The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew and Dose It Relies on Comedic Devices
In the Taming of the Shrew, men from far-off lands arrive in the town she lives in and searches for her hand in marriage. The catch is that she is not allowed to marry until her older sister (named the Shrew) is married off. Some men search for someone who has a wealthy family and others for love. Some servants use trickery to get at the younger sisters’ heart, while one man has his eyes only on the Shrew for her riches. The play itself is filled with many comedic driving plot points involving love, passion, and disputes between to characters. Like much of Shakespeare’s works there are lots to take in and understand to fully the complex relationships of the characters and their developments. From the start to finish of the Taming of the Shrew uses comedic devices to further push the story along both in plot and character development.
A major tool used in the plot line is the tool of mistaken identity. This is used to change the flow of the story. For example; the servant Tranio disguise himself as the identity of his master Lucentio for the purpose to reach the hart of Bianca named as the younger sister of the Shrew. This smart thinking plan was nearly soiled by Baptista’s growing suspicion of the disguised Tranio’s rechecks and askes for him to prove this question.
As for the type of this play, it is placed under to category of Romantic comedy. The whole story itself runs on the comedic driven plot points that bring each mail character to wild ends to marry to one of the sisters. One example is in Act 3, scene 3 where Bianca (the younger sister) laughs at older sister named Katherine who is the Shrew, for marrying a man named Petruchio. The quote reads:“ That, being mad at herself, she’s madly mated”. Later in scene 4 in Act 4, the man Lucentio is speaking with Bianca of rushed she is about marrying someone so fast without thorough thinking through about marriage and its commitments. The quote: “ I cannot tarry. I knew a wench married in an afternoon as she went to the garden for parsley to stuff a rabbit, and so may you sir”. This shows the stereotype of Romantic comedies, by relying on the interest of the tension between the characters and the comedy of the conflicting personalities.
The last major tool of William Shakespeare’s play is the way the characters communicate with each other. Mainly the wording is the most overemphasized of their communications. The manner and phrasing express the character fully even are such short lines like in the first scene in the second act, where the man Petruchio openly portrays Katherine as the town“ buzz”, in attempts to flatter her. This ends with the retort from Katherine which reads for him to“ Buzz Off !”. The quote reads: first Petruchio “ Should be! Should – buzz!” Katherine: “ Well ta’en, and like a buzzard.”
In the end, any show or play or story falls back the relationships between the characters and their conflicting personalities. However old the play and its ideas are the people of today can easily relate to the situations these young lovers get themselves into especially with the amount of technology and its ability to be anonymous. The comedic time timing and situations give this play a fresh story where the uh-oh moments change and shape the growing characters and their personalities. Using the element of love, hiding identity and comedy, the play has landed itself as a historic chapter in romantic comedies with ease.
Subversive Femininity in the Taming of the Shrew and the Comedy of Errors
The main theme of the current essay involves two of the most known plays of William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew and The Comedy of Errors. These two of Shakespeare’s plays are both comedies, in which women are significantly present as vocal forces both and in the Comedy of Errors and in The Taming of the Shrew. Although women as individual do possess a variety of opinions and many speaking lines in these particular plays, it seems their main reason for existing in the comedy is to talk about and react to men. Also, they do seem to oppose the social norms of feminine models of England, the time which Shakespeare lived. In both occasions’ women seem to have a habit of supplanting the patriarchal state of their everyday lives and at the same time, in a few cases, act as enforcers of the societal/familial norms.
The Taming of the Shrew was written in early 1590. It is the story of a young man from Verona, Petruchio, who marries Padua’s ‘’most notorious shrew’’, Katherine, in order to tame her and get her dowry. The word Shrew was and still, but rarely, is used to describe a woman of violent temper and speech. A young nobleman from Pisa, Lucentio, arrives in Padua to study, along with his servants, Tranio and Biodello. Immediately, he falls in love with Bianca, the younger daughter of a noble of Padua, Batista. Batista, however, does not want to marry Bianca before he first marries his older daughter, Katherine. Although Katherine’s dowry is bigger than Bianca since she is the first, no one wants to marry Katherine because she is an unbelievable shrew through and through. Petruchio, a young man from Verona, who, after his father’s death, is coming to Padua and is looking to marry a lady with a great dowry. He visits his friend, Hortencio, who is one of Bianca’s lovers, and asks if he knows where to find such a bride. Hortencio informs him about Katherine, her big dowry and that she is a big shrew. Petruchio meets with Batista to arrange his marriage with Katherine. He comes to the church dressed like a jester, while throughout the marriage he makes a fool out of himself. This starts the series of the many psychological methods that he will use in order to subdue Katherine to his will. The work reflects the views of the time about how the perfect wife should be.
The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeare’s early plays and it was written in 1594. It’s the shortest among his comedies and the most farcical one, with a major part of the humour coming from puns and a lot of wordplay, also slapstick and a series of mistaken identity occurrences.
It takes place in the ancient Greek city of Ephesus and it tells the story of two sets of identical twins, which were separated at birth by accident. The first set consists of Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse and the second of Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant, Dromio of Ephesus. The beginning of the comedy sparks the visit of Antipholus of Syracuse with Dromio in Ephesus which happens to be the home of their twin brother, respectively. When the friends and the families of the twins respectively are encountered by the Syracusans a variety of shenanigans based on a mistaken identity cases take place. This, in turn, leads to wrongful punishment by beating, an attempt of seduction, one of the twins getting arrested, infidelity, theft and hints of demonic possession. As for the women’s role in the play, which concerns us in the current essay, Adriana, the play’s female character who has the most lines, is a strong woman, but she’s undermined by her husband’s lack of faith in her, which in turn makes her doubt herself as well. The other noticeable women of the play include Luciana, who is the one of the most prominent ones, the Courtesan, the Abbess, and the kitchen maid, Nell. These are significant to a point, but inline Adriana, lack the companionship of a man. Luciana has to learn how to deal with men, the Courtesan and Nell are being underestimated by men and the Abbess had to confine herself in a monastery when she lost her husband. While the women in the play do have their value as independent characters, they also seem relatively incomplete without men to occupy them.
Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare is a controversial play that arouses a debate over the role of Katherine, one could say that she is an anti-feminist protagonist. In this essay however we would focus on her role in this play from a feministic point and analyse the behaviour with which she expressed her freedom and how the society around her provoked it. Although Katherine is considered in the play as a ‘’Shrew’’, one could also refer to her as an intelligent woman who just isn’t afraid or doesn’t mind asserting her views under any given situation.
Her temper is notorious, and she is outstandingly volatile. In Padua, rumour has it that no man can assert control on her and so no one wishes to marry her. Which is very troubling for her father Batista who provides a very generous dowry along with her hand in marriage, but also, he cannot marry his second daughter, Bianca, which is popular and much sought after by the nobles of Padua, without marrying Katherine first. According to Kyle Huang, people use the words ‘’rebellious temper’’ and ‘’shrew’’ in order to describe Katherine, who is not abiding to the current society’s norms, however on the contrary, the obedient Bianca, who conforms to the customs of Padua’s society and people’s gender stereotypes is much more likable and sought after. (Kyle Huang, 2008).
Also A. Yuksel states that ‘’The two sisters Katharina and Bianca stand in binary opposition to each other in that Bianca is the good natured, obedient daughter, who has soon found her match, while Katharina, the shrewish elder sister, rejects the idea of giving in to the ways of the male-dominated world. It is only when she realizes that Petruchio – first her suitor, then her husband – truly cares for her that she agrees to become a proper wife.’’ (Shakespearean Variations of the Female, 2014, page 3).
In this play, our main female character Katherine is subjected to a variety of ‘’rehabilitating’’ methods for her to conform to society’s norms. We ought to refer to some critiques of the methods used on her and how the society in our author’s play viewed.
According to D. Kehler, the play indeed reflects the women’s role and standing in the society that our author grew and lived. The only value these women of the time possessed was evaluated on how much of a ‘’good’’ house wife they were, in other word how obedient they were and their capacities to please other people’s needs. The value they had was mainly through their husbands. In her works Echoes of the Induction in the Taming of the Shrew she supports that some of the daily issues that affected Shakespeare’s female audience had to with arranged betrothal, the total authority that fathers asserted upon their daughters and husbands for their wives vice-versa, the economic dependence women had on the husbands etc could be detected on this play. While people who attempt to analyse this play in the modern day might support that it is just a satirical comedy, they don’t mention the fact that men, not exclusively on stage, wrote this play and assigned the particular roles, they made the rules and had the authority to assign label to the females both in the a societal and on a theatrical context (Kheler, 2986).
