The Taming of the Shrew: The Bitterness of Arranged Marriage
Shakespeare created comedies, such as The Taming of the Shrew, in order to criticize the negative social norms in the Elizabethan era. Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew strongly inspires the conventional notion of arranged marriage between woman and the nobleman. Woman, however, deals with desperate struggles to desire for their true love; meanwhile, the nobility seriously abuses their authority in order to gain the love they want to. Therefore, I am enthusiastic to examine those central paradoxes in “The Taming of the Shrew.” The paradoxes are proved by the motivations of arranged married, the cynical consequences, and the miserable destinations of women suffering the arranged marriage.
According to the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary, arranged marriage is defined as a marriage in which the parents choose the person their son or daughter to marry. The definition itself indicates the marital decision which mostly belongs to those who have absolute authority to control the children in the marriage. The reluctance is the most dissentient factor in the arranged marriage, so what can happen after this type of marriage is unpredictable. Most consequences are the break of relationships; otherwise, the family violence would explode after a short time. Prominently, the women are the main victims who bear the negative effects in the from arranged marriage because of their weakness and the lack of voice. Especially, the force of the masculinity and the power of wealth and nobility increasingly motivate many situations of arranged marriage.
In “The Taming of the Shrew,” it is important to realize the authority abuse encourages the increase in arranged marriage, which is a meticulous plan for Katherine and Petruccio’ wedding. This mandatory wedding is the reluctant arrangement between the noble men, Petruccio and Baptista, Katherine’s father. As the negotiation occurs between Petruccio and Baptista as rapid “specialties” for the wedding arrangement, “that covenants may be kept on either hand” (2.1.114-25), it is ironic to recognize the absence of Katherine’s agreement. At this frustrating detail, the immortal behavior of a man as well as a father gradually exposes the reasons for an arranged marriage. Baptista, the wealthiest man in Padua, is unable to tolerate his oldest daughter, Katherine due to her shrewishness (3.2.9-21). The primary reason is because the attraction comes from the promise of Petruccio, when he compromises Katherine will inherit all his property in case he dies before her (2.1.124-5). Through the business discussion between two noble men, there is a prominent existence of property ambition and obsession among the landed gentries (Heffernan, 1985, p.5), according to Heffernan’s “The Taming of the Shrew: The Bourgeoisie in Love.” Baptista and Petruccio had a sophisticated conversation about exchanging the deals for their “business” in terms of lands in order to show their financial abilities and property. This conversation might make audience believe that the marriage between Katherine and Petruccio is a concrete bridge for Baptista and Petruccio to figure out how they can take this advantage to gain more financial benefits. Katherine’s marriage is completely set up with Petruccio. As Baptista is questioned, “Was ever match clapped up so suddenly?” then answers, “Now I play a merchant’s part and venture madly on a desperate mart,” Baptista obviously indicates his ambition of wealth, he disregard about his elder daughter; however, Baptista shows his concern whether he is able to gain from the dower. The intrigue of insights and plans through the conversation are unstoppable to gain a deeper understanding of wealthy properties. Baptista continues his strategy on looking into the “property deals” (Heffernan, 1985, p.6) from other suitors: Gremio and Lucentio. The battle of property starts to open an opportunity for Baptista to choose his next son-in-law by evaluating whose property is the most valuable. Again, Baptista’s property obsession weighs over Bianca’s sensation of love. He settles his own standard for the next son-in-law by pointing that the person who could offer his daughter “greatest dower” will be his “Bianca’s love” (2.1.341-2). Gremio begins the competition by stating his enormous property, including a house furnished with plate and gold, costly apparel, Turkey cushion bossed with pearl, his super large farm with a capacity of a hundred milk-cows, a hundred and twenty fat oxen, and so forth. On the other hand, Lucentio easily beat Gremio with three or four houses in Pisa and two thousand ducats of fruitful land (2.1.345-83). Lucentio also assures that Baptista’s daughter would inherit all of property in case, he dies soon, but he knows he never dies young. Baptista decides the marriage of Lucentio and Bianca will take place a week after Katherine’s wedding.
Baptista’s actions not only show the motivation of the arranged marriage due to his obsession of property, but they illustrate the social norms in the early modern England. According to the resource, “Women and Property in Early Modern England,” the concept of dower and dowry in The Taming of the Shrew is revealed. The author, Amy Louise Erickson, wrote that marriage settlement in the early modern England is the expectation, built upon a married woman’s ‘sole and separate estate.’ The early modern England’s marriage settlements were the consideration about the bride’s property rights in her widowhood.
