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Examine the ways in which Shakespeare presents issues connected with marriage and male/female relationships in the play The Taming of the Shrew.

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  • March 17, 2004
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"The Taming of the Shrew" by William Shakespeare closely examines the ideas of marriage and relationships between males and female in the time it was written. (Circa 1593). Shakespeare presents contemporary issues pertaining to those issues by utilising themes (domestication), centralising the importance of marriage to create tension, depicting marriage as a financial institution and using symbolism to convey abstract ideas.

The idea of domestication or 'taming' is evident right through the play, beginning with the title. Katherine is immediately depicted as a character that requires taming in order to have a functional relationship with a male counterpart. Petruchio epitomises the tamer: a man set upon creating a wife who will conform to society's expectations of a subservient, obedient female. The theme of domestication climaxes in Act 4, Scene 1 as Petruchio unveils his plan to tame Katherine, likening her to a hawk. "Thus I have begun my reign and 'tis my hope to end successfully. My falcon now is sharp and passing empty, and till she stoop, she must not be full g-gorged."(IV, ii, 159-163) The plan of depriving Kate of food and sleep seems drastic in modern times, but emphasises the Elizabethan idea of male power within society, communicating its importance to the audience. This scene also shows how determined Petruchio is to 'tame' his wife and how he vies it as little more than sport, marking the absence of love in the relationship. Love, in Elizabethan times, was not seen as a prerequisite for marriage, and this would have been well understood by 16th century audiences. This scene as a whole is a crucial part of Shakespeare's presentation of marriage and male/female relationships of that time.

Another example of Shakespeare presenting viewpoints, on marriage in particular, is the way drama, comedy and the entire plot of this play rely on the main characters' opinions of marriage. Much of the drama is created by the desire and plans for marriage,...