Also, as reported by Annabel Patterson, women, in this society, that the author chose to create (based on his own) are viewed as mere stuff, like furniture or merchandise. Specifically, she picks up the words used by C. Sly, the word comonty is replaced by ‘commoditie’ — which can refer to goods, merchandise, or an item of possession. She supports tthat Sly’s mistake, is actually his conclusion in defining Katherine’s marriage to Petruchio. (Patterson, 1994). In a similar manner, C. Kahn in her work, describes the fact that women are being viewed as commodities through the eyes of Kate’s father, Lord Batista. Her father is willing not to marry he much more popular daughter Bianca, until he gets an offer for the shrewish Kate, not for the sake, however, of conforming to tradition, but out of the merchant’s tendency to sell all the good in his warehouse. (C. Kahn, 1997).
A very prominent feature of this play, which also has been subject of many critics was the way Petruchio treated Katherine, in order to tame her and turn her into the obedient wife that is shown to be in the conclusion of Shakespeare’s work. Petruchio treated Kate with tyrannical methods.
According to Lise Pederson in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew VS. Shaw’s Pygmalion, Petruchio adopts the role of an abusing bully in his relationship with Katherine, which is also the reason why he succeeded in ‘’taming’’ her, in turning her from a shrew to the obedient well-tempered wife that he envisioned her to be. Not only does he irritate her and goes against her every wish, but he also subjects here to mental anguish. Firstly in the humiliation that he brings upon her with his ridiculous attire and behaviour at their wedding, then with causing her horse to dump her into the mud (which can be considered physical abuse), also he torments here with preventing her from sleeping night after night and also starving her into submission (Pederson, 1977).
Joseph Candido in his work The Starving of the Shrew provided an interpretation for the scene were Petruchio, firstly, denies his wife of food. Specifically, ‘’A common response to Petruchio’s harsh treatment of Katherina at their first meal together is to see his behaviour as little more than an elemental assertion of male dominance, aptly located in a sort of Darwinian great house where the stronger animal always prevails. to Brian Morris, who by no means takes so extreme a view of the matter as this, nonetheless clearly outlines the metaphorical structure on which such interpretations are based. He points out that the play evolves from two primal images, of the shrew and the hawk, and that these are “the basic raw material from which story, character and poetic structure are formed. This is no easy statement in which to locate the seeds of romantic comedy; yet a good deal of the Petruchio-bashing that characterizes so much of the criticism of the play fails to take into account one important aspect of the tamer’s abusive program for ensuring marital harmony-the fact that he subjects himself to exactly the same physical deprivations he inflicts upon his wife. I2 Jan Harold Brunvald, who effectively traces the origin of Shakespeare’s taming plot to oral tradition, notes that in narrative folk tales on the taming of shrewish wives the husband customarily asserts his dominance by starving his wife while dining heartily himself.’’ (Joseph Candido, 1990, The Starving of the Shrew, pages 10-11)
When William Shakespeare makes a point, he seldom makes it in a straightforward manner. In consonance with Sheri Thorne (2004). Shakespeare does not support the tyrannical treatment of women, but nor does he walk through the streets of London campaigning for equal opportunities for the sexes. Instead, he chose to write a comedy with the title ‘’The Taming of the Shrew’’ and weaponize his sense of humour in order to gain the attention of his audience.
Shakespeare created the character of Petruchio, the man who became interested in Katherines mainly for her large dowry, as to give us an example of the patriarchal husband and Katherina as the noisy, irritating shrewish wife. By focusing to the inordinate nature of both Petruchio’s extreme, torture like, methods of taming and Katherine’s quarrelsome temperament, he coaxes the audience into reconsidering its ideas about the treatment of women in the current era. Skilfully, Shakespeare uses his satire in order to notify society of its flaws and uses comedy in order to show the positive qualities of a respectful and affectionate relationship over a dominated one. (Sheri Throne, 2004).
Although the word ‘’feminism’’ didn’t exist until the 1890’s and gender equality was not a common topic of conversation (Janet Price, 1999.). One, due to the earlier statement as per Shakespeare’s intentions for the play, can consider him as a feminist, because it does actually correlate with the intentions of the feminist theory the way it is expressed today. Which is a range of ideologies and social movements that aim in establishing socioeconomic equality of the sexes. (Hawksworth, 2006).
Comedy of Errors
Another one of Shakespeare’s works, in which we can say a lot about the way he portrays he women characters, is the Comedy of Errors. It was written in 1594 and is one can say that largely deals with the concept of identity coming from the farcical mistaken identities of twins Antipholus and Dromio and also from the roles of the women that surround them. The key women in the play, which are Adriana, Luciana and Emilia, it is safe to assume that they have been conditioned to draw their sense of self and their value in the play, all from the men that surround them. However, the most prominent woman role among them, Andriana, seems to differentiate from the rest of them. She seeks to challenge her place in marriage though continuous and deliberate questioning of the power disparities and the place of adultery in marriage. She is insecure about the effects the passing years have one her physical appearance and she spends much of the play in continued frustration and questioning her role as a wife, because she fears that her husband might have begun to seek the comfort of other women. The other female characters of the play, for the most part, do not share her shrewish like characteristics and they openly accept their status of obedience to their men.
An important analysis about the differences of Andrianna and her sister Lucianna is stated in Women in Shakespeare’s Comedies by V. Korolovych et. al ‘’ In this play, we can clearly observe that the identity of the woman is fringed upon that of her husband, in fact the woman was seen as an extension of the man. Women were objects of male desire and dependent on that desire for their status, livelihood and even their lives. They accepted their husband as teacher and master. And this can be represented by several female characters in Shakespeare’s plays…. Adriana’s marriage is not happy, though she undoubtly loves her husband even when she believes him to be unfaithful. She thinks that it is unhappiness because her love is so possessive that she is torn apart by his absences. When Antipholus of Ephesus spends a good deal of time with her Courtesan, Adriana feels that she has lost her attractiveness to him. This character has an important role in the comedy, because she enters in the game of errors. In fact, she mistakes Antipholus of Syracuse for her husband and drags him home for dinner, leaving Dromio of Syracuse to stand guard at the door and admit no one. Adriana is the anti-feminist; her life is wrapped around her husband and her role as wife. She appears to be an overprotective, annoying, shrewish wife. Luciana’s sense of identity within marriage, in her way, contrast with Adriana’s. She believes that men are naturally lords over their wives, and wants to learn to obey before she learns to love ‘Ere I learn love, I’ll practise to obey’. At the end, she pairs up with Antipholus of Syracuse. He offers to take a submissive role in the relationship, he wants her to teach him how to think and speak.’’ (V. Korolovych, Women in Shakespeare’s Comedies, 2006, page 5).
A simpler comparison of the two is given by A. Yuksel (2014), where he states that when Shakespeare wrote the comedy of errors in 1594 he borrowed the plot from Plautus’s The Manaechmi Twins and he replaced the quarrelsome and bad-tempered wife of the original played by the mentioned author with two other females. Firtsly, Andriana who is a married woman that demands the love and attention of her husband and, secondly, Lucianna, who while blaming her sister for not acting like a proper wife should, is more obedient and ends up with a happy and romantic marriage.
The point in this part of the essay, is that in this particular play out author portrays one woman with a bad-tempered attitude who doesn’t seem to find much happened while the story plays out, and the other one, that while obedient and faithful to the societal norms of the time finds somewhat of a happy ending. It is important in order to justify their roles to give a few examples of their dialogues inside the comedy and provide an interpretation. ADRIANA
Why should their liberty than ours be more?
Because their business still lies out o’ door. (2.1.10-11)
Early on the play, we see that Lucianna accepts that a womans place it at her home, however Andrianna doesn’t really go along with that. She believes that wives should have as much freedom as their husbands. We can conclude from here that Lucianna is a lot more submissive in accepting the social norms and the feminine duties’ of the current society, in comparison to Andriana.
Why, headstrong liberty is lashed with woe.
There’s nothing situate under heaven’s eye
But hath his bound, in earth, in sea, in sky.
The beasts, the fishes, and the wingèd fowls
Are their males’ subjects, and at their controls.
