Analysis on Taming of The Shrew

May 11, 2008
By Winston Bui, Bronx, NY

In William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, the basic premise is that of male superiority, that woman are “shrews” to be “tamed.” Of course, this representation of women in society was not altogether strange, as society in the Late 16th Century saw women playing the submissive role to men. The play also dealt with various other social facets of life in 16th Century England. Although it garnered mixed reactions from the people, The Taming of the Shrew can in some ways, be described as a sort of exaggerated interpretation of their society.

During Shakespeare's time, women who were too brash, violent, or outspoken were referred to as “shrews”, and were considered during the time of 16th Century England, to be the worst kind of women around. In the case of the play, the shrew is a young woman by the name of Katherine. While she is beautiful, she is also strong-willed, outspoken, and violent, insisting upon expressing herself. In complete contrast to Katherine is Bianca, who is beautiful, soft-spoken, and unassuming, traits which have gained her many suitors. So when Petruchio seeks Katherine's hand in marriage, everyone else warns him against it. This is because while Bianca is the perfect representation of the “ideal” woman in 16th Century England, Katherine is altogether undesirable as a shrew.

However, why would Petruchio want to marry Katherine if she were such a shrew? During that time, unlike what was shown in Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet, marriages were seen as a way of furthering ones self economically. Women had dowries, or money that the husband would receive from marriage, and was one of the major incentives for men to marry rich women. This was also the reason why Petruchio sough Katherine. Rather than marrying upon the basis of love, marriage was a business deal where the father and the suitor negotiated for the daughter. Also, such a familial relationship gave way for great business opportunities and was also a way of bringing one's prestige up in society. In the play, Bianca loved Lucentio, but was only able to marry him because Hortensio had offered less money.

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