Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Shrewing around on Wordplay Wednesday™ May 20, 2015

Shrewing around on Wordplay Wednesday™ May 20, 2015

Flushed with anger, eyes blazing like a crazed banshee, I lashed out with all the venom my virulent mind could concoct.

Yes. I admit. I have been called a shrew …but I know a more sedate and softer word for my inner Katherina …

VIRAGOn. 1) quarrelsome, shrewish woman; 2) (archaic) strong, manlike woman; amazon

Vi-rah-go … doesn’t that sound better than the short and obdurate shrew? However, I discovered while researching that Webster’s Dictionary (College/print, 5th Edition) and Wikipedia have decidedly disparate first definitions of the word. See what I mean ...
Quoted above, is the dictionary version (which should be definitive, but …); Wikipedia states: “a woman who demonstrates exemplary and heroic qualities” and ignores the first line designation.

Well, I’m going with ol’ Noah; and if you haven’t read a Shakespeare play in a while – or (gasp!) ever – get thee to the nearest pub … oops, I mean online or branch library / bookstore … and grab a copy of The Taming of the Shrew. It is one of his thirty-eight (or so) plays. You’ll revel in all the new words for which you will have no clue to their meaning: thou shouldst have heard in how miry a place, how she was bemoiled (Grumio).

Isn’t this fun? Pray thee, peruse the lines of Petruchio to his tailor (Taming of the Shrew* Act IV):
Or I shall so be-mete thee with thy yard
As thou shalt think on prating whilst thou livest!

And mind you THIS was considered vitriol in the 16th century (also Act IV):
Why, sir, I trust I may have leave to speak;
And speak I will; I am no child, no babe:
Your betters have endured me say my mind,
And if you cannot, best you stop your ears.
My tongue will tell the anger of my heart,
Or else my heart concealing it will break,
And rather than it shall, I will be free
Even to the uttermost, as I please, in words.

The infamous Katherina speaking, of course. It’s fun to roll the weird words off your tongue and wallow in classic comedy.

The Taming of the Shrew is particularly memorable as I not only performed it in school, but our college drama class traveled from East Bay / NorCal to San Francisco in 1967 to view the campy, “updated” film version. Who else to play the lead at that time than the quintessential venomous vixen, Elizabeth Taylor – opposite her favorite leading man / husband to argue with – Richard Burton.

So there you have it, dear wordsmiths … Elizabeth Taylor was no shrew. She merely embodied a voluptuous VIRAGO, in the softest sense of the word.

*The main plot depicts the courtship of Petruchio and Katherina, the headstrong, obdurate shrew. Initially, Katherina is an unwilling participant in the relationship, but Petruchio tempers her with various psychological torments—the "taming"—until she becomes a compliant and obedient bride. [LR: Fat chance!]

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