Elizabeth.
It would be impossible to accuse the creator of Portia, Lady Macbeth, and Rosalind of being hostile to "women's rights." Yet "The Taming of the Shrew" is a healthy antidote for the overdose of feminism we are getting today. It is somewhat startling to hear a magnificent woman of Miss Marlowe's mould declaim: "The husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper." It might be profitable for young men to acquaint themselves with the strategy of shrew taming as employed by the Elizabethans, and depicted by Mr. Sothern.