Place of Women in Society in William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew
At the time this play was written there was a huge debate ongoing
about the place of women in society. I am aiming to evaluate
Shakespeare's contribution to this debate. He raises a very
controversial issue. In the induction he sets out clearly what the
play is about, in the lord's speech we are told exactly how women
should behave, this may be Shakespeare's opinion but this view is
taken by many men in Shakespeare's day and age. This would make the
play popular with some people and extremely unpopular with others,
In act 5 scene 2 we see what Shakespeare ...view middle of the document...
several images that compare Katherina to a wild animal, for example a
shrew and a bird of prey. Petruchio explains that he will tame
Katherina the same way wild birds are tamed "My falcon is now sharp
and passing empty" He refers to himself as her keeper "know her
All of the characters use different types of language; Lucentio uses
romantic, dreamy language, that of a courtly lover - "but in the other
silence I see /Maid's mild behaviour and sobriety."
Petruchio has a lot to say for himself, he uses lively and varied
speech and unlike Lucentio he uses no romantic language. He is much
more of an authoritarian character than anyone else in the play.
In the induction sly uses language that is easily recognisable as that
of the Warwickshire countryside and all the names are typical of such
a place, he talks in prose, to signify he is a lower class citizen.
Katherina's language changes during the course of the play from rough
and rude: "to comb your noddle with a three- legged stool". To quiet
and conciliatory: "Fie fie, unknit that threatening unkind brow," This
is the way petruchio wants her to speak. Petruchio has many more lines
than Katherina this may be implying the male dominance within the
play. This also tells us that the taming may be more important that
the shrew. The exchanges of words between Katherina and petruchio are
much richer and more diverse than those between Bianca and Lucentio.
The conversations between Bianca and Lucentio are typical of
Elizabethan love poetry.
The contemporary audience would have reacted in a fairly similar way
to a modern audience. The position of the woman was a very
controversial subject in the late 16th early 17th centuries. It
depends on how the play is interpreted by the director. If in the play
Katherina ends up being completely suppressed by petruchio becoming
nothing but a slave completely obedient to him many of the women who
saw this play would have been appalled with the way Katherina's real
character had been destroyed. But if the play is interpreted in the
way that Katherina and petruchio come together as a team in order to
get money and also to be happy and have fun, the audience would not
see this interpretation as being misogynistic.
The modern audience would have reacted in similar ways, if there was
any element of misogyny portrayed in the play the majority of the
audience would dislike it as misogyny nowadays extremely politically
incorrect. If anything more objections would be made to the play by a
modern audience as we now have more freedom of speech than we did
hundreds of years ago.
This play is all about how a wife should behave, in the induction, the
lord tells the woman exactly that. "With soft low tongue and lowly
courtesy" the lord tells the woman to force herself to...