Thank you so much, Beth, for having me here to help celebrate your new release. I can’t wait to read Explosive!
Today I’m blogging about an unusual combination: Shakespeare and BDSM.
I love Shakespeare. Call me a geek, but when I was an English major in university, I took one whole course on nothing but Shakespeare and I loved it. My kids make gagging noises when I tell them that, as I cheerfully help them with their high school essays on Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. But it’s true. Mind you, Shakespeare isn’t something I pick up these days for some light reading. It takes a bit of work. But I love the words he used, all the double entendres and timeless themes.
A while back I was looking through some Shakespeare works hoping for story inspiration, and I came across The Taming of the Shrew. I recall studying this play in university, at the ripe old age of, oh, about nineteen. I was righteously offended that any man would even dream of talking about “taming” a woman, and disgusted at the things Petruccio did to tame Katherine. I remember thinking Petruccio was a total asshole. I didn’t get it at all.
But as I looked at this story again recently, I was struck by the similarities between Petruccio’s method of “taming” Katherine, and the training a Dominant might give a submissive. I started thinking about the play differently and realised that it could have a modern day telling, with a woman who is strong and independent in the business world, but who doesn’t quite fit in outside that world. A woman whose family (in this case I made it a grandparent, since it seemed unlikely to me that parents would have such old-fashioned ideas in this day and age) wants her to take on traditional female roles. A sister who has taken on those traditional female roles (and yet, she’s not completely happy either) and to whom this woman compares herself. And how deep down inside, this woman’s not entirely happy with the life she’s chosen. She’s just not sure why.
This is how my book Taming Tara, coming November 26 from Ellora’s Cave, came about.
At the beginning of The Taming of the Shrew Katherine comes across as somewhat unlikeable —bad-tempered and sharp-tongued — a shrew. But beneath the surface, perhaps her anger stems from unhappiness. She’s jealous of her sister and the way her family treats her, perhaps worried about her own attractiveness to men and whether she will ever find love and happiness. She’s also strong and intelligent and doesn’t want to just conform to what society thinks she should be.
These days society is not as rigid as it was in Shakespeare’s day, when the only way a woman could find acceptance in society was through marriage and a husband, yet most of us deep down inside want love and family in our lives. And strong, assertive women are often perceived as “bitches” and are threatening to some men (and women).
In Taming Tara, Tara has a goal in life, which is to run the family business her parents should have been running, had they not died. She, too, is envious of her beautiful, feminine sister and how her grandfather treats her. Her relationships with men have failed because she was too controlling. In her life, a woman being in charge is threatening to many men. Deep down inside she’s a little insecure about her ability to run the business and about her ability to find love and happiness. She thinks what she needs is a way to assert her dominance and control, and she wonders if exploring the dominant side of herself at a fetish club will help fill that emptiness inside her.
I was also interested in Petruccio, given my initial impression when reading The Taming of The Shrew that he was a complete jerk. He wanted to marry Katherine for financial gain, and set out to tame her for his own purposes. The things he did to her were cruel, there is no denying that. But it’s also possible Petruccio fell in love with Katherine and wanted her to have a better life than the unhappy, shrewish life she led when they met.
In Taming Tara, Joe comes with some complicated baggage that makes it very important that he succeed at his new job. So he’s willing to do whatever it takes to be successful, even “taming” his new co-worker. But during the process, he falls in love with Tara and it no longer becomes about “taming” her for his own purposes. Rather, it becomes important to show her that her life can be better. As an experienced Dominant he knows what’s at the heart of Domination/submission—that underlying the mastery is dependence, and beneath the submission lies strength. He knows Tara is strong enough to submit. But Joe, too, has a journey— he falls in love with Tara and he learns he needs her too. She restores his confidence in himself by showing he’s worthy of complete trust. There is no Dominant without a submissive.
Tara sees “submission” as a character flaw, a weakness. And she’s probably not alone in that view. So it’s difficult for her to take that journey and realize that it takes strength to submit and to learn to be proud of her submission.
The Taming of the Shrew has generated controversy and criticism, apparently even in Shakespeare’s own time, as being misogynistic and patriarchal. Was Shakespeare really advocating that men should tame women into submission using such cruel and crushing methods? Was he using Katherine and Petruccio as a cautionary moral tale of what not to do? Or is there pleasure in submitting to the one you love?
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