Man, more divine, the master of all these,
Lord of the wide world and wild wat’ry seas,
Endued with intellectual sense and souls,
Of more preeminence than fish and fowls,
Are masters to their females, and their lords.
Then let your will attend on their accords. (2.1.15-25)
This part of the play suggest that Lucianna willingly subjugates the women under men in a made ‘’hierarchy of importance’’ in the society and seems to have rationalized that this is very similar to the chain of being in the animal kingdom. She indeed proves that she defines women as subjects of to men’s whims, but she does not give us her opinion whether this is something fair or not. We do not know if she has considered her situation with deeper thinking, or merely accepted the reality that laid before her.
Ay, ay, Antipholus, look strange and frown.
Some other mistress hath thy sweet aspects.
I am not Adriana, nor thy wife.
The time was once when thou unurged wouldst vow
That never words were music to thine ear,
That never object pleasing in thine eye,
That never touch well welcome to thy hand,
That never meat sweet-savored in thy taste,
Unless I spake, or looked, or touched, or carved to thee. (2.2.120-129)
This is a part that is contrasting what we have said up until that point about Andriana. In light of a recent conversation they had about men being their own masters we can conclude from this particular piece that Andriana maybe actually enjoy being driven solely by her husbands preferences. When, in the beginning, she criticizes his it is not because of faithless net or a feeling of injustice but because of a childish jealously as she’s not receiving Antipholus undivided attention. It’s not only as E. Antipholus’s wife that she expects this attention, but because that’s how she thinks a beloved woman is treated. (Marriage seems subordinate to the special role she crafted for herself as a woman in the relationship with E. Antipholus)
Unfortunately, in the Comedy of Errors we did not possess the abundancy of references and the variety of critiques from different perspectives that were maybe on The Taming of the Shrew. We can draw however our own conclusion about the feministic context that surrounds the play. Basically, as one could guess there are two opposites here, very common to Katherine and Bianca in the previous analysis, in this one we have Andriana and Lucianna. Specifically, Andriana embodies some of the qualities and principles that the modern feminism possesses as she is indeed frustrated with the fact that her husband in the current societal norms enjoys more freedom than her and she believes that she should have the same rights, she does is not afraid to speak her mind and she strives the prove her points constantly even if this behaviours labels her as quarrelsome (Beasly, 1999). Lucianna, on the other hand who the one who believes that women’s fates are indeed defined by men’s whims and preferences is also the one, who we can say embodies the antifeminist context of the play. She has solely accepted the reality that she has met with not much of a fight, and while the story progresses she talks about he principles to Andriana and both directly and indirectly advises her to change her behaviour, in order to suit more that one of a ‘’good wife’’ (Clatterbaugh, 2004).
In both plays there seem to be a contradiction between female model and another one. In Taming of The Shrew Katherines displays the rebellious behaviour which contradicts her sisters, Bianca’s. And vice-versa in the Comedy of Errors, with Andriana and Lucianna. The duality can also be interpreted by the social climate which conducted England at the time, as stated by A. Yuksel ‘’At this point we should keep in mind the contradiction that while in Shakespeare’s time, the generally accepted model for the ideal woman was that of the loving and obedient wife, the good mother and house manager, England was on its way towards becoming the leading country in Europe under the rule of Queen Elizabeth, a mighty female with a powerful mind. This double standard concerning the definition of women did not seem to disturb the male-dominated world, however, so long as the wives were kept where they ought to be’’ (Shakespearean Variations of the Female, 2014, page 30).
Unequal Treatment of Women in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the Taming of the Shrew
During the 17th century or otherwise known as the Elizabethan time period, women were often mistreated. They didn’t have many rights and they would often be beaten even if they did not do anything wrong. It should be no surprise that in shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, that there are many instances of this. During the play, it shows how women were married off without their consent, not once, but twice. Additionally, abuse was seen throughout the play, as seen when Petruchio is taming Katherina by starving her and depriving her of sleep. In the play it is proven multiple times that women are not treated equally as they are verbally abused, their opinions are not taken into consideration, and they are treated like property to their husbands.
It is seen that in the play, women are treated poorly and one of the methods of this is the verbal abuse women need to put up with. Beginning all the way from the induction, it is seen that Christopher Sly tells the hostess of a bar to “[G]o to thy cold bed and warm thee” (Ind.1.7-8). Christopher is saying such an insult to the hostess is due to the fact that he has had too many drinks and some glassware which he broke which he is not willing to pay for. As seen from Sly’s actions, he is clearly disrespectful to women, as were many other men at the time. Another example of a women being verbally abused is when the men in Act 1 Scene 1 of the Taming of the Shrew were insulting Katherina when Baptista rejects their requests to marry Bianca until someone were to marry Katherina. Many insults were thrown at Katherina in the scene, with Gremio going as far as calling her a “fiend of hell” (1.1.88). Although it is arguable that Katherina was deserving of the title of a devil, the reason as to why Katherina was so “shrewish” was due to other men also insulting her. In the final scene, Katherina’s own father insults her when asked on his opinion on which woman would be the most obedient. When Baptista describes Katherina compared to the other competing women, he says to Petruchio that he has the “veriest shrew of all” (5.2.64). From this, it is evident that women were insulted many times throughout the play.
In many scenes, it is displayed that when some sort of important decision or almost any decision is being made, women are usually not involved and don’t have their opinions taken into consideration. The first example of this, is how the women are never explicitly asked for their opinion except for one time when Bianca is asked by her sister. In the beginning of Act 2 Scene 1, the scene begins with Bianca with her hands tied while her sister interrogates her. She asks “Of all thy suitors here I charge thee tell Whom thou lov’st best” (2.1.8-9). In this small quarrel, Katherina sees through her sister Bianca and she questions her because she feels that it’s not fair that her sister who seems good on the outside is treated better than her. Soon after this incident, Katherina is married off to Petruchio in an instance with Baptista instantly approving of the marriage with the line “God send you joy, Petruchio! ‘tis a math” (2.1.311). Baptista just, without thought approves the marriage in between his daughter and a man he met a few minutes ago, without Katherina able to say anything to stop this from happening. You can see that Baptista, without consideration for his daughter’s opinion, determined who she would marry without even thinking about what Katherina thought. Finally, after marrying Katherina off, Baptista now feels he can start to “auction” Bianca as her older sister is now out of the equation. Baptista says that whoever could provide the biggest dower for Bianca “[s]hall have my Bianca’s love” (2.1.336). Bianca doesn’t appear anywhere in the scene where they are discussing who gets to marry her, which clearly means that she can’t have her say on the issue. On top of this, Baptista is deciding who gets to marry Bianca by checking who has the most money as both sides are paying as much as they can, or in Tranio’s case, as much as he pretends he has. From the provided evidence, it is clear that women aren’t having their opinions heard.
Throughout the play, it is seen that women are treated as property to their husbands. This should not come as a surprise as the time period of when the Taming of the Shrew was written had many examples of this. When Petruchio was deciding to marry Katherina, he had to ask Baptista “[w]hat dowry shall I have with her to wife (2.1.119)?” Petruchio is asking about what he is getting for marrying Katherina, treating her as something of monetary value. In the same scene, Bianca gets married off when Baptista says that the only condition is that the man marrying her “can assure my daughter greatest dower” (2.1.335). Again, it is seen that Baptista is treating one of his daughters as something worth money. Finally, Petruchio in a later scene, after marrying Katherina said that “[s]he is my goods… my anything” (3.2.222-225). Instead of describing Katherina as a wife or someone he loves, Petruchio compares her on the same level as his possessions such as his mule. From this, it is made clear that many men treat women on a lower level than them or think of them as just items they own.
From the Taming of the Shrew, it is clear that women in the play would be treated poorly and unequally as seen by the verbal abuse, their opinions ignored, and how they are treated as property. Women were often treated unequally compared to men during the Elizabethan time period and it was common for many of the things in the play to happen. Ignoring this, the women at the end of the play were disobedient, but possibly also due to society portrayed in the play. In modern society, the world is striving to be a more equal place, with new rights given to women such as voting rights.
Characters’ Unnaturalness in William Shakespeare’s Plays Macbeth and the Taming of the Shrew
In what way are Shakespeare’s Characters Unnatural?
Throughout Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and “The Taming of the Shrew” there is a lot of subtle emphasis put on the characters positions in society and the great chain of being- an idea from around Shakespeare’s time that everything in existence had a place in a hierarchical structure, all the way from God, angels, and monarchy down to the dirt and sand. Another key concept from Shakespeare’s time is the divine right of kings, meaning no monarch is subject to earthly authority, and their right to rule comes directly from God.
