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Shakespeare's Women: Kate

Learn about one of Shakespeare's most controversial female figures through this video discussing a sculpture of Ada Rehan portraying the role.

This is part of our Shakespeare's Women series in partnership with the education team. On flickr, we have created a collection around these wonderful ladies.

Today’s blog is by Jo Wilding, User Services Librarian. Jo has worked for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust since 2004. She regularly delivers archive sessions for visiting groups, as well as creating displays using material from our wonderful collections of library and archive material. I’ll let her introduce one of her favourite subjects.

Kate, Shakespeare’s Shrew and the heroine of his arguably misogynistic play, is a controversial character because of her apparent self-subjugation to her husband Petruchio at the end of the play. However, most of the contemporary Elizabethan ballads on the subject of disciplining a wife (which possibly influenced Shakespeare) were far more brutal than his play. Kate has proved a popular role for some great actresses such as Edith Evans (seen elsewhere on this blog in a painting of her in the role of Volumnia) and Vanessa Redgrave. Laurence Olivier made his acting debut playing Kate in a school production in 1922!

The video shows a bust of Kate as played by Ada Rehan in a hugely successful American production by Augustin Daly’s company in the 1880s. Ada was a very successful Irish-American actress and her portrayal is considered to be one of the greatest Kates.

The photo also shows Ada in the role, in a wonderfully flamboyant pose.

Shakespeare's Women Kate

- Sylvia Morris