English KS2: Shakespeare Retold - The Taming of the Kat Dog
The Taming of the Kat Dog - a Gareth P Jones story inspired by The Taming of the Shrew. Read by Verity-May Henry.
The Taming of the Shrew is Shakespeare’s controversial ‘battle of the sexes’ comedy. The notion of ‘taming’ a woman being unsuitable for today’s audience, Gareth P. Jones in his story The Taming of the Kat Dog, replaces the characters Katherine and Bianca in Shakespeare’s play with two pedigree dogs from the same litter. Kat is the poorly behaved, feisty pup. Bianca is the delightful pup who breeder Mrs Minola refuses to sell until a willing owner is found for the troublesome Kat. The role of Petruchio is taken by Peter, a young boy who agrees to take ownership of Kat, but plays a number of tricks on her (some very similar to the tricks played by Petruchio on Katherine) until Kat eventually grows into a well-trained puppy, who seems even more responsive to her new owner than Bianca.
Ideas for use in the classroom
In the original play, the war between Kate and Petruchio results in some of Shakespeare’s most waspish banter. Children could imagine that they are Kate or Petruchio at the start of their relationship and insult each other. Pick and mix Shakespearean insults are huge fun. A printable template can be found at the website PlayingWithPlays: http://playingwithplays.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/shakespeare-insult-generator.pdf Have children create insults and incorporate these in drama activities based on the story.
This version of the story modernises the tale and removes some of the archaic elements of the relationship between men and women. After listening to the broadcast, give out the summary of the original story below and see if children can spot similarities and differences between the two texts. This could lead to some interesting discussions. Why might this play be considered a ‘problem play’ today? Why did the author change the play to make it about an owner and dog rather than husband and wife? Why is this play ‘of its time?’ Is the play ‘sexist’? What was the role of man and woman in the time of Shakespeare? How has this changed?
Children could follow up the discussion by researching the traditional roles of men and women in Shakespeare’s time compared with modern times. They could go on to look at the emancipation of women throughout history including the suffragette movement.
Children could create a ‘for sale’ poster advertising Kat the dog for sale at the start of the story. Look at examples of advertisements and persuasive writing to see what tricks are used by advertisers to influence prospective purchasers. Look at estate agents’ particulars and learn to ‘read between the lines’. Can children create posters for the sale of Kat which, on the face of it, suggest that she is a good buy, but with clear implications of her stubborn and naughty behaviour?
Children could discuss an alternative ending for either the retelling or the original Shakespeare story. Perhaps Kat Dog is impossible to train but Peter grows to love her anyway. Perhaps Katherine resists Petruchio’s attempts to tame her and gets her revenge on him by playing similar tricks on him. With appropriate scaffolding, children could write their alternative endings to either story based on these discussions.