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The Taming of the Shrew: Breaking Katherine Into Submission

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The Taming of the Shrew: Breaking Katherine Into Submission
Breaking Katherine Into Submission

Imagine a woman who is publicly insulted. Abusive, outspoken and bitter, she is shunned from society for going against her prescribed social role. Her only option is to change; she must submit completely to men, accept her inferior role, and relinquish her opinion if it contradicts her husband’s. William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew illustrates the consequences brought on women who went against their social roles and suggests that women must be submissive in order to obtain respect among men. 16-century women were prescribed stringent social roles. Women were expected to obey and respect all male members of society, especially, their fathers and husbands (Alchin). Unable to vote, inherit money and heir to their father’s title, women were required to keep the house clean and look and sound pleasant at all times (Castaldo). Moreover, Women married their preselected husbands – without hesitation. During their wedding, it was anticipated that women bring dowry to their husbands (Maggie). In short, Scottish protestant leader, John Knox’s quote illustrates this 16th-century ideology of women, “Women in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man” (Alchin). On the contrary, the term “shrew” (16th-century label given to women who were subversive and mischievous in behavior) applied to women who acted against their social role, such as Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew. In act 1, scene 1, Katherine asks her father not to display her as a “stale” among friends and suitors (I.i.57-58). According to A Shakespeare Glossary, the word “stale” means whore or prostitute. Therefore, Katherine asks her father not to auction her as if she were a whore, especially, in front of friends and wooers. Referring back to the 16th-century expectation of women, Katherine has violated one of the rules: rebuking to her father’s request. Instead of listening and remaining quiet, Katherine asks her father to reframe from



Cited: Alchin, Linda. Elizabethan Women. 26 August 2010. 08 June 2013 . Castaldo, Amaliso. Elizabethan Women. 20 August 2011. 14 June 2013 . Carlson, Marc. Elizabethan English Slang. 13 October 2010. 10 June 2013 . Evans, Bernad. "Shakespeare 's Comedies." 05 September 2010. Eagleson, Robert D. "A Shakespeare Glossary ." Eagleson, Robert D. A Shakespeare Glossary. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., New York, 1986. 264. Maggie, Rose. Women of Elizabethan Era. 25 March 2008. 07 June 2013 . Press, Oxford University. Oxford University Press. 16 January 2013. 09 June 2013 .

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