Dating The Shrew

Letter to the Editor

Times Literary SupplementAug. 1984; © the estate of eric sams



Sir, -  I was interested to see (Letters, July 20) how the general editor of the Oxford Shakespeare has redated Othello by some six months, between the limits of October 1603 and November 1604. By the same method of termini endorsed by modern scholarship (here, the Cambridge Beaumont and Fletcher, vols iv and v) we can redate The Taming of the Shrew by over twelve years, to the same period.

    That play has a terminus ad quem in 1609, the date of its first known mention. It also provoked a reply called The Woman’s Prize or The Tamer Tamed by John Fletcher (b 1579) and “composed early in his career” (op cit, iv, 1979, p. 3), though not earlier than 1605 (“siege of Ostend”, I.iii). The Shrew’s terminus a quo is its description (ind.I.80f) of a play in which Soro, a farmer’s eldest son, woos a gentlewoman. This, if it was not Fletcher’s Women Pleas’d “as we have it, was clearly another version of it” (v, 1982, p. 444). But no version could well be earlier than c 1603, on current Fletcher chronology. So these termini, and their links between Shakespeare and his future collaborator, and common-sense inference about topicality, all propose c 1604 for The Shrew; and so does the Cambridge editor of Women Pleas’d (loc cit).

     This completely contradicts most modern editions of The Shrew, including both Oxford and Cambridge. They opt for 1593 or even earlier. For that period, however, they offer no such dating evidence, and indeed no hard evidence at all.


Eric Sams                                                                            

32 Arundel Avenue,

Sanderstead, Surrey