The Taming of the Shrew: An Critique
The Taming of the Shrew is one of the earliest comedies written by sixteenth and seventeenth century English bard, William Shakespeare. Some scholars believe it may have been his first work written for the stage as well as his first comedy (Shakespearean 310). The earliest record of it being performed on stage is in 1593 or 1594. It is thought by many to be one of Shakespeare's most immature plays (Cyclopedia 1106).
In The Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio was the only suitor willing to court Kate, the more undesirable of Baptista's two daughters. Kate was never described as unattractive (Elizabeth Taylor played her role in one film of the production), but was known for her shrewish behavior around all of Padua. Bianca, on the other hand was very sweet and charming and beautiful; for these reasons many suitors wooed her. Kate was presented to be much more intelligent and witty than Bianca, but, ironically, she could not compete with Bianca because of these witty comebacks and caustic remarks she made (Dash 830). All of the men who desired Bianca needed somebody to marry Kate, as it was customary for the older daughter to be married before the young one. Finally, Petruchio came along to court Kate, saying he wanted to marry wealthily in Padua. It appeared, though, as if Petruchio was the kind of man who needed an opposition in life. The shrewish Kate, who was known to have a sharp tongue, very adequately filled his need for another powerful character in a relationship (Kahn 419). When Petruchio began to woo Kate, everybody was rather surprised, but Signior Baptista agreed when Petruchio wanted marry her on Saturday of the week he met her. Clearly, he was not opposed because he wanted to hurry and get Kate married so she would not be in Bianca's way anymore. Petruchio showed up to the wedding late and in strange attire, but nevertheless they were married that Saturday. Petruchio began his famous process of taming his bride. From the beginning, Petruchio wanted to dominate a relationship of two dominating personalities. He sought to tame her in a nonviolent but still somewhat cruel fashion. Petruchio's method of "taming" Kate featured depriving her of the things she had taken for granted and been given all of her life, and he sarcastically acted as if it was in her best interest (Leggatt 410). In the name of love, Petruchio refused to let her eat, under the pretense that she deserved better food than what was being given her (Nevo 262). Similarly, Petruchio did not think that her bed was suitable for her to sleep in, so his servants took turns keeping her awake and denying her the sleep that she so desperately needed. When the tailor brought in what seemed to be a very pretty cap, Petruchio refused to let Kate have it, despite her incessant pleas to keep the cap (Legatt 410). Petruchio took the stance that Kate was his property, as he pointed out in the second scene of act three:
I will be master of what is mine own.
230 She is my goods, my chattels, she is my house. My household stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything
Petruchio's words left no doubt as to his belief in the patriarchal marriage system that existed during Shakespeare's time, perhaps presented in somewhat of an exaggerated form (Kahn 414).
As tiredness, hunger, and frustration set in on Kate, her wildcat personality began to weaken noticeably. Because of the helplessness of her situation, she began to show submission to her husband. When Kate mentioned the sun in a conversation, Petruchio absurdly disagreed with her and told her it was the moon. Kate proceeded to agree with him, to which, of course, he changed his mind back. Kate's response was that it changes even as his mind, and this was the first sign of her submission to Petruchio (Evans 32).
Petruchio's actions were very...
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