Lady Macbeth is an unnatural character in that when we first see her, she makes an unhesitating decision to murder the king- the most unnatural treasonous act possible- and calls upon evil forces to give her the strength to do so: “Of direst cruelty, make thick my blood”, “Stop up th’access and passage to remorse”. She is also a woman with power and control over her husband, at a time when it was thought that women should be mild, respectful, submissive, and should look after the house and family. She uses this control to gain more power for herself- despite the Macbeths already being fairly high-up in society, she sees an opportunity for supremacy and persuades Macbeth to take it, and ridicules him as a coward when he attempts to resist her demands: “Was the hope drunk”, “to look so green and pale”, “Art thou afeard”. However, during and after the murder, we start to see a decline in her power, much like that of Macbeth’s. “Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done’t” shows that she is too weak to murder someone herself despite having persuaded her husband too and called upon evil spirits to help her, and later on in the play she starts to sleepwalk, wash her hands incessantly and eventually kills herself.
The audience at the time would have been bewildered at the character of Lady Macbeth, as she is everything they thought a woman- and a normal person- shouldn’t be, as not only did she control her husband, she persuaded him to commit regicide, called him a coward at a time when bravery and honour were two of the most important traits a man could have, but also killed herself- made worse by the fact that at the time she did so she was Queen, making it yet another act of treason.
A modern audience is likely to react a lot differently to Lady Macbeth, at first seeing a strong female character who is possibly a little crazy, and with her later remarks that hint to her having had a child, which we don’t see in the play- implying the child died- the audience may think that she suffers from mental issues such as depression as a result, which may somewhat explain her actions. The play gives a modern audience a look into the decline of the psyches of two people after they commit murder as a result of ambition and pride.
Shakespeare’s message- at a time where he would have been funded by King James- a witch fearing man who had replaced Queen Elizabeth as monarch, was likely that no good can come of a woman being in control- an attempt to side with James so that he may continue to have his work funded.
Macbeth himself starts off as a very normal, natural seeming nobleman, however he suffers from a similar decline as Lady Macbeth. The first times we see him he is described very favourably- “For brave Macbeth”, and “O worthiest cousin” show that he is loved and thought of as a good and honourable man. He even refuses to murder Duncan when Lady Macbeth wants him too- however she convinces him, and this is where his character starts to be seen as unnatural. Before the murder, he says “wicked dreams abuse the curtained sleep” – he is having nightmares about his decision to commit treason, so he knows his decision is wrong. After the murder he says “I could not say ‘Amen’” which implies that God has left his side- since he is doing this to become King this shows that he does not have the divine right. However it is not until later in the play that he loses all goodness, as for most of it he feels guilty- “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood”. The reference to Neptune, a Roman God, could be made since he has since lost his own God. Later in the play we see the point at which he has lost all hope and desire to live- he reacts unemotionally to the suicide of his wife “She should have died hereafter”, and makes a speech in which he says that life is worth nothing “all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death”- both things that seem extremely unnatural.
The audience at the time would have started off admiring Macbeth, since he seems like the perfect example of a nobleman. They would however, have been horrified at his treason but still felt pity for him after his fall from grace. A modern audience’s reaction would probably be quite similar.
Shakespeare’s message is that treason does not pay- that King’s have a divine right. As with Macbeth, he wants to support James and make him feel safe on his throne.
Exploring Gender Roles in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the Taming of the Shrew
Exploring the gender roles in Macbeth and The Taming of The Shrew
Shakespeare uses gender roles in Macbeth and The Taming of The Shrew both as a commentary on society in his time and as a way of flattering King James I, the monarch at the time both of these plays were released.
At the time these plays were published, in the 16th and 17th century, society had a very different view on women and their roles alongside men compared to modern times- they were thought to be only useful for childbearing and housekeeping, and that their nature should be one of timidity and mildness. In 1531, Sir Thomas Elyot said: “A man in his natural perfection is fierce, hardy, strong in opinion” and “The good nature of a woman is to be mild timorous, tractable, benign”. Both Macbeth and The Taming of The Shrew feature male characters who fit the description of what a man in Shakespearean times should be, and also include female main characters who break the mould: be it Lady Macbeth, an independent and strong character who wants respect and power by any means (which, ultimately, becomes her downfall), or Katherina, who refuses to be tame and gentle, until she can take advantage of it for her own gain.
One interpretation of Shakespeare’s use of gender roles in Macbeth and The Taming of The Shrew is that Shakespeare was a feminist- or at least interested in gender equality. By creating powerful main female characters with behaviour and mannerisms similar to that of the ‘ideal man’ he is saying that men and women should be equal- in Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is a strong, wilful and decisive character; she gets things done far more efficiently and with much more determination than her husband, who is seen as brave and honourable: “O worthiest cousin”, “brave Macbeth”, the semantic field of honour and courage used to describe Macbeth shows how he is a heroic character and that the other characters respect him. Some literary critics agree: in 1904, A C Bradley said “Lady Macbeth is the most commanding and perhaps the most awe-inspiring figure that Shakespeare drew”. In the play she is shown to have vast ambition and willpower- far more than her husband. She asks spirits (although the speech could be seen simply as a way of preparing herself) to “unsex me here”, “fill me (…) of direst cruelty”, and “Stop up th’access and passage to remorse”. The fact that she is asking spirits or evil forces to help her reinforce the idea that she is an unnatural character by the standards of Shakespearean times. Whether or not she does gain supernatural aid, it is clear that she is much more willing than Macbeth to seize power when the opportunity arises. Similarly, Katherina is also a dominant female character- she answers to no one unless she is treated equally to men. Some critics however, claim that Macbeth is a play about “the victory of masculine over feminine, with there being at the plays’ end a ‘totally masculine world,’ Lady Macbeth dead and the witches gone.”
In the Rupert Goold version of Macbeth, set in the time of the Cold War, we see an older Macbeth, who is considered noble and heroic by his peers, and a (relative to Macbeth’s age) younger Lady Macbeth, who holds a lot of sway over his actions- they are both equals but since Lady Macbeth is but a housewife she wants to gain the power and respect that she believes she and her husband deserve- they are equally ambitious in this way and they both rise and fall in similar ways; portraying them as equals as a couple, but individually Macbeth is praised by his peers at the start and feared by them at the end while Lady Macbeth doesn’t get the same recognition.
Geoffrey Wright’s adaptation of Macbeth, set in modern Melbourne, is very different as all the supernatural elements have been replaced: the witches are now teenage girls, and the visions caused by drugs. Macbeth is portrayed as opportunistic, lustful and shameless (possibly an attitude caused by his drug use), and at the start it is made clear that Lady Macbeth is a little off because the couple lost a child. In this adaptation they are fairly equal, there is a lot of them working together however the version doesn’t focus on their relationship as much as others- it also changes the story, as Macbeth is no longer a tragic hero, as he is a murderous drug lord- because of this the audience no longer pities him and feels bad for his downfall.
In BBC’s ShakespeaRetold version, directed by Mark Brozel, Macbeth is an overworked chef working in an expensive restaurant, who feels like he deserves more from his boss- Lady Macbeth agrees and pushes Macbeth to murder him. Similarly to Geoffrey Wright’s version, it is made clear that they lost a child in the past. The couple are portrayed as equals as throughout the adaptation they work together, with Lady Macbeth covering for Macbeth’s mistakes sometimes. This version modernizes (sort of) the story while keeping the story and the most important aspects of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth the same.
In The Taming of The Shrew, gender equality also comes into play a lot. Katherina is a strong, aggressive character, yet when she finally works together with Petruchio they both benefit greatly; Shakespeare could be saying that society’s view towards women is wrong- that they are equal to men, and instead of one having the advantage over the other, cooperation is needed; the same is also true for Macbeth- Lady Macbeth and her husband work together to achieve their goals (although their goals are a little more sinister). This is further emphasised by all the similarities Petruchio and Kate have- despite seemingly hating each other at first, it doesn’t take long to realise that their personalities are one and the same: they both answer to no one, they both seem to dislike everyone else, they both come from rich backgrounds, they both want to find someone who will be a challenge to them, and they are both quick-witted, as shown by their verbal jousting the first time they meet:
“I am too young for you.”
“Yet you are withered.”
“’Tis with cares.”
“I care not.”
