March 28, 2009

The Taming of the Shrew

In Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of the Shrew, there are two beautiful sisters who are upper-class young maidens-in-waiting. The oldest sister, Katherine is known by everyone as foul tempered, sharp tongued and disobedient. Her sister, Bianca is seen as a sweet, soft-spoken, well-behaved and obedient daughter to her doting father, Signor Baptista Minola. But we soon find out that appearances are not always what they seem.

It becomes apparent that there is an intense sibling rivalry between the two sisters and that Bianca is given preferential treatment by everyone because Katherine is known as “the shrew.” No potential suitor who knows Katherine wants to have anything to do with her and they all flock to seek Bianca’s hand in marriage, but Baptisa lays down the law and won’t let any man woo Bianca until Katherine is married off first. The play never reveals the reasons for Katherine’s wrath, but clearly she was unhappy and miserable. It seems it was easy for Bianca to become her father’s favorite when her sister was struggling.

I remember as a child that often when my siblings were in trouble, I felt happiness and satisfaction that I wasn’t the one getting scolded. I enjoyed being on top when they were down. I thought I found success because of their failures. On a daily basis, I notice how several of my children take turns behaving like shrews and angels. When one or more children are misbehaving, the others act sugary sweet, and then when the angelic siblings are found struggling and behaving like shrews, the one(s) who previously had behavioral issues instantly sweeten up. It is like a pendulum that swings back and forth and rarely can a time be found when every child in the family is feeling good about him/her-self and others, all at the same time. Why does it have to be like this? Isn’t it possible to have a win-win situation and not have to compete for your parent’s approval through your sibling’s downfalls? It appears that this is a common human tendency that a child feels “up” only when his sibling is “down” and some adults never grow up and get past this kind of behavior with others. From the book by C. Terry Warner, Bonds that Make You Free, he states that “to the immature, others are not real.” Maybe this is one key that can help us understand why the immature have difficulty in feeling compassion for another’s struggle.

At the same time, it can be a temptation for parents to consistently build up the child that is eager to please and to maintain a general negative attitude with the child that is frequently difficult to deal with as was the case with Signor Baptista Minola and his two daughters. No one expected Katherine to ever be anything but a shrew all her life, and who would have expected anything but virtue and sweetness from Bianca?

Bianca had the opportunity to tell her new tutor, Cambio, that she did not want to have anything to do with his dishonesty when he revealed himself to really be Lucentio, a rich nobleman from Pisa . Instead, she goes along with his charades and secretly gets married to him without her father’s knowledge that he is the “real” Lucentio.

Meanwhile, Katherine allows herself to become tamed by her new husband, Petruchio, and is the only one that is obedient and loving to her husband when he calls for her in the presence of a celebration gathering. Katherine has become a refined, dignified woman who encourages her sister and her former suitor’s new wife to humble their pride and stop being so foolish as 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.”

Petruchio saw beyond the label that others had assigned to Katherine. He didn’t pay attention to everyone who ridiculed him for marrying Katherine and helping her to become the lovely young woman that was hidden inside of her. It would have been interesting to see had Shakespeare continued the play, if Bianca would have ended up becoming more like a shrew in her marriage to Lucentio now that her sister had become more “pure” as the name Katherine implies.

And as parents of children who struggle with not feeling good about themselves unless their siblings are down, or who struggle with children who have an abundance of less desirable character traits, we need to remember that our children will live up to whatever we believe they can become. Beneath the undesirable behavior is a beautiful person that can rejoice in being someone special and who can value their siblings’successes and feel true empathy for their struggles.

March 27, 2009

March's Title Swap

Magic Tree House Series - Mary Pope Osborne
The Read Aloud Handbook - Jim Trelease
Our Home - C. E. Sargent, A.B.
Cardboard Can Rotater - click here for site
Honey for a Child's Heart
The Introvert Advantage: How to thrive in an Extroverted World
Love and Respect
What You Say When You Talk to Yourself

The Secret to Taming a Shrew: Virtue

In the last line of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” the character Lucentio is awed by the change he has witnessed in his sister-in-law, Katherine, when he declares, “Tis a wonder, by your leave, she will be tamed so.” How does one “Tame a Shrew?” Petruchio not only understood how, but he succeeded in genuinely winning Katherine’s love, affection, and devotion because of his unwavering virtue.

Upon arriving in Pudua, Petruchio seeks to increase his fortune by marrying rich. All he wants is a bride with an enormous dowry, and Katherine fits the bill. When he approaches her father to settle the terms of marrying Katherine, he is so honest and direct that he is chastised. “You are too blunt. Go about it orderly,” they chide. But Petruchio retorts, “You wrong me…give me leave.” On their wedding day, Petruchio arrives in what others deem to be very inappropriate clothing. When asked to change his attire, he declares, “To me she is married, not unto my clothes.”

Petruchio held a moral compass that few in his day possessed. Whenever anyone called Kate anything unkind, such as referring to her as a “shrew”, he protested and declared her to be virtuous and witty. Although he deprived Kate of shelter, food, sleep, and fine clothing, Petruchio did it all in the name of love. Because of the personal virtue he lived by, it enabled him to “kill a wife with kindness, and thus (I’ll) curb her mad and head strong humor.” It caused Kate to appreciate all an honest husband provides for a wife. She later publicly proclaims that, “Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper…and such duty as the subject owes the prince, even such a woman oweth to her husband.”

In contrast, Lucentio possessing no sense of morals, desired to win Katherine’s younger and more docile sister Bianca’s hand in marriage. Arriving in Pudua to study, he ironically declares to his servant, Tranio, “for the time I study virtue, and that part of philosophy will I apply that treats of happiness by virtue specially to be achieved.” Yet any scruples Lucentio possessed fled quickly when he beheld the beauty of Bianca. “I burn, I pine, I perish, Tranio, if I achieve not this young modest girl.” Upon hearing that Bianca’s hand cannot be had, unless the elder sister was tamed and married first, Lucentio and Tranio devise up a plan to deceive Bianca’s father in order to let Lucentio get close and woo Bianca. Their deceptive antics get so out of hand, that Tranio even attempts to send Lucentio’s father to jail in order to save face.

Does this lack of virtue bring the happiness to Lucentio that he specially wanted to achieve in the opening of the play? No. Although he does succeeded in wooing Bianca by winning her affection and love and eloping with her, Bianca does not respect or honor him. After Bianca denounces her sister Katherine’s duty to her husband, Lucentio miserably declares, “I would your duty were as foolish too. The wisdom of your duty, fair Bianca, hath cost me an hundred crowns since suppertime.” Bianca quips right back, “the more fool you for laying on my duty.” No wonder Lucentio is in awe of Katherine’s devotion to her husband. He contains no virtue that would demand the respect of anyone, least of all his wife’s.

March 10, 2009

TJEd Social Leadership

This weekend I was blessed to attend the Annual TJEd Form in SLC. One of the most thought provoking seminars was given by Shannon Brooks. He stated:

A Renaissance of Social Leadership means a rediscover of the joy of learning for learning sake, the development of personal mission and a focus on unleashing your personal genius.

He also stated that TJEd is not a curriculum or a method. It's the principals that allow you to suck the marrow out of the life! He challenged us to find the WILL to do so...