Autor: msender 10 May 2011
Words: 836 | Pages: 4
During Shakespeare's time of the early modern England, woman were proclaimed to be chastity, silence, and obedient. However, Shakespeare portrays woman different in his play, "The Taming of the Shrew" (Shr.), by making them strong and outspoken; even thought they still surrender to the power of men; as well as firm and cunning enough to outwit the opposite sex in the most critical situations. Does Shakespeare create champions of the fairer sex as an explanation on the strength and the untapped potential of women as equals to men, or is his temporary empowering of female characters merely another element of comedy?
Perhaps it merely goes beyond the normal, moral comprehension of this day and age to find the idea of a strong, willful woman to be so scandalous in a way to be hectically funny. But when we look past our modern understanding of those that have been handed down from the nineteenth century; we begin to see within the background of the literature's original environment to appeal to the strongly male-dominated society of Shakespeare's time. A time when women weren't even allowed on stage, so we as readers cannot deny this play which in fact was written as hilarious comedy, and that perhaps a large part of it comedic value was included in poking fun at willful woman who was bold enough to step beyond the limitations of her roles in society and take on or challenge the well-defined roles of the male world.
A classic example of a female character that Shakespeare has given license to "act outside her role" is Katherine Minola; the "shrew" of the title; because society's perception of her is that she is a poor idea of a wife because she is headstrong, has a sharp tongue and harsh language. Also, let's not forget that Katharina has threatened her younger sister's suitors and utters, "[i]wis it is not halfway to her heart. / But if it were, doubt not her care should be / [t]o comb your noodle with a three-legged stool / [a]nd paint your face and use you like a fool" (Shr. 1.1.61-65). At this moment of the play, picturing a dreadful, vengeful woman beating a poor suitor with a three-legged stool would be very hilarious to watch and probably make some men thankful that they do not have a woman like he as their wife. These qualities of hers affect the outcome of the plot because her father, Baptista, has sworn not to allow his younger daughter to marry before Katharina, herself, is wed. Therefore, Hortensio and Gremio agree that they will work together to marry off Katherine so that they will be free to compete for Bianca and that is where Petruchio, Katherine's suitor comes in.
When Petruchio sets his sights on Katherine to be his future wife, she refuses to be wooed by his charm because she denies the role of his prey as well as his object of obsession; this gives her incredible appeal as a strong and empowered woman. However, Petruchio still attempts to tame Kate and her harsh language with rhetoric that purposely undermines her violent nature. For example, he vows, "[s]ay she be mute and will not speak a word, / [t]hen I'll commend her volubility / [a]nd say she uttereth piercing eloquence. / If she do bid me pack, I'll give her thanks, / [a]s though she bid me stay by her a week. / If she deny to wed, I'll crave the day / [w]hen I shall ask the banns, and when be marri'd" (Shr. 2.1.169-179). Although the clever tricks of word-play on their own does not tame the shrew as she remains unrefined.
In the end though despite all of Katherine's power and feminine desire, despite that she never fell to the tricks of suitors or ambitious men in the past, Katherine is easily undone, and her end is perhaps fitting for the eyes of an audience of Shakespeare's era, reducing her to an obedient dog-like of her former self as she is committed to her husband's every word and stands there on display as she gives a soundly-reasoned speech on the subject of why wives should always obey their husbands.
In conclusion when we look at Shakespeare's play through the more liberal perspective that is given to us by a twentieth century upbringing, I think it's safe to say that Shakespeare is and was, however, still a product of his environment as much as any of us are today, and when we truly look into the methods of his plays, set aside the pretty poetics, witty wordplay, and the lenses of a better time to truly dig into the guts of this piece, "The Taming of the Shrew," and see the dark side that emerged in this work. In this darker side, we see strong heroine raised up only to fall again, and where we find comedy stolen at the expense of a gender mistakenly believed to be the inferior one by the mainstream society of a sad, ancient time.