, Research Paper
The Taming Of The Shrew
The Taming Of The Shrew by William Shakespeare is probably one of Shakespeare s earliest comedies. Its plot comes from the popular war of the sexes theme in which males and females fight with one another for dominance in a marriage. The play begins with a drunk man named Cristopher Sly being fooled into believing he is a nobleman and watching a play performed for him. This play turns out to be the main part of The Taming Of The Shrew.
In it, a rich man, Baptista Minola, attempts to get his two daughters married. One is the shrewish Katherine, while the other is the beautiful Bianca. In order to make sure Katherine is married, Baptista declares that he will not allow Bianca to be married until after Katherine is married. This forces all of Bianca s suitors to try and find a husband for Katherine so that they can then in turn try to marry Bianca.
Some would say that the story has a very sexist attitude, but the fact of the matter is that it is a comedy about an assertive woman dealing with how she is expected to act in the society of the late sixteenth century. Even further, Katherine is learning how she must follow the unwritten rules of her society in order to be accepted into it. Although the play ends with her acceptance to do what is expected by society this acceptance is only in action. Even though, she plays the part of the obedient wife, she still maintains her assertiveness, but now she just keeps it inside.
Shakespeare introduces the idea of false realities in the beginning of the play when the actors fool Christopher Sly into believing he is someone he isn t and disguising themselves as other characters and performing a play for him. This play-in-play structure even furthers this idea Shakespeare has created of false realities. In the play we see a variety of examples as Petrucio acts (disguises) himself as someone he s not in order to tame Katherine. The same goes for Katherine in the end when she acts (disguises) herself as a humble and obedient wife, when she is still an assertive woman now she just keeps it inside.
In The Taming Of The Shrew marriage is not a matter of love but rather a matter of which suitor can provide best for a women. All the suitors bring their dowries, a value of all they have, and the one with the most wins and gets to marry the woman. This competition is like a game to the characters in the story. An example of this is when Hortensio is relating receiving permission to marry Bianca to winning a race. In this game women are treated like object that can be bought rather than people. This does make since the society they live in is very male dominant.
The taming of Katherine is not really a loss of her shrewishness, but rather a lesson on the rules she must follow to fit in in a male dominant society. The problem with Katherine is that she has learned to be assertive and tries to control men. A woman controlling a man is against the so called rules of this society. The play ends with Katherine losing her shrewishness and proving she is the most obedient of the three new wives. Katherine proves she is the most obedient when she is the only wife that comes when the husbands all ask their wife to come. She also proves this when she says to the other new wives:
I am ashamed that women are so simple to offer war where they should kneel for peace, or seek rule, supremacy, and sway, when they are bound to serve, love, and obey.(Act V, scene 2, 161-164)
It is hard to believe that someone like Katherine could be changed so quickly. This goes back to the idea of false realities. Katherine is just really acting the part of the obedient wife in order to be accepted. It is very possible that Katherine doesn t mind this part and probable even enjoys it. There is evidence that she enjoys playing this part when Petruchio tells her to address the old man as a young female. Katherine goes as far to say to Vincentio the old man:
Young budding virgin, fair and fresh and sweet.(Act IV, scene 5,line 37)
The Taming Of The Shrew has an obvious sexist attitude that some may not like, but if you take into account that it is taking place in the late sixteenth century and not in modern times this is quite understandable. Besides, this sexist attitude the story possesses is where most of its comedy comes from. And on a final note, this play is a comedy and a lot of the words and actions are not serious and are not meant to be taken seriously.