Various distinctive dynamics take centre stage in William Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. Since the first performance of the play the question lingered in the minds of the performers and the creators alike. The play has an incredibly varying history of production that shows that the directors have interpreted it in various contradicting forms. Men and women interact differently all through the play and this is shown by the balance of power between the two genders. The Taming of the Shrew heavily relies on accepted conventions of drama, approaching traditional farce in many respects with regards to power between the genders. In doing so, it represents a number of resonant traits that are psychological in nature as well as thoughtfully developed themes and robust organization.
The Taming of the Shrew can be seen as an account that seeks to showcase the tyranny of man over woman. However this is a misrepresentation that stems from assumptions made in the days of the author (Wachter). The artwork is written during the time of Elizabethan England when it was universally accepted that men dominated over women. The level of dominance of man over woman could be likened to the way a king dominated his citizens or the way man dominated animals. The famous speech by Kate in 5.2.137-180 illustrates his belief in men's dominance over women (Wachter). The story of Petruchio and Kate takes advantage of the fact that men are dominant over women.
Through the course of The Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio consistently assures Kate of his loving and passionate personality. On the other hand, Petruchio behaves in a strange manner by way of flying in the face of good sense and throwing tantrums (Cramm). He goes to the extent of exaggerating the behaviour via which Kate has distinguished her personality. Finally, Kate succumbs to Petruchio by her wifey behaviours and this is shown by the humorous tests she passes (Cramm). The frustrations of Kate do not come from the fact that Petruchio has made her feign acceptance of a role that seems rather repugnant. However, it accrues from the fact that she observes his behaviours and recognises the emotional rewards that come from being a dutiful wife.
The subplot of The Taming of the Shrew encompasses an assemblage of situations that are not only traditional but also dramatic. For example, youth is pitted against age whereas the romanticism of intrigue as well as disguise is pitted against the kind of courtship that is normally conducted in terms of business (Frank). The juxtapositions are not only familiar but they are also derived from ancient models of Roman and Italian antiquity. The characters that take part in the comparisons are mere stereotypes except Bianca (Frank). Bianca presents a tone of human complexity. On the one hand, Baptista plays the role of the standard father to the girl whereas on the other hand, Hortensio and Lucentio manifest as stock young characters of Italian decent.
Majority of the male characters in The Taming of the Shrew present a tone of conventionality which offers a feature of the play that places emphasis on its sense of artificiality (Tripney). The inductions accordingly assert that the tale is fictitious and is meant for light forms of entertainment. Moreover, the final scene of the play serves the same purpose. Therefore, by the time the plot gets to 5.2, Shakespeare has already woven the strands of its plot together (Tripney). Therefore, all that remains is the summation of its themes. The playwright features a ritualistic setting of the wedding feast that tells the presence of most of the characters in the play.
The Taming of the Shrew presents relationships as either knockabout or harmlessly boisterous in form and nature especially when women are involved. In other instances, relationships with women are viewed as tragically violent as well as oppressive (Pierce). The playwright offers his perspective on the perennial trope in comedy, tragedy as well as the battle of the sexes. Hence gender is well represented throughout the play. Readers are subjected to both critical as well as directional interpretational. Text in the play seems to adopt meaning according to the angle in which they are interpreted (Pierce). The ambiguities in interpreting issues between men and women on the play can usefully be scrutinised by way of focusing on the structure as well as the language of the play.
The hunting language is a recurring motif in The Taming of the Shrew, warranting consideration as a long metaphor beyond the role it plays as a mere social backdrop to the actions it supports (Cramm). It ceases to play the role of a mere social backdrop to the action. In the induction of the framing the arrival of the Lord marks his presence at the alehouse together with his huntsmen. They begin with a conversation about the hunt and ultimately end up talking about Christopher Sly and how he lay dead drunk in to the world in front of them (Frank). In his description of the man, the Lord calls him a 'monstrous beast' and compares him to a swine.