They are both playfully insulting each other- sniffing each other out. This is when they both first realise that they are similar, they continue to insult each other in much the same way good friends do. Many critics agree that this is a feminist play: Michael Bogdanov in 1988 said “I believe Shakespeare was a feminist”, and many deny that it is a sexist play: “(The play) is not a knockabout farce of wife-battering but the cunning adaptation of a folk-motif to show the forging of a partnership between equals” – Germaine Greer, 1970. Some feminist critics claim that the play is very sexist, saying “The last scene is altogether disgusting to modern sensibility. No man with any decency of feeling can sit it out in the company of a woman without feeling extremely ashamed.” This refers to the final scene in which Katherina, after declining to obey her father or Petruchio throughout the play, delivers a speech about the importance of compliance towards ones husband: “dart not scornful glances from those eyes to wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor.” Laurie E. Maguire referred to Katherina as “the most obvious Shakespearean example of an abused woman”, saying that there is no way that Katherina wants to obey Petruchio, but that she knows now that she has no choice but to do so.
Franco Zefirelli’s version of the play is very close to the original in that the script is only a little shortened and updated. Throughout the first half play it is made clear that they are fairly equal through their even arguments and violence, after this however, when they are married, Petruchio starts to take control by taking away food, sleep and clothing from Kate, and towards the very end, it appears that she has completely submitted to him, after she gives a speech about obeying your husband- however while he is not looking she leaves the room- something which is not included in the original script- and which causes his peers to laugh at him. In the end, they are portrayed as being fairly equal.
In 10 Things I Hate About You, both Kat and Patrick are portrayed as social outcasts who don’t like to answer to others, and throughout the play they quickly realise how similar they are. This is quite a modern interpretation and so both characters are very even, in fact, (in regards to the Kat and Patrick) gender roles are not really something that is focussed on.
David Richards’ ShakespeaRetold version presents Kate and Petruchio as very uneven at a surface level as Petruchio is practically twice the size of Kate- but quite soon it becomes clear that on a deeper level they are very evenly well matched to the extent that they almost have their own ‘secret’ communication. In the end, they are portrayed as a happy couple. The equality of genders comes into question a lot in this version but it is very clear that they are equal, especially towards the end.
Another interpretation of the meaning of the use of gender roles in Shakespeare’s plays is that he portrays women as weak and ruining everything to impress the King at the time, James I- who replaced a woman as monarch and had a fear of witches. We see this in Macbeth as it is Lady Macbeth’s idea to murder the King, and the whole plan falls apart. Perhaps this is Shakespeare saying that women cannot properly handle positions of power, and that males should handle it- something further emphasised by the fact that at the beginning of the play during the battle, (without Lady Macbeth) Macbeth is successful in war and heralded as a hero- yet once Lady Macbeth enters the fray things start to fall apart.
This interpretation can also be applied to The Taming of The Shrew in that Kate is out of control and disliked by everyone until Petruchio comes along and ‘tames’ her- making her into the ideal 16th/17th century woman.
However this analysis can be turned on its head, in that it may be possible that Shakespeare used gender roles as a commentary on what he thought was wrong with society at the time: in Macbeth he could be using Lady Macbeth (by making the audience sympathise with her) to say that he believes women should be allowed to have power and property, rather than being simply property of their husbands. The same can be applied to The Taming of The Shrew in that Kate is controlled by males (her father) her whole life and rebels against him but when Petruchio comes along she feels as though she is his equal rather than controlled by him.
In conclusion the use of gender roles in Shakespeare’s plays could be interpreted to have a number of different meanings- he may have had an agenda and had one or many meanings behind his use of gender roles in mind, or maybe even none. It is likely however, that he wanted to impress and butter up King James I as without his support, he would not get paid. However alongside this, he could have been subtly mocking James’ and society’s opinions towards gender roles.
Petruchio’s Sin Relation to Dante’s Inferno
Tamed in the Inferno
In William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Katherine is believed to be the shrew within the play. Kate behaves aggressively to all and mocks other characters no matter what they say or how nicely they treat her. However, there is another character with flaws just as bad as Kate’s—Petruchio. He is a wealthy man that is looking for a wife, however, he only desires a wife for a large dowry. His greed comes before love and Petruchio jumps at the chance to woo Kate, who is known for her wealthy family. He is warned about her hot temper but decides that her wealth is worth the chance of a lifetime of misery married to a shrew. Even though Petruchio states he falls in love with Kate later on, his first perspective of her is just her money. This portrays shamelessness, pride, and greed. He also marries her in attempts to tame her, which is potentially an act of deception. His flaws and faults that will be assessed by “The Golden Mean” then henceforth placed into a circle of hell according to Dante’s Inferno.
Using Aristotle’s “The Golden Mean” from Nicomachean Ethics, one can discern the character of an individual. This is used to see what exactly a person’s character consists of and what state it is in. Many are considered to be virtuous because of their internal goodness, but others have an implication of badness among them such as envy or spite. “…the virtue of man also will be the state of character which makes a man good and which makes him do his own work well,” (Aristotle, 1220). In Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio is first introduced as a greedy man who is simply trying to marry for money. Aristotle states, “…in these actions people exceed and fall short in contrary ways; the prodigal exceeds in spending and falls short in taking, while the mean man exceeds in taking and falls short in spending,” (1222). There is a strong emphasis on exceeding one’s limits or falling short. These are the two ways that a person can lose their virtue. Petruchio exceeds these limits by action on his desires to have copious amounts of wealth, more than he already owns.
Petruchio is also described as prideful by Shakespeare. “For it is possible to desire honor as one ought, and more than one ought, and less, and the man who exceeds in his desires is called ambitious, the man who falls short unambitious, while the intermediate person has no name” (Aristotle, 1222). Aristotle describes how people are either too prideful which would be unvirtuous, have just the correct amount of pride which is virtuous, or have no pride at all which would be unvirtuous. Petruchio considers himself above others and worthy of winning Kate over as a bride. He is also prideful enough to marry simply for money. His pride is evident in the way he speaks to and treats fellow characters, even those he should regard with great respect. Petruchio considers himself above many because of his father’s inheritance and namesake. Nevertheless, there is no circle in hell for just the prideful. Other sins define a person more thoroughly than just pride. Petruchio would be placed in a circle based upon his greed or deception instead.
In The Divine Comedy, Dante travels through three worlds—inferno, purgatorio, and paradiso. The inferno is Dante’s impression of hell and sinners or nonbelievers are placed in circles according to their defining sins. Shakespeare’s characters all have some sort of flaws and Petruchio has been defined as greedy and prideful. Petruchio would be placed into the fourth circle of Dante’s Inferno based off of his greed. This circle is created for the sinners who are either avarice or spend their money thoughtlessly. Dante describes this circle in canto seven what these sinners are forced to do. “So here the folk must dance their roundelay. Here saw I people, more than elsewhere, many, On one side and the other, with great howls, Rolling weights forward by main force of chest. They clashed together, and then at that point, Each one turned backward, rolling retrograde, Crying, “Why keepest?” and, “Why squanderest thou?” (VII,24-30). Dante describes the toil these sinners must face, with a punishment to fit the sin. They will constantly walk in circles and never go anywhere since their time on earth was spent either trying to make as much money as possible or spend everything they received. Shakespeare creates a character in his play using a flaw of greediness. Within the first act Petruchio is already labeled as greedy. Shakespeare writes:
Petruchio: Signior Hortensio, ’twixt such friends as we
Few words suffice. And therefore, if thou know
One rich enough to be Petruchio’s wife,
As wealth is burden of my wooing dance,
Be she as foul as was Florentius’ love,
As old as Sibyl and as curst and shrewd
As Socrates’ Xanthippe, or a worse,
She moves me not, or not removes at least
Affection’s edge in me, were she as rough
As are the swelling Adriatic seas.
I come to wive it wealthily in Padua;
If wealthily, then happily in Padua (I,ii,51-62).
This shows how Petruchio is simply marrying Kate for her wealth. He does later state that she wins his heart, but he does not seem to accept her for who she is. Instead, Petruchio tries to change Kate’s behavior by taming her. This could also be potentially viewed as a form of deception.
