Many lives are ruled by a need to fit in and conform to the ideals of society. William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew centers around the two sisters, Bianca and Katherine and their marriages. Kate, an unpleasant and undesirable woman, unwillingly marries Petruchio who attempts to tame her. Bianca is the ideal woman who is pursued by many men. The play was written in 1590 and set in Italy, when submission and obedience were expected of women while men took powerful positions. Societal expectations motivate men and women. Women were motivated by societal expectations. A valued woman was obedient, passive and sweet. Bianca epitomizes these qualities and shapes her behavior around them. She exchanges vicious words with her sister in private, but while in the company of suitors she turns mild. Bianca’s father and her suitors determine who she marries, showing her surrender to men’s power and acceptance of obedience. In Kate’s concluding speech, she says, “A woman moved is like a fountain troubled, muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty, and while it is so, none…will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.”(5.2.151) Kate admits that an unpleasant, angry wife is undesirable and useless. Certainly no man will consider an ugly, rude woman worthy of his company. She finally relents to Petruchio’s taming and takes a woman’s normal place in the social hierarchy. Women conform to society’s strict expectations.
The expectation that men are powerful and all-knowing influences men’s behavior. A man’s masculinity and power was dependent on his control over his wife. Petruchio, Hortensio and Lucentio make a bet, “And he whose wife is most obedient…shall win the wager.” (5.2.15) This shows how much men value an obedient wife, which demonstrates their power. Each man hopes that he wins because a powerful man is valued. Baptista, the father of Kate and Bianca, arranges his daughters’ marriages...
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