Arthur movies, with Dudley Moore as the lovable, hapless, perpetually inebriated title character? Funny drunks are usually men, though--drunk women are either pathetic/tragic (When a Man Loves a Woman), or slutty/tragic (think Susan Hayward). Drinking and drunkenness can be both comic and tragic in Will's plays. Lower-class drunks, like Sly, make us laugh, while drunks like Falstaff (in the Henry plays and Merry Wives of Windsor) are at once funny and pathetic. Drink is, in the words of Macbeth's drunken Porter "a great equivocator"--both funny and not.
The thing is, drunks are rarely funny in real life. They're pathetic, scary, repulsive, or just plain sad. Unless you're drunk too, of course--which much of Will's audience probably was. Going to a play in Elizabethan England was like going to a sporting event these days--lots of rowdy, ale-soaked bodies looking to get away from their daily drudgery. And it's fun to see someone more wasted/clueless/humiliated than oneself--that's the premise behind a lot of reality TV programming, too.
Then as now, drink enabled people to violate boundaries and break rules. Made a pass at your secretary? Oops, the Christmas punch is to blame. Called your kid a loser? Sorry, Daddy imbibed a little too much last night. Broke your leg climbing the watertower? (Yeah, I knew someone who did that in college. But he was drunk, you know, so it was a great story a year later.) The kind of rules that are broken in Taming are different--they're the more impermeable boundaries of class and gender. Sly passes out drunk and wakes up in a dream--or rather a play, staged by his betters--in which he's a rich nobleman. He's then entertained with another play, in which a bitchy, domineering woman is put in her place. At the end, beggars are once again beggars, and Kate learns that a woman's place is under her husband's thumb. Or heel.
Or does she? Let's find out.