Relationships and Gender Roles in Taming of the Shrew Term Paper

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Pretending to do her will in everything and to seek only her absolute contentment, Petruchio exercises Kate's patience by letting her famish and by depriving her of sleep, under the pretense that the food is not good enough for her and the bed not well made. He then calls the tailor over, offering her beautiful and costly attires with which he again finds fault and consequently refuses to buy them. He thus curbs her will by making her dependent on his own temper and desires. While it can be said that Petruchio's purpose is to tame Kate by turning her own weapons on herself, the way in which he abuses of his power is obviously degrading for the wife. Petruchio's method of taming is thus to ignore Kate's temper and simply reverse the terms. Thus, he tells everyone that she is the contrary of what she appears to be, and declares that people have judged her wrong: "Father, 'tis thus: yourself and all the world, / That talk'd of her, have talk'd amiss of her: / if she be curst, it is for policy, / for she's not froward, but modest as the dove; / She is not hot, but temperate as the morn; / for patience she will prove a second Grissel, / and Roman Lucrece for her chastity"(Shakespeare, 34) by this reversal of every term used to describe Kate Petruchio virtually annihilates her personality by ignoring her and playing his own game instead. At first, Katharine attempts to resist and maintain her ground, but still in the end she is won over. As she herself observes a woman will be 'made a fool' by the men around her if she does not resist, that is, she becomes a mere instrument of their will and pleasure: "Gentlemen, forward to the bridal dinner: / I see a woman may be made a fool, / if she had not a spirit to resist."(Shakespeare, 55) the woman is thus not allowed to be herself, to act independently or to displease the men in any way or else she will be instantly called 'a shrew'.

Thus, in the society of Shakespeare's time, the women were no more than possessions of the men, with no power or freedom of their own. Petruchio's speech soon after his marriage to Kate is very relevant in this sense. According to him, Kate fully belongs to him and not as a person but along with his other possessions, ranging from domestic animals to the household objects: "But for my bonny Kate, she must with me. / Nay, look not big, nor stamp, nor stare, nor fret; / I will be master of what is mine own: / She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house, / My household stuff, my field, my barn, / My horse, my ox, my ass, my any thing."(Shakespeare, 52) Women were thus seen as mere parts of the household, like the pieces of furniture that can be completely controlled by the husband. Marriage is thus almost as an enslaving institution for the women who become thus possessions of their masters. The fact that the 'shrew' is silenced at the end is very symbolic: Kate is turned into a 'puppet' as the playful dialogue between her and her husband hints at a certain point: "Katharina:' Belike you mean to make a puppet of me.' Petruchio: 'Why, true; he means to make a puppet of thee.'"(Shakespeare, 67) While they seemingly talk about the clothes made by the tailor, the two exchange a significant dialogue: the woman is indeed a puppet of her own husband, only fit to completely obey him. The last speech offered by Kate is also very telling: she speaks now as an absolutely tamed wife, who believes that her husband is just like a prince to her and that she owes him complete obedience for it: "Such duty as the subject owes the prince / Even such a woman oweth to her husband; / and when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour, / and not obedient to his honest will, / What is she but a foul contending rebel / and graceless traitor to her loving lord?"(Shakespeare, 89)

Thus, women and men had fixed roles in the Elizabethan society: the man was the active and the strong person, who waged wars and made a fortune, while the woman had to be the servant of her husband, her only duty…

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Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. The Taming of the Shrew. New York: Oxford University Press, 1972.

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