The Taming of the Shrew appeared in quarto in 1954, 1596 and 1607 but it was not printed until the publication of the Folio in 1623. It is generally thought to have been written around 1592.
A very similar play, The Taming of a Shrew appeared around the same time as The Taming of the Shrew and was entered in the Stationer’s Register in 1594. Some scholars think The Taming of a Shrew is an early, bad quarto version of the Shrew.
In 1633 there is a record of a performance of The Taming of the Shrew at the court of Charles I.
Sauny the Scot: Or, The Taming of the Shrew, A Comedy was produced during the Restoration by John Lacey. In his version, Lacey made Petruchio’s servant, Grumio, the main character, renaming him Sauny. This apparently is a derivation of Saunders, the servant’s name in The Taming of a Shrew. Lacey’s version was still being produced as late as 1732.
Charles Johnson produced a farcical version, The Cobbler of Preston, in which a character from The Shrew’s Induction, Christopher Sly, becomes the hero. It was first staged at Drury Lane in 1716.
A rival company to Drury Lane, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, staged their own version of The Cobbler of Preston by Christopher Bullock at the same time. This play was frequently performed until 1759.
James Wordale adapted Sauny The Scot to produce a two-act farce called A Cure For A Scold in 1735.
Versions of The Taming of the Shrew were unseated in 1754 when the actor-manager David Garrick produced an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, calling it Catherine and Petruchio. This version had no Induction and a simplified subplot. Just three acts long, it focused on the Kate-Petruchio story. It was hugely popular and continued to be revived for over a century.
Shakespeare’s text was restored by Benjamin Webster at the Haymarket Theatre in 1844.
Augustin Daly staged a version of The Shrew with all the original elements of Shakespeare’s play (the Induction, the Bianca/Lucentio subplot, the Katherine/Petruchio story). He rearranged scenes and omitted lines though and borrowed elements from Garrick’s Catherine and Petruchio. Ada Rehan played Katherine to tremendous acclaim. Some critics have said her portrayal of the ‘shrew’ was the definitive interpretation.
In 1930 the husband-wife acting team, Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne toured The Taming of the Shrew throughout America. They played it as a rollicking knockabout farce and included tumbling dwarves, a clown band and acrobatics to entertain audiences. The real-life backstage antics of Lunt and Fontanne, as witnessed by Saint Subber, a stage hand who later turned producer, are said to have been immortalised in Subber’s take on The Shrew - Kiss Me Kate.
George Devine revived The Taming of the Shrew at Stratford with the Induction and an epilogue from A Shrew.
John Barton also included the epilogue from A Shrew in his production for the RSC in 1960 which starred Peggy Ashcroft as Katherine and Peter O’Toole as Petruchio.
In 1967 Zeffirelli filmed The Taming of the Shrew in a seemingly authentic Italian Renaissance setting, using Richard Burton and his then-wife Elizabeth Taylor as Petruchio and Katherine.
A recent RSC Box Office survey found that The Taming of the Shrew, perhaps Shakespeare’s most controversial plays, was the second most popular with audiences.
Since 1978, the famous fighting couple have been played at the RSC by;
- RSC director Michael Bogdanov with Paola Dionisotti (Katherine) and Jonathan Pryce (Petruchio)
- BBC director Jonathan Miller with Sarah Badel (Katherine) and John Cleese (Petruchio)
- RSC director Barry Kyle with Sinead Cusack (Katherine) and Alun Armstrong (Petruchio)
- Theatr Clywd director Toby Robertson with Vanessa Redgrave (Katherine) and Timothy Dalton (Petruchio)
- RSC director Jonathan Miller with Fiona Shaw (Katherine) and Brian Cox (Petruchio)
- RSC director Gayle Edwards with Josie Lawrence (Katherine) and Michael Siberry (Petruchio)
- RSC director Gregory Doran with Alexandra Gilbreath (Katherine) and Jasper Britton (Petruchio)
There is no recorded performance of The Tamer Tamed since 1633.