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The Taming of the Shrew gives the reflection of marriage in Shakespearean society. Ideas of patriarchy, female domestication and submission, economic interest, and the employment of noise and love all unite in the plot of the play according to the roles by which the shrew, husband and paterfamilias are defined. The husband’s patriarchal control is pitted against the shrew. In The Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio embodies male dominance in the marriage while Kate represents the female rebellion. Petruchio’s imperious control exercised in the courtship and marriage is represented as the accepted standard typical of the lover and husband. One must override the other yet there is continuous war and friction between both sexes in the said war of attrition however it is the wife who must finally cede to her husband and submit.
Taming and systematic domestication of the woman feature prominently in the Taming of the Shrew as they break down the will of the woman other to resist, rebel and retaliate. Given Kate’s disposition, she fits the criteria of one who needs taming. In spite of Kate’s submission to marriage, she undermines the system for although Petruchio has her outward allegiance and deference, she still questions the rationality of her husband’s directives. She bows to Petruchio’s requests and allows him to think himself the chief of the relationship. The Taming of the Shrew both supports masculine domination and casts aspersion on the expected subservience of the wife to almost that of a child. The play satirizes both female liberation and the male mastery in the marriage.
The Taming of the Shrew can be described as a satire of male dominance. The introduction is an indicator and precursor to the superficial and illusory transformation of Kate from a shrew to an obedient wife. Kate only complies for the sake of attaining her own ends, and of serving her best interests in the conjugal relationship. In addition, the role of paterfamilias, or fatherly governance. As a spinster, Kate is under the control of her father, Baptista who represents the paterfamilias in the home, the onus lies on Baptista to secure marriage for both his daughters. Baptista decrees that Kate must be married first before her younger sister Bianca. This maneuver increases Kate’s desirability and uses this as an expedient to bet both daughter married and off his hands.
The marriage of convenience ranks highest among the themes as marriage and money form a happy union. According to the tradition and time of the play is loaded with commercial interest where there is the delicate issue of the negotiation of dowry and where the father benefits from selling his daughter. The suitors’ interest lay in bequeathing the father’s estate and his wife’s fortune. The mercenary interest to profit depreciates the value of marriage and converts the bride to a common prostitute who goes to the highest bidder. Baptista basks in the security that his daughters’ suitors are moneyed and have some financial prestige. The socio-economic situation highlights the plight of the single and married where she is forced to depend on the male for financial support as she comes under the rule of father and husband, fulfilling the paterfamilias role.
Petruchio employs noise, loudness, sonority, vehemence and petulance to assert his control as husband and governor of the home. These traits reflect virility, masculine power and authority. Petruchio’s use of sound rivals that of Kate. The woman’s defense is typically vocal since she substitutes her oral strength for her physical inferiority to the male. Kate exercises the vocal prowess and because of this opinionated and outspoken assertiveness, Kate is scorned, undesirable and labeled as shrewish. Petruchio’s military training prepares, hardens and inures him to his wife’s argumentative uproar. The din of war is sufficient to match Kate’s raucous rebellious attitude. Competition and aggression are not traits which ought to reside in the female so society stigmatizes her as one who is insolent, shrewish and undesirable. The men in the play applaud Petruchio for his success in taming wild Kate, likewise in reality, society endorses and praises the man who can control and subdue his wife.
As referred to in the marriage of convenience, the wife is commodified and she becomes the possession of her husband for while he owns her, she belongs to him. Female submission defies the rules of reason and male supremacy is ultimately based on absurdities. In exchange for certain comforts, Kate must disregard and agree with the follies that Petruchio does and says. Kate must deny herself intellectual freedom, and go against what she knows is correct as Petruchio lays down the rule about what is proper and improper, that which is right and wrong. By the end of the play, Kate learns the ropes of the game and plays it masterfully feigning obedience and submission.
The love union between Petruchio and Kate grows and develops to be one of mature love and mutual tolerance, obedience and fidelity. Kate learns to obey her husband while Petruchio adores and cherishes his wife. Words are the weaponry used at the shrew’s disposal to combat her critics and mockers and which stigmatize her as a shrew; whereas silence inspires much more respect, virtue and desirability in the woman. i.e. women should be seen and not heard. Traditionally, imperiousness, irascibility, high irritability, rejection of male rule, desire to control the male all characterize the married shrew. This concept was a novelty and innovation to the traditional image of the shrew that Shakespeare invents who is first a spinster, then the bride-wife. Kate’s speech at the end of the play confirms her new, assumed worldview and education. She now subscribes to society’s idea of female inferiority and obedience to the husband. Kate indulges her husband’s fantasy making him and his friends think that she has changed her ideas of female assertion as a result she is awarded the dignity and honor of the married woman. Kate chooses her companion and agrees to remain meek and obedient to his biddings.
Works Cited: Kahn, Coppelia. The Taming of the Shrew: Shakespearean Mirror of Marriage. Modern Language Studies. 1975
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