Taming Of The Shrew: Male Domination Essay, Research Paper
The Taming of the Shrew, by William Shakespeare, deals with marriage. The ideas explored are primarily shown through the characters of Petruchio and Katharina. We are introduced to the trials and tribulation’s which present themselves in their everyday lives. The characters bring up a traditional concept of male domination. Through the play we see the need for domination through Petruchio, and the methods he uses to dominate. While these ideas of male domination have remained a constant throughout the years, however recently there has been a change toward equality.
Males continually want to be the best, being a distinct priority in their lives. Knowing that they are the best acts as a control valve in their life. This is best demonstrated in our own society through sports. Men trained to be brutal "killers." When a sports career is over men are left with a void to vent frustration. This characteristic of today’s society can also be seen in Shakespeare’s time in the sport of falconing.
Falconry is the sport of taming a wild falcon. The falcon’s spirit has to be broken before the taming can occur. After the spirit is broken, the animal can be tamed. Men’s training in and enjoyment of falconry connects to their desire for dominance in a human relationship. This type of domination easily relates to spousal relationships. If a wife acts disobediently and like a shrew then a need for "taming" can evolve. William Whately, author of A Bride-Bush, justifies the occasions that a husband can use violence against his wife. "But yet if a wife will put upon herself even servile conditions, if she will abase herself foolish, childish, slavish behavior, I see why the rod or staff or wand should not be for the fool’s back in this case also. (Whately, 224)" Acting in "foolish, childish, slavish" behavior permits the husband to teach the wife wrongful doing and therefore taming her not to be a shrew. This circumstance relates to that of a parent spanking a child when discipline is needed. The point is to teach not to do wrongful things. Men revert back to their need to be the best, and to dominate in a spousal relationship fills that void.
Petruchio tames Katharina on several occasions. The first taming scene is during Petruchio and Katharina’s wedding. Petruchio shows up in "a new hat and an old jerkin; a pair of old breeches (3.2.41-42)." Petruchio’s shocking attire behooves the congregation and Katharina’s amazement. Petruchio’s actions are his first steps towards taming Katharina. Putting Katharina in an embarrassing situation by embarrassing himself, Petruchio shows the great lengths to which he will go to tame her. Testing her mentality to see what she’s made of. This scene is his first attempt to break her wildness.
Starvation is another way Petruchio attempts to tame Katharina. "Here take away this dish (4.3.44)." He does this to the point that Katharina will do anything for food. "The poorest service is repaid with thanks, And so shall mine before you touch the meat (4.3.45-46)." His request is for her to thank him for the food. Katharina has trouble understanding this request because she does not understand why he is starving her in the first place. After a moment of debate, she gives in to her hunger and thanks Petruchio. "I thank you, sir (4.3.47)." Upon her thanking him we see the position of authority he holds over her. He dominates her with this type of treatment, by not allowing her to think for herself. She is in the same position as a falcon being molded into the perfect pet. He clearly upholds his higher position in the relationship. These actions show how Petruchio fills his void of domination, which is the way he has been socially constructed. He is challenging himself and showing off his male dominance through Katharina.
Many times the void for domination is too great to be filled through taming a wife. If a relationship reaches the extent of physical violence help may be need. William Gouge, author of Of Domestical Duties: Eight Treatises, sustains this understanding. "Because the Scripture hath so plentifully and particularly declared the several duties of husbands and wives, and yet hath delivered nothing concerning a husband’s striking and beating his wife. (Gouge, 226)" Gouge asks what purpose a man has in beating his wife? Explaining that this only infuriates the wife more. "She may be of so outrageous a disposition as, but by force, she will not be kept in any compass (228)." When the level of domination is changed from a teaching device physical beating the control should be taken from the man. Such cases of abuse are often associated with other problems such as Alcoholism and drug addiction. This abuse is commonly referred to as domestic violence, which has always been a problem in society. Today an increasing number cases of domestic violence are reported. This occurs because women have collectively taken a stand against domestic violence. Today, taming a wife by striking to teach a lesson is abuse. Women understand that abuse is a crime. Abused women learn to report such a crime against their husband, and because of this domestic violence is taken more seriously.
The ideals represented in Taming of the Shrew are out dated. We, as Americans, have come towards a concept of equality in relationships. Male dominant relationships were common thought out the forties and fifties in the United States. Women were deemed as housewives, whose job was to clean and have dinner ready for their husband’s return from work. Imagining women in that type of status is difficult to do in society. Families are not a place for a tyranny. Families are a source of love, not a place to dominate through order. Two people are certainly collectively smarter than one person.
Male dominating treatment towards women is hard to comprehend. If one looks back on the stereotypical relationships of our grandparents during the forties and fifties, the many changes with today’s generation easily juxtapose. We see women with high paying jobs and powerful positions in life. Single women raising families have become a recent trend. A sense of how far we as a society have come since Shakespeare’s time to today verifies that male domination is dying out. We as a society have shifted towards equality.