One could argue that Petruchio deceives Katherine before they are married by convincing her agree to a wedding. He shows that he cares enough to deal with her rough attitudes and she obliges. However, Petruchio keeps his real plan a secret. For example, when Baptista, Kate’s father, and Petruchio talk about his potential marriage, Baptista mentions that the most important thing is winning Kate’s love. Petruchio responds like this, “Why, that is nothing. For I tell you, father, / I am as peremptory as she proud-minded” (Shakespeare, II,i,123-124). He responds as if it does not matter how Kate feels and all that matters is the dowry he mentioned in the lines beforehand. This deception is based off of greed, but the actions are still taken to manipulate Katherine. Petruchio is upfront about his intentions to marry and tame her as described in this passage, “For I am he am born to tame you, Kate, / And bring you from a wild Kate to a Kate / Conformable as other household Kates,” (Shakespeare, II,i,266-268). Even though he says he will tame her, Petruchio claims these actions are based on love and his deep affection for her. In the previous acts Petruchio has already been illustrated as a greedy young man intending on marrying for money. This is still a character trait even as he goes into his marriage. If Petruchio was marrying Kate for her own person instead of wealth, he would not have wanted to tame her outright and make her into another person. He views her personality as not good enough for a wife and decides to take matters into his own hands and essentially create his own wife. Petruchio hides this well by claiming his love for Katherine.
Eventually Petruchio gives the audience a clear vision of what exactly he had been trying to accomplish. Here Shakespeare writes,
Thus have I politicly begun my reign,
And ’tis my hope to end successfully. . .
Ay, and amid this hurly I intend
That all is done in reverend care of her.
And, in conclusion, she shall watch all night,
And if she chance to nod I’ll rail and brawl,
And with the clamor keep her still awake.
This is a way to kill a wife with kindness,
And thus I’ll curb her mad and headstrong humor. (IV,i,124-145)
Petruchio reveals that he has been purposefully starving his wife and keeping Kate from sleeping so that she will bend to his will whenever he wishes in the future. He also treats her nicely in person, stating that all has to be perfect for the woman he loves. Katherine eventually questions his love and starts to think he is making her suffer for different reasons. She is right about the latter—Petruchio already had stated how he is taming her for his own benefit. He is acting in a form of deceit to his wife. Instead of loving Katherine and accepting her as she is in hopes she will change her shrewish nature, he tries to change her outright and does not give her a chance to make these personality changes herself.
This would be the worst of the sins Petruchio commits, placing him in the eighth circle in Dante’s Inferno. This circle, very close to the center of hell where Satan resides, is reserved for those who are involved with fraudulent behavior. Within the circle are certain divisions where the fraudulent are split into groups depending on the subject of their fraud. For example, there are those who seduce others, flatterers, sorcerers, and false prophets. Petruchio is deceiving his wife into believing he truly loves her in return for a large sum of money. He could be placed into the seventh Bolgia for thieves. “So low am I put down because I robbed, The sacristy of the fair ornaments,” (Dante, XXIV, 115-116). As Dante and Virgil, his escort, delve deeper into hell, their trip becomes more and more treacherous. These deep circles of the inferno are surrounded by horrible conditions and punishments for the sinners as well as danger for Dante. There are also even lower Bolgias that Petruchio could be placed in. He could also be considered a counterfeit and placed into the tenth Bolgia for even worse fraudulent actions, such as deceiving his wife whom he claims to love. This deception is obviously worse than mere greed, but his actions of fraud do not ultimately make Petruchio who he is. Shakespeare created this character as a man who is focused on gaining wealth for his own benefits, no matter the cost. Petruchio does commit unforgivable sins, but his greed is what stands out the most.
If Shakespeare’s Petruchio were to stand before King Minos in Dante’s Inferno, King Minos would decide to place Petruchio in the fourth circle of hell because of his defining sin of greed. This love of money is what drives Petruchio to marry Kate and then deceive her into thinking he truly loved her. This sin truly encompasses his life and affects his decisions throughout Taming of the Shrew. Although fraud is a more serious crime according to Dante, greed is what actually defines him. Therefore, Petruchio would be forced to spend his eternity in the fourth circle of hell.
Establishment of the Comedy Genre Through the Prism of Shakespeare’s the Taming of the Shrew
Explore the ways in which the conventions of the comedy genre are established in the first two acts of The Taming of the Shrew
While it may make contemporary audiences uneasy, The Taming of the Shrew complies with all the main conventions of a Shakespearean comedy. These are established early on in the first acts of the play, beginning with a setting of the scene and the characters to dictate the traditional plot of a resolution of “loose ends”. The introduction of Lucentio, Bianca, Petruchio and Kate present the young lovers and their need to unite in order to conclude the play (despite the latter being a uniquely un-romantic relationship). Alongside this, Shakespeare applies a number of different types of humour – ranging from verbal to situational – which ensures it is deeply set in this genre. Coupled with hints of the Italian Commedia dell’ arte tradition and stock characters, there is no doubt that this play is a comedy in the Elizabethan sense, yet still by its very nature it continues to be the subject of severe questioning and widespread criticism.
For Shakespeare, romantic comedy dictates that young lovers must begin apart, distanced and prevented unison by other forces, but by the end of the play they overcome this; it is often symbolised by a marriage. Matrimony inferred a sense of completion and harmony, the physical manifestation of a comedy’s required “happy ending”. In his first act, Shakespeare presents the characters which will conclude the play with their union, thus establishing this crucial convention. Lucentio, through his hyperbole, is identified as one of these young lovers upon sight of the beautiful Bianca – ‘I burn! I pine, I perish’. In comedies it was usually the case that they were kept apart by their parents or other such seniors, creating an opposition between the young and old. Here both the ‘pantaloon’ Gremio and her father Baptista (with his conditions) provide the barrier. This plot is intertwined with another, arguably more central; Petruchio’s quest for Kate, ‘as wealth is burden of [his] wooing dance’. This relationship, ‘altogether disgusting to modern sensibility’ , is the main reason this play is questioned as a comedy at all.
This is the matter which divides many critics. Seen by some as the sadistic and ‘inhuman’ destruction of a fiery woman, to an Elizabethan audience this would have been viewed as a disrespectful ‘Shrew’ taught her proper place in the Great Chain of Being (albeit through unusual methods). While these techniques may even have caused some members of an Elizabethan audience to become uneasy, the final submission of Kate which is foreshadowed by Petruchio’s determined confidence (‘I will board her’), denotes a happy ending. This is because of the social conventions of Shakespeare’s time; a woman was expected to be humble, quiet and obedient, ranked beneath her husband on the Great Chain dictated by God, so Kate’s acceptance of this reflects a suitable denouement. However, as mentioned before, this does not sit as well with modern audiences. As Margaret Ramald aptly summarises, ‘in a post-feminist era, the jury is still out on The Taming of the Shrew’. Due to the lack of stage directions in the second act (upon Petruchio and Kate’s first meeting), ‘He holds her’ can be taken to both ends of the extremity scale. While later in the play his methods become rather more humiliating, Shakespeare originally establishes a scene which could still be deemed comedic by a modern audience. It is filled with clever wordplay and innuendo, and some adaptations – like the 1980s Jonathan Miller film – have presented it to be empty of any real violence or physicality. Contradicting negative receptions of this play, Audrey Williamson reasons that while it is possible to present Petruchio as ‘pure bully’, there is a ‘good humour in some of [his] raillery’ and Katherine is ‘won against her will by his glib and… recital of her charms’ . This rings true, thus while the submission of a woman to a man may spark outrage in a modern world, the acceptance of this woman to her true place in society counted as the tying of “loose ends” thereby spelling a happy ending for its intended audience.
Leaving the more controversial aspect behind, The Taming of the Shrew is woven with numerous varieties of humour which ensure it is indeed a comedy. Shakespeare establishes this early on, with the visual comedy of the swapping of Lucentio and Tranio’s clothes in the streets of Padua. While contrasting the more sophisticated wordplay later to be seen, this and the dramatic irony of Sly asking ‘leave me and her alone’ when referring to the pageboy he thinks his wife both show humour of all calibres. This sexual comedy is continued when Petruchio and Kate meet; sparring with rapid, if slightly sharp, witty repartee. Kate is often tricked into clever innuendos – ‘with my tongue in your tail?… Good Kate, I am a gentleman’ – which would draw laughter from the audience. This type of humour would not be diminished by age, causing our modern audiences no need for unease. A similar timeless, albeit less refined, humour is slapstick. Shakespeare portrays an early example with the confusion between Petruchio and his servant Grumio, ‘knock me here’ being confused for an invitation of violence. One also cannot overlook the situational comedy of the entire play, encapsulated well by the staging: ‘Enter Gremio, Lucentio… [disguised as Cambio], Petruchio with [Hortensio disguised as Litio], Tranio [disguised as Lucentio]’. This vast array of confusing, changeable characters is the cause of a lasting element of comedy which runs throughout the entire play.
