May 19, 2020

Natural and Supernatural Happiness in "The Taming of the Shrew"

Event Series: Christian Shakespeare: Question Mark

Men and women in a black and white dining scene

Although Lucentio quickly forgets about “that part of philosophy / … that treats of happiness / by virtue specially to be achieved,” Shakespeare does not. In The Taming of the Shrew the conversation about whether to study Aristotle or Ovid introduces a running juxtaposition of the two authors and a subtle treatment of happiness and its causes. Petruchio triumphs because he unites philosophy and poetry, virtue and pleasure, logic and metamorphosis. His art of love effects Katherine’s transformation, freeing her from being “curst.” 

Andrew Moran, associate professor of English at the University of Dallas, in conversation with Professor Michael Scott, explained why liberation from a curse signifies supernatural as well as natural happiness in The Taming of the Shrew. The difference between Baptista’s daughters points to conflicting doctrinal claims about how baptism prepares Christians for beatitude. Bianca only appears “white,” as in forensic justification; Katherine is “purified” (katharos). At the closing wedding feast, a suggestive image, the soul which is transformed and made virtuous, exults.


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This event was sponsored by the Future of the Humanities Project, the Las Casas Institute (Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford), and the Georgetown Humanities Initiative. It was part of a year-long series entitled: "Christian Shakespeare: Question Mark."

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Andrew Moran is an associate professor of English at the University of Dallas. He is the director of the summer programs Classical Education in Rome and Shakespeare in Italy at the UD Rome Campus and the author of essays on Shakespeare, Jonson, Milton, and Waugh. He is currently writing a book on Shakespeare’s comedies, Shakespeare and the Game of Life: Figures of Speech, Modes of Comedy, and the Playful Pursuit of Happiness.  

Professor Michael Scott is Senior Dean, Fellow of Blackfriars Hall, college adviser for postgraduate students, and a Member of the Las Casas Institute. He also serves as senior adviser to the president at Georgetown University.