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Taming of the Shrew: Question: Is the lord kind and charitable to Christopher Sly?

Is the lord in the introduction of the Taming of the Shrew kind and charitable in his treatment of Christopher Sly? We meet Sly as he exits an alehouse, having drunk more than his fill. He refuses to pay what he owes for damages incurred, and promptly lies down in the street, unwilling and unable to make his way home. We are not immediately moved to pity, for his indignities are selfinflicted. The lord, seeing Sly in this sad state, responds similarly: O monstrous beast! How like a swine he lies. It is then that he conceives a plan to make Sly forget who and what he is and to transform him into a lord. He executes this plan with all gentleness and apparent care: Carry him gently to my fairest chamber and hang it round with all my wanton pictures: Balm his foul head in warmed distilled waters and burn sweet wood to make the lodging sweet: Procure me music ready when he wakes to make a dulcet and a heavenly sound, and if he chance to speak, be ready straight This do and do it kindly, gentle sirs. If we were to look at the manner of treatment that Sly receives, we might be persuaded to think the lord something like a good Samaritan. He gives his own, best things for Slys comfort. However, the question of whether the lord is beneficent or not lies more in his motives than in his means. As with any action, what is done is made morally significant by why it is done. Charity, that is, real love, seeks the true good of another as opposed to the apparent good. In this case, the lord is not seeking Slys good, but rather his own passing pleasure. He will happily pay handsomely for some humor at Slys expense. Even as a flattering dream or worthless fancy. Then take him up and manage well the jest. It will be pastime passing excellent, if it be husbanded with modesty.

Well, you are come to me in happy time; the rather for I have some sport in hand wherein your cunning can assist me much. I long to hear him [Bartholomew] call the drunkard husband, and how my men will stay themselves from laughter when they do homage to this simple peasant. Ill in to counsel them; haply my presence may well abate the over-merry spleen which otherwise would grow into extremes. He will practice on this drunken man and see if he cannot make the beggar then forget himself. He does not hope for any permanent change: in fact, the ruse at some point must fail, for the lord will not give up his own to a beggar. When it does fail, and Sly realizes he is not what he has come to believe himself to be, what will pass through his mind? The delicious food, luxurious surroundings, tender care, and sweet music are not his, and never will be again. Some comforts are better not known, for they make the return to real life that much more painful. Epicurus thought that men should delight in simple things, for such goods are commonplace and thus more accessible. Who is more likely to be able to be happy, the man whose pleasures are costly and rare, or the man who can take joy in the simple pleasures of life? Is Sly, then, better off for having fleetingly felt the joys of the good life, a life that will never be his? More telling, how will he feel when he realizes the woman presented as his loving wife is in truth a man playing a part? He will leave the lords manor with less than he came, stripped of any dignity, mocked with everything he does not have, for being what he is. Huntsman, I charge thee, tender well my hounds: I would not lose the dog for twenty pound. Thou art a fool: if Echo were as fleet, I would esteem him worth a dozen such. But sup them well, and look unto them all. The lord has more real care for his dogs than for this unfortunate man.

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