As Davies observes, ‘so many of the characters seem drawn from the stock types of the Italian commedia dell’ arte’ . While the critic later proceeds to use this as an excuse for not taking Kate’s submission seriously and literally, it links to a very important dramatic type of the time which appears to have influenced Shakespeare in the writing of this play. Commedia dell’ arte involved the use of stock characters to create humour, many of which feature in The Taming of the Shrew. The use of these characters firmly establishes the conventions of a comedy genre, and nearly all are introduced within the first two acts. The most obvious of these is the vecchi, or Pantalone, Gremio. These were characters of ridicule implemented to create a barrier to true love or to generate humour. As Grumio insightfully surmises, ‘to beguile the old folks, how the young folks lay their heads together’. Traditionally, as mentioned earlier, these are merely tools used to make the union of two lovers (known in this form as the Dottore) more challenging – here seen as Gremio is an opposing suitor to Lucentio. Grumio plays the ‘zanni-like role’ of the stock servant. Both Robert Hence and Davies agree that Shakespeare was heavily influenced by this Italian type of comedy, giving greater form to his play as a piece of work in this genre.
Finally, while there are arguments that the degrading treatment of Kate suggests this cannot be called a comedy in modern terms, there is also a view that this is not a comedy at all. John Russell Brown claims that this is a ‘mere farce’ – a ‘superficial sub-species of comedy, which depends heavily on stage business’. This genre is more concerned with ‘the manipulation of social conventions’ than character development, thus he uses this line of argument to defend the playwright against the criticisms of feminists. He suggests it can be excused the barbaric labelling as the characters in the play lack the moral sensitivity which we consider normal, and the focus is not on the treatment of these, but the idea of the process of treatment by Petruchio itself and the way social conventions are accepted by Kate. While this poses an interesting line of reasoning, it does little to accommodate the numerous other conventions of comedy which The Taming of the Shrew adheres to. From exposition to denouement, the storyline follows that of a romantic comedy: two lovers are finally wed after overcoming the barriers of opposing suitors and a strict rule-making father. Similarly, another young pair force through very different barriers to become one. Although not traditional, Petruchio and Kate follow the same procedure. While Petruchio is not melodramatically love-struck as is Lucentio, he makes numerous mentions to Kate’s understated ‘beauty’, suggesting an underlying level of attraction. Also, Kate finds herself intrigued by the classical allusion he presents, which could be argued that she wants the same adoration that her sister receives. The barriers here are not vecchi but Kate’s behaviour and societal conventions. Their conclusion (or “happy ending”) is not the marriage, as this occurs in the climax, but at the point at which this behaviour is overridden – however negatively this may be perceived today. Thus, in this sense it follows all the rules of a comedy and is much more than a ‘mere farce’.
In conclusion, Shakespeare has created a great division of opinions in writing this play. While critics and contemporary audiences are often appalled by the destruction of Kate by her husband, this difference in reaction from a post-feminist world has no effect on the conventions of comedy. The Taming of the Shrew follows all of these: it tracks the romantic affairs of two young lovers whose unison will signify a happy ending, while dabbling in many different humour types such as slapstick, verbal, situational and visual. Reinforced through the use of stock characters from the commedia dell’ arte tradition, this play is clearly established as comedic from the very first act. Finally, while women’s status in society has changed positively and drastically, to an Elizabethan audience the developing relationship of Petruchio and Kate – the overcoming of the barrier keeping them apart (Kate’s behaviour), the conclusion of this and her submission – remained in fitting with the conventions of the comedic genre.
Patriarchal Marriage Theme in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew
In the play, Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare, we see various characters playing different roles with different personalities. In the beginning, Katharina is seen as the shrew that needs to be tamed while her sister Bianca is the innocent, shy, and well-mannered one that all the suitors want. The clause that their father puts forward, however, prevents Bianca from being married before Katharina. This is where Petruchio fits in and makes it his mission to marry her and “tame her.” After marrying her, he puts her through many ordeals and obstacles to break her down and be subjected to him. Patriarchal marriage was a big part of Shakespearean time because it allowed male to dominate over women, and he depicts these gender roles throughout many of his plays. In Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio’s subjection of Katharina not only makes him the shrew truly, but also enforces the system of patriarchal marriage and men overpowering women which was heavily prominent in Shakespeare time. The idea of male supremacy is key in helping men feel that they are truly supreme and have the power, which is important for Petruchio because in the end, Katherina’s loyalty gives him the power and satisfaction of being a real man.
“Encouraging Whistle Berries: Paradoxical Intervention in the Taming of the Shrew” by Richard Raspa reinforces the idea “of patriarchal authority and the marginalization of the feminine voice.” (2) The focus of this article emphasizes the feminist point of view and shows how Petruchio regards Katharina as property and enforces such horrible conditions on her. He also touches upon how this isn’t something new but rather it is tradition of European folklore. This an important idea mentioned earlier as well because it helps in furthering the idea of patriarchal marriage in society in which a woman must obey her husband. The idea of obedience in the play is seen analogous to Milton Erickson’s paradoxical intervention. Paradoxical intervention is defined as “a therapeutic method that induces change by paradoxically encouraging the behavior the therapists seek to discourage.” (105) Through this technique one is able to induce proper behavior by reacting the opposite of what is expected. This is clearly the method that Petruchio adopts to change Katherina and subject him to her.
We see his first act of paradoxical intervention when he praises her behavior and praises her for her “shrewish behavior.” He claims that everything he’s heard about her is a lie, and instead claims “for thou are please, gamesome, passing courteous, but slow in speech yet sweet as springtime flowers.” (2:1:238-2439) While this is before they get married, he begins his taming as soon as they meet in attempts to woe her. But his real taming beings when they get married and he masks each event with her love for her. He uses this psychological battering to exasperate her to a point where she is tamed and listens to his very sentence. By claiming that the meat was burned and she shouldn’t eat it, he forces her to go to bed hungry. He says, “Since of ourselves, ourselves are choleric, than feed it with such over-roasted flesh. Be patient, tomorrow ’t shall be mended, And, for this night, we’ll fast for company.” (4:1:110-114) Despite Katharina’s protests that the meat was fine, eh forces her to believe that it wasn’t and makes them starve. This paradoxical intervention is just one of the many ways he forces her to believe whatever he chooses.
However, it is important to point out that de doesn’t do all of this to merely subjugate her, but to also get her to listen and be obedient like a good wife should be. Kahn states that Petruchio “desires a listening wife.” (110) We see a clear transition in Katherina’s behavior throughout the play. In the beginning, she has an outburst each time she doesn’t get what she wants. She wrangles with her sister, the suitors, the tutor, and even her father. The whole purpose of this is have a doting wife that will listen to his wants, and he uses these measures to get what he wants.
The idea of patriarchal marriage is reinforced even more through the idea of marriage being about money. In the article “The Taming of the Shrew: Shakespeare’s Mirror of Marriage”, Coppelia Kahn addresses the idea that Katherina’s marriage to Petruchio was a way her father, Baptista, was working with the marriage market and the money he would get from the arrangement. Firstly, he is adamant that Katherina must marry first before Bianca does. This can be seen as a way to make sure Katherina gets married. In the article, Kahn says, “Petruchio’s and Tranio/Lucentio’s frequent references to their respective fathers’ wealth and reputations remind us that wealth and reputation pass from father to son, with woman as mere accessory to the passing.” (91) For Baptista, he needed to make sure that both of this daughters would get married, thus he places this condition down. Also, Baptista reinforces the idea of patriarchal marriage when he says he says the following lines to Katherina. In act 3, scene 2, Baptista says, “Go, girl, I cannot blame thee now to weep. For such an injury would vex a very saint, Much more a shrew of thy impatient humor.” Clearly, he realizes he has done her wrong but Katherina is forced to live with the reality he has imposed on her.
