Escape Of A Prisoner? Essay, Research Paper
The Taming of a Shrew or The Escape of a Prisoner?
The female characters of Shakespearean literature inspire much controversy over their roles. Many critics assert the female characters are depicted as unreal portrayals of passive women. Other critics argue that the roles portrayed were considered normal for the period in which they took place. During the period of the Enlightenment, many social norms changed and evolved. One such norm was the position of women in society. Queen Elizabeth was a controversial female in power during Shakespeare?s life and challenged all traditional thinking. In The Taming of the Shrew, Katherine (Kate) is the controversial female character. The comedy is about Kate, a strong-willed woman, whom is expected to conform to the unwritten rules of the late 16th century society. There are many aspects of her character that can be interpreted in more than one-way, such as her attitude, appearance, and actions. Many critique the true motivation for Kate?s actions. Kate is not tamed within the play but liberated, taught to love, and taught how to enjoy life.
Kate is stubborn, harsh, and cruel at the beginning of the play. When Hortensio describes her to Petruccio he calls her shrewd, ill-favoured, an intolerable-curst, and a froward (I.2.ll. 57, 85-86). It is questionable however that all these names are true. Hortensio holds pretenses against Kate for she stands between her sister, Bianca, and any suitor. Such a dame intrigues Petruccio that she may offer him a challenge, and she is wealthy. Kate?s actions and attitude have never been challenged before she met Petruccio. Everyone she knows has always been afraid of her and the only way she knows to get attention is to act out, against the status quo. When Kate and Petruccio first meet, they are both challenged. Kate realizes she has no way out of the marriage arrangement and this scares her. Petruccio and Kate contend in a verbal war with each other. This is the first conversation Kate has with a mind of similar wit. In the advancing relationship Kate has with Petruccio she starts to enjoy herself. They both have skill with word games and true wit coming out of their fingers. Petruccio?s actions give Kate no choice but to obey an orderly, structured schedule. This is something Kate has never had to deal with. It is in this manner that critics may argue she was tamed, but actually she is liberated from her old, boring life. Petruccio opens her eyes to a life where she does not have to be mean and shrewish. He gives her the opportunity to be her true self without extinguishing her inner spirit and fire. Petruccio?s challenge of ?taming the shrew? helps Kate fully become herself.
The verbal games played between Kate and Petruccio are similar to intense flirting when they first meet. Petruccio slathers on all the compliments and makes sexual innuendos that astonish Kate. Kate has never known love in her life. She has always been the loser in a competition with her sister. Bianca fits the status quo of the era perfectly therefore representing the contrast of Kate. Their father, Baptista cherishes Bianca for this fact. Kate confronts her father about this great injustice when she argues with Bianca and Baptista steps in.
?What will you not suffer me? Nay, now I see
She is your treasure, she must have a husband.
I must dance barefoot on her wedding day,
And for your love to her lead aped in hell.
Talk not to me. I will go sit and weep
Till I can find an occasion of revenge? (II.1.ll. 31-36).
Petruccio is the first person to truly treat Kate fairly. He is the first person who even tries to understand her and love her. Kate becomes extremely confused with Petruccio because she does not know how to react to a kind person. No one has ever shown interest in her before. Petruccio teaches Kate she must open her heart, if ever to truly be happy. Petruccio accomplishes this goal by physically depriving Kate of food and sleep. Petruccio understands that once Kate is to weak to fight, he will be her savior by caring for her.
?This is a way to kill a wife with kindness,
And thus I?ll curb her mad and headstrong humour? (IV.1.ll. 189-190).
Petruccio teaches Kate to like him and love him by treating her like a queen after he has ?broken? her. He has made her feel safe and respected. It is very evident that his method has worked at the end of the play. Kate speaks about the duties of a wife to the other wives.
?Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labor both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks and true obedience;
Too little payment for so great a debt? (V.2.ll.150-158).
Kate has not been tamed but taught to love and respect Petruccio.
In the same manner Petruccio taught Kate to love, he taught her how to live. It is through feelings and actions that people truly live. When Petruccio opened Kate?s heart to him, he also opened it to the rest of the world she had been missing. Before Kate was focused on challenging the status quo and feeling sorry for herself. Petruccio took both those thoughts from her head and threw them out the window. He taught her that as long as she was happy, she shouldn?t care what other people think of her. It is when Kate realizes that Petruccio is changing her for her own good, as well as his, that she falls deeply in love with him. He proves to Kate she has no reason to feel sorry for herself any longer. She can have anything her heart desires with Petruccio for a husband. She also has more than most women of the late 16th century, because she has love and respect for and from her husband. Kate takes pride in her new life and finally can enjoy it. Petruccio explains the new Kate to Lucentio and Hortensio by saying she is happy and has no worries.
?Marry, peace it bodes, and love, and quiet life;
An aweful rule and right supremacy,
And, to be short, what not that?s sweet and happy? (V.2.ll.112-114).
By opening her heart to love, Kate opened it to the excitement of life.
Petruccio did not tame Kate in this play but liberated her, taught her to love, and taught her to live. He rescued her from a life in the shadow of her sister and disgust of her father. Petruccio showed her affection, love, and respect, which before were all foreign to Kate. He last but not least, opened Kate?s eyes to the marvels of life, and how sweet it is to enjoy life. Overall, Kate and Petruccio make a marvelous couple. Kate learned to use her strong-will to both of their advantages. Because they are so much alike, Kate took very quickly to Petruccio?s game of words and irony. Some critics say that Kate and Petruccio?s first encounter with each other is a realistic form of ?love at first sight? ? when matched wits meet. Kate develops into a woman during the course of the play. She becomes fully aware of her new attitude and life. She is ready to show it off for all the people who had no faith in or time for her. Kate?s true identity is finally revealed and able to shine brightly with Petruccio by her side. Many of Shakespeare?s female characters are similar to Kate. They all choose to take a different path than the one society expects of them. Many of the females are like this because of the period in which Shakespeare lived. The age of Enlightenment was very much dedicated to the concepts of choice and free will. In Shakespearean literature the self is promoted rather than public image in both male and female characters. Shakespeare made Kate the way the audience wanted her to be. The people came to plays to escape daily life, wanting to be pulled into the deception of the theatre. They wanted to forget their problems and imagine being one of the characters onstage. Kate was a character that showed courage, assertiveness, and passion. These are all traits possessed by very few women of the era. Kate?s character and Queen Elizabeth herself enticed women to become the unexpected and challenge the status quo.