Pedigree: The Stationers’ Registry entry for this poem has no date, “printed in Fleet Street…at the sign of Saint John Evangelist, by H(ugh) Jackson”. Furnivall stated it pre-dated both 1594’s “The Taming of A Shrew” (which wasn’t the Shakespeare play) and “The Taming of THE Shrew (which…was), although the poem has elements in common with both plays.
Synopsis: This poem recounts how a “mild” man and his “curst” wife have two daughters. The one who resembles the father marries easily, and the “curst” daughter is sought and married by a man in spite of multiple warnings. All is relatively calm until the couple are alone at home, when the wife begins abusing first the servants and then her husband. The husband rides away until his wife should recover her temper, but returns to find her as hot as before and worse. His solution to this impasse is to beat her with birch rods and wrap her (naked and bleeding) in a salted horse’s skin until she “learns her lesson”.
Misogyny appears to varying degrees through a number of historical works. Although the author makes it clear that the wife gives as good as she gets through most of the tale, the point is also clearly made that the husband’s desire for mastery / dominance is “part of the natural order”, as is submission on the part of the wife. Once the daughter has “learned her lesson”, the man bids friends and family come to the house to see his wife’s new-found obedience.
Availability: Google Books has online a copy of William Carew Hazlitt’s “Remains of Early Popular Poetry of England” (volume 4) which reproduces a printing by Hugh Jackson, here (links in Table of Contents):