The Taming of the Shrew presents a model of marriage as a disturbing metaphor that is based on the curtailing of the natural liberation of a powerful bird by the falconer. Marriage is used by men as a tool for keeping their women subdued and submissive (Pierce). The playwright highlights the different levels of inequalities in the relationship that entails the subjugation of the woman by the rational free man. The woman is likened to the wild animal who has her sleep and access to food controlled. According to Petruchio, he intends to make her come and know the call of her keeper (Tripney). These sentiments reveal that Katherina will have no choice but to understand that her 'keeper' has come hence the need to remain obedient. Therefore, both Katherina and Sly are on the receiving end of male dominance in the relationship.
Blood sports emerge once more at the culmination of The Taming of the Shrew in the final scene in the witty jokes shared between guests who attended the celebration. Tranio receives mockery from Petruchio for the way he hunted but missed his quarry (Wachter). He refers to Bianca as the bird that Tranio aimed at but that he never hit. Through the pan the playwright intends to inform the audience that men perceive the act of wooing as a hunting process. Such a hunt results in the trapping of a wife. Tranio teases his friend in tone of sarcasm claiming that his wife has only been trapped (Tripney). The sarcasm in the sentiments of Tranio make Petuchio to challenge the other men to prove the most obedient among the three wives.
An interesting perspective occurs when The Taming of the Shrew is considered at the pretext of the induction process. Both can be viewed efforts to depart from the expectations of social conventions as determined by the social male social hierarchies (Frank). Sly is made to think that he is of a higher social class in the setting. He seemingly falls easily into the trap set for him by the Lord. The reader finds it hard for the Sly to escape his lowliness. From the onset of the play, Katherine reads it as an attempt to avoid the trap that marriage presents (Pierce). Ultimately, she finds it hard to comply with the demands of the society.
Male dominance in The Taming of the Shrew can be said to accrue from the ability of the men to humiliate women and not from fact or nature. The power Petruchio hails accrues from his willingness to humiliate and embarrass Katherina (Wachter). The society provides a hierarchy that he uses as a tool to oppress her. Therefore, public humiliation comes about as the primary language of the play from the beginning. In the first act of the play, Gremio gives a response in which he insinuates that courting Katherina is a matter of his pleasure and this comes out as instructive. In 1.1.54-55, the cart is a practice in which women are publicly humiliated and are made to walk behind a cart through the streets (Wachter). In a similar vein he supposes in 1.1.132 that he would rather take the dowry of Katherine without a wife.
Overall, women are treated as second class citizen in The Taming of the Shrew ns this is evidenced in several instances through the lives of characters such as Katherine. For instance, Katherine is deemed worthy of a public humiliation because of her status as a woman. The bridle of the scold illustrates the kind of public humiliation to which women are subjected. The Taming of the Shrew presents a problematic play in the context of both the modern and medieval politics of gender. The battle of the sexes raises difficulties that are inherent in the text. As seen in the essay above, characters such as Petruchio present dishonest personalities that are rather hard to deal with from the onset of the play with regards to his treatment of Katherine.
Cramm, Maddie. All-Female Theater Troupe Tackles Gender Issues In Shakespeare's Plays. 22 April 2016. 26 February 2019 <https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/all-female-shakespeare_us_571944cbe4b0d912d5fe1866>.
Frank, Priscilla. Star Prima Ballerina Describes Messed Up Gender Roles On Stage. 18 January 2016. 26 February 2019 <https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/prima-ballerina-describes-messed-up-gender-roles-in-taming-of-the-shrew_us_569ce97fe4b0778f46f9f4bd>.
Pierce, Rebecca King. Battle of the Sexes: The Women of Shakespeare. 14 July 2015. 26 February 2019 <https://artsci.wustl.edu/ampersand/battle-sexes-women-shakespeare>.
Tripney, Natasha. 'Women are the powerbrokers': gender-flipping Shakespeare's Shrew. 25 February 2019. 26 February 2019 <https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2019/feb/25/women-are-the-powerbrokers-gender-flipping-shakespeares-shrew>.
Wachter, Rachel De. Power and gender in The Taming of the Shrew. 15 November 2016. 26 February 2019 <https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/power-and-gender-in-the-taming-of-the-shrew>.
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