The article also focuses on how Petruchio’s character is shaped by society at that time. The need for Petruchio to marry a woman that would make a “man” mirrors the image of what marriage should be. Specifically, during the time Shakespeare was writing, she says, “He is animated like a puppet by the idée fixe that a man must command absolute obedience from his wife.” Thus, by portraying Petruchio with this idea, the patriarchal marriage is enforced. Through all the manipulation he puts her through, she is forced to answer to his “taming.” The author introduces an idea of the “farce” to represent the taming, which “carries out our desire to simplify life by a selective anesthetizing of the whole person; man retains all his energy yet never gets hurt.” (2) Through this treatment towards her, Kate is forced to automatically react in a way that is pleasing to Petruchio.
The most notable scene in the play is when he says the sun is the moon and she is forced to agree. Katherina says, “Forward, I pray, since we have come so far, And be it moon or sun or what you please. And if you please to call it a rush-candle, Henceforth I vow it shall so for me.” (4:5:12-15) This was such an important point because at this point, he was able to get her to think the craziest thing despite whether or not she believes it. Whether she did this to please him or get out of the situation already, it shows that Petruchio is using farce to manipulate her to form her into the wife he wants her to be. Throughout all of this taming, Petruchio is essentially looking for validation he is a man. To be considered a true man, he must have his wife subject herself to him. Clearly through scene with the sun and moon, Shakespeare shows “that male supremacy in marriage denies woman’s humanity.” (96) Clearly, even Katherina is aware of the bizarre statement she is making but must do so under the order of her husband.
In conclusion, there is an emphasis of patriarchal marriage throughout Shakespeare’s play “The Taming of the Shrew.” There are various ways gender roles and male supremacy are shown through the characters and the scenes taking place. Firstly, it is seen through the fact that the marriage is a monetary transaction for Baptista rather than a marriage for his daughters. Kahn provides an analogy of him playing as a seller in a marker and Bianca is the good product while Katherina is the bad one. Therefore, in order to sell the good one, he makes a condition that the bad one must go first. Clearly, he was playing the game and was able to gain money from Petruchio through this transaction. Lastly and most importantly, Petruchio adopts the form of paradoxical intervention to make Katherina submit to him. While he does so to gain a perfect and doting wife that obeys his every command, this can also be seen as validation for his need to be considered a true man in society. Therefore, patriarchal marriage is a key idea in the play and is shown to represent the ideals of society during Shakespearean time.
Description of Comedic Devices in “The Taming of the Shrew” by William Shakespeare
A lot of comedic devices have been used to build the hilarity and story of “The Taming of the Shrew”. They have shown how the shrew can be molded with similar treatment as given. These tools assist in paying attention to the tale and ponder on how Petruchio will finally tame Katharina. The story builds with problems like family drama, clever witty language, and unexpected plot twists. All of which form a tale of how woman is changed drastically by one man of who she is arranged to wed.
Common comedic devices used in “Taming of the Shrew” are family dramas. Katharina has not been able be wed as she cannot find a husband that fits her personality, and no one is willing to wed her. Bianca is her younger sister who wants to wed but cannot till Katharina does. Evidently this puts stress on their relationship with each other but as well as on bad terms with their father. This shows, ”
KATHARINA: A pretty peat! it is best Put finger in the eye, an she knew why.
BIANCA: Sister, content you in my discontent. Sir, to your pleasure humbly I subscribe: My books and instruments shall be my company, on them to took and practice by myself. (Act 1 scene 1). “This a comedic device used to produce a funny moment but also explain an actual relationship they have with one another. The relationship of discontent but admiration with unkind language substituted. Finally, after the extended battle between Katharina and Bianca, Petruchio volunteers to take Katharina as his bride.
After family drama is clever witty language depicted in the play. Petruchio has Katharina now but he has to now deal with her vulgar speaking too. He is not afraid of her language and gives the same language back to her alng with a similar position. Stating, ”
PETRUCHIO: What, with my tongue in your tail? nay, come again, Good Kate; I am a gentleman.
KATHARINA: That I’ll try. (She strikes him)
PETRUCHIO: I swear I’ll cuff you, if you strike again.
KATHARINA: So, may you lose your arms: If you strike me, you are no gentleman; And if no gentleman, why then no arms.
PETRUCHIO: A herald, Kate? O put me in thy books!
KATHARINA: What is your crest? a coxcomb? (Act 2, Scene 1).” is proof that Petruchio and Katharina Sustain dispute, but with clever language that is amusing and intriguing. In addition, normally in this age women did not communicate in that way to any one and she is unusual. Petruchio and Katharina will genuinely love one another by the end of their skirmish between each other.
At last, there is the unexpected plot twist for comedic device in “Taming of the Shrew”. During the story a character named Grumio has become closer to Bianca. Grumio is also acquainted with Petruchio and they spend time with each other around Katharina. While Katharina is having her dress tailored, Grumio and the tailor Thought the drees was magnificent on her but Petruchio says that is not so. This, ”
GRUMIO: I confess two sleeves. Tailor: [Reads] ‘The sleeves curiously cut.’
PETRUCHIO: Ay, there’s the villainy. GRUMIO: the bill. I commanded the sleeves should be cut out and sewed up again; and that I’ll prove upon thee, though thy little finger be armed in a thimble. (Act 4, Scene 3).” Is true again both Grumio and the tailor think the dress is amazing but Petruchio thinks it has a “villainy” look. This is a comedic device because the two are earnestly disputing on what is wrong with the dress that looks amazing on Katharina.
Shakespeare’s use of these comedic devices pushed his portrayal of this story and created a more delightful for the audience. Through and through the family drama, clever witty language, and unexpected plot twists he draws an amusing and intriguing tale for everyone!
The Main Desire Of Hortensio In Shakespeare’s Taming Of The Shrew
Striving for True Desires
Sometimes aiming for basic, minimal goals instead of striving for greater desires produces sub-standard results. In the case of Hortensio in The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, Hortensio’s only goal is simply to marry. In a want to marry quickly, Hortensio sacrifices quality to achieve this goal; instead of striving for his true desire, he settles for an easy-to-get widow, giving him much trouble later on.
In the beginning of the play, Hortensio wants to marry Bianca, his ultimate desire and prize, but Lucentio appears to beat Hortensio in the race for Bianca’s hand. Settling for defeat, Hortensio declares he will not pursue Bianca anymore: “Here I firmly vow/ Never to woo her more” (4.2.28-29). By giving up his pursuit for Bianca, Hortensio is going to pursue a wife that is not as desirable as Bianca is, but easier to win over. Instead of fighting for Bianca’s hand to demonstrate his strengths, he cowers behind a thin veil of defeat. This retreat, causing problems for Hortensio later on, forces Hortensio to give up his true desire in exchange for a lesser one. When Hortensio will only “have a lusty widow now” (4.2.52), he is settling for a lesser desire. Winning over the widow may be easier than winning over Bianca, but Hortensio does not take into consideration his troubles as a future husband of the widow. The widow is Hortensio’s secondary option in marriage, and not his true desire. By settling for an easier bride to achieve his goal of marriage, Hortensio commits a mistake. Hortensio is settling for a wife that he does not truly desire, undermining the quality of the marriage. Hortensio thinks that he will easily be able to handle the widow, a wife that he does not truly love, but that does not go well.
Hortensio’s second choice wife actually causes him more trouble. In order to improve his chances of a good marriage, Hortensio attends a wife taming school where “Petruchio is the master” (4.2.58), showing that his second choice wife is causing him more trouble. Instead of concentrating his efforts on winning over Bianca, a cause that is not completely lost, Hortensio simply gives up at the smallest sign of failure to win over Bianca. Giving up Bianca forces Hortensio to choose the widow as his wife, which later causes him troubles, which in turn forces him to learn how to tame her. In addition, when Hortensio’s wife disobeys him when “she will not come” (5.2.103), she is proving that his choice to settle for the widow is causing him more trouble. This scene proves that by settling for a wife that he does not truly desire, Hortensio is creating a marriage in which the wife does not obey the husband. This stems from Hortensio’s lack of desire for the widow, as Hortensio does not have the willpower to implement any of the wife-taming skills learned from Petruchio’s “school” to tame his older and more experienced wife, a wife that he does not love. Thus, the trouble caused by Hortensio’s second-choice wife makes settling for the widow—who is easier to win over than Bianca is—an illogical choice.
In his bid to achieve his goal of getting married, Hortensio sets aside his true desires to achieve this goal quicker, resulting in many troubles later on. By only wanting to marry, he seeks easier results instead quality ones. By giving up Bianca and instead pursuing a widow, Hortensio ignores his true wish, to achieve his goal of marriage through a simpler path. Achieving goals through easy shortcuts produces less than desired results.