David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scene 1

 — 3.1 —

Lucentio, Hortensio, and Bianca were in a room of Baptista’s house. Lucentio and Hortensio were acting as Bianca’s tutors. Lucentio had disguised himself as Cambio, a tutor of languages and philosophy; Hortensio had disguised himself as Litio, a teacher of music and mathematics. Lucentio and Hortensio had told Bianca who they really were, but Lucentio and Hortensio still thought that each other was a real tutor.

Lucentio said to Hortensio, “Fiddler, stop. You are too pushy, sir. Have you so soon forgotten the way that Bianca’s sister, Katherina, treated you? She broke a lute on your head.”

“That was Katherina, the shrew,” Hortensio said, “and this is Bianca, the patroness of heavenly harmony. Therefore, give me leave to have the prerogative of teaching Bianca first. After we have spent an hour studying music, you — you wrangling pedant — shall have an hour to tutor her.”

“You are a preposterous ass,” Lucentio said. “You have not read enough to know the reason why music was created! Music was created to refresh the mind of man after his studies or his usual toil. Therefore, give me time to teach Bianca literature and philosophy, and afterward, while I rest, you can teach her harmony.”

“Your remarks are offensive! I will not stand for them!”

Bianca interrupted, “Why, gentlemen, you both do me wrong. It is not your decision which of you should teach me first. It is my decision — I am the one who gets to choose. I am no scholar in the schools; I am not a student who can be whipped. I learn my lessons as and when it pleases me. Stop your arguing. All of us sit down. Litio, take your musical instrument and go over there and play it for a while. Cambio’s lesson will be over before you have tuned your lute.”

“You will leave his lesson when I am in tune?” Hortensio asked.

“That will be never,” Lucentio said. “Go on and try to tune your instrument.”

Bianca asked, “When did our last lesson end?”

“It ended here, madam,” Lucentio said. “We were studying this:

Hic ibat Simois; hic est Sigeia tellus;

Hic steterat Priami regia celsa senis.”

These lines mean, “Here ran the Simois River; here was the Sigeian land; / Here stood the lofty palace of old Priam.”

Bianca requested, “Construe them.”

Lucentio replied, speaking quietly so that Hortensio could not hear,

Hic ibatmeans As I told you before.

Simoismeans I am Lucentio.

Hic estmeans The son of Vincentio of Pisa.

Sigeia tellusmeans Disguised thus to get your love.

Hic steteratmeansAnd that Lucentio who comes a-wooing.

Priamimeans Is my servant Tranio.

Regiameans Who is pretending to be me.

Celsa senismeans So that that we might trick the pantaloon — the ridiculous old man — who is named Gremio.”

Hortensio said, “Madam, my instrument is in tune.”

“Let’s hear it,” Bianca said.

Hortensio strummed the strings.

Bianca said, “The treble is out of tune.”

“Spit in the hole, man,” Lucentio said, “and tune it again. The spit will make the peg tighter and keep the string in tune.”

Hortensio returned to tuning the lute.

Bianca said to Lucentio, “Now let me see if I can construe it:

Hic ibat Simoismeans I do not know you.

Hic est Sigeia tellusmeans I do not trust you.

Hic steterat Priamimeans Be careful that my music tutor does not hear you.

Regiameans Do not presume too much.

Celsa senismeans Do not despair.”

Hortensio said, “Madam, it is now in tune.”

Lucentio replied, “All but the bass.”

Hortensio muttered, “The bass of the tune is in tune; it is that base knave Cambio who is out of tune. How fiery and forward this pedant Cambio is! I swear that he is courting Bianca, the woman I love. Little pedant! I will keep an eye on you!”

Bianca said to Lucentio, “In time I may believe you, yet now I mistrust you.”

“Do not mistrust me,” Lucentio said.

He said loudly so that Litio — the disguised Hortensio — could hear, “Aeacides is another name for Ajax. It identifies him as the grandson of Aeacus.”

Lucentio was partially right. He was referring to the next line of the quotation from Ovid that they had been working on. However, “Aeacides” means “grandson of Aeacus” and Aeacus had more than one grandson. In fact, scholars translate the Aeacides of the line as Achilles, grandson of Aeacus.

Bianca, who knew more Latin and more mythology than her tutor, said, “I must believe my master, or else, I promise you, I would argue with you about this point. But let us let it go.”

She said loudly, “Now, Litio, it is your turn to tutor me. Good tutors, take it not unkindly, please, that I have been pleasant with you both and have not taken sides.”

Hortensio said to Lucentio, whom he thought was Cambio, “You may go and walk, and leave us for a while. My lessons have no music for three singers or three musicians.”

“Are you so formal, sir?” Lucentio replied. “Well, I must wait for my next turn to tutor.”

He thought, And I must watch this tutor Litio because, unless I am deceived, our fine musician is falling in love with Bianca.

Hortensio said quietly to Bianca, “Madam, before you touch the instrument, you must learn the correct fingering. To do that, I must begin by teaching you the fundamentals of this art. To teach you the scales more quickly, pleasantly, pithily, and effectually than any other music tutors can do, I have written out the scales in my own way.”

“Why, I learned my scales long ago,” Bianca protested.

“Nevertheless, please read the scales as written by Hortensio.”

Bianca read, “I am the scales, the beginning of all harmony,

A remeans Hortensio pleads his passion.

B mimeans Bianca, take him for your husband.

C fa utmeans He loves you with all his heart.

D sol remeans He has one clef and two notes. He has two identities — Hortensio and Litio — but only one is real.

E la mimeans Show pity to me, or I will die.”

Bianca complained, “Do you call this musical scales? I do not like it. Old fashions please me best. I am not so fussy that I will change tried, tested, and true rules for odd inventions.”

A servant entered the room and said, “Mistress, your father asks you to leave your books and help to decorate your sister’s bedroom. You know that tomorrow is the wedding-day.”

Bianca said, “Farewell, sweet tutors. I must be gone.”

She and the servant exited.

Lucentio said, “Since Bianca is no longer here, I have no reason to stay.”

He exited.

Hortensio, suspicious, said to himself, “But I have reason to investigate this pedant Cambio. I think that he looks as though he were in love. Bianca, if you are the type of girl to cast your wandering eyes on every low-born fellow who professes to love you, then I do not want you. If I ever catch you straying, then I will stray away from you and catch someone else.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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