Though Katherine ends up with living with Petruccio, but it does not mean that Katherine accepts the wedding easily at the beginning of the story. She raises her voice to stop this meaningless wedding due to her father’s property ambition. More than that, Katherine positively indicates her objection to Petruccio by her affirmation for him, “Well ta’en, and like a buzzard” and “a fool.” Shakespeare’s language helps Katherine’s verbal increases her tone by her shrewdness in words. The metaphors of wasp and stinger elevate Katherine’s aggressiveness in regard to warn that Petruccio and she are not well-match love at the first meeting. In this suspenseful illustration, Katherine would want to show herself as a tough person and Petruccio must beware her sting, “if I be waspish, best beware my sting” (2.1.210). Petruccio calmly responds that he will pluck it out, which demonstrates that Katherine hardly does harm to him. In the response, Katherine expresses her sharp wit by referring to the sting as her tongue and she is ready to attack Petruccio if he keeps talking about gossip. Meanwhile, it is important to realize that Petruccio is shifty as he suggests pluck the stinger out from Katherine “tail” as her genitals. Katherine alerts Petruccio to stop wooing her, or she is going to sting his tongue with her most aggressiveness. Petruccio seems fearless to Katherine’s saying and shows his excitement in terms of a specific reference to sexual picture when Petruccio says, “with my tongue in your tail” (2.1.216). The first exchange signifies the major bitter disagreement between Katherine and Petruccio as well as the language manifest a metaphorical meaning of sexuality. In addition to the exchange, Katherine aims to convince her father to cancel the marriage when she provides Baptista with her expression about Petruccio’s mischief, “one half lunatic, a mad-cup ruffian and a swearing Jack” (2.1.285-87). Katherine understands that the rest of her life would be end up with misery, and she becomes Petruccio’s property and under his control.
The moment that the wedding takes place on Sunday is when Katherine is unable to changer her destination as well as Katherine’s voice again rises for her fierce criticism about the uncaring man, Petruccio. Both Katherine and Baptista witness Petruccio’s irresponsibility because he comes late for the marriage ceremony when everything is ready. Katherine feels disappointed and embarrassed that her father has a strong ambition of property, but he forgets to consider that Petruccio is a treasure-seeker. That is the reason why Katherine emphasizes with Baptista, “No shame but mine. I must, forsooth, be forced/ To give my hand, opposed against my heart,/ Unto a mad-brain rudesby, full of spleen,/ Who wooed in haste and means to wed at leisure./ I told you, I, he was a frantic fool,/ Hiding his bitter jests in blunt behavior” (3.2.8-13). Katherine never restrains herself from fighting for the purpose of arranged marriage prevention.
Katherine never desires to offer Petruccio her affection and love, so the conflicts continuously increase in the different stages of The Taming of the Shrew. Late after the marriage, although Petruccio gains Katherine as a wife, the flame of the fight against Petruccio still maintains its growth in Katherine’s heart. She shows her disapproval of this meaningless arranged marriage to her as well as manifesting her solid heart through the argument with Petruccio in terms of fashion style. Katherine believes that she has rights to speak freely and Petruccio had better respect and listen to her saying; otherwise, what Petruccio will receive is her anger or die, “I will be free even to the uttermost, as I please, in words” (4.3.75-81). To respond flexibly to Katherine’s solidity in her speech, Petruccio is meticulously manage her temper by pouring his sweet words into Katherine’s ears, “thou say’st true,” “I love thee well in that thou lik’st it not” (4.3.82-84).
The Consequences of Arranged Marriage
On the other hand, along with the bitter arranged marriage between Katherine and Petruccio, “The Taming of the Shrew” comprises the presence of a romantic love. This is considered as a counterpart that the romantic love in the Elizabeth era. The relationship is a remarkable development of romantic love and affection between Lucentio and Bianca. Lucentio sacrifices his social position to disguise a language tutor in Baptista’s house in order that Lucentio has a chance to be close to Bianca (quote of disguise). Meanwhile, Lucentio must take a risk offering his father’s property as a satisfying dowry to Baptista in terms of permission for the marriage (quote about Baptista’s agreement). Because of the quick bidding that shows his enthusiastic love for Bianca and the desire of Baptista’s permission, Lucentio ignores his father, Vincentio, a sailmaker in Pisa (quote about Vincento’s surprise). Until Vincentio arrives Pauda to seek his son, he has a sensation of frustration about his son’s fool. Yet, it is admirable that the relationship between Lucentio and Bianca is fully grown by the romantic love, so Lucentio’s father willingly agrees the marriage for his son and Bianca without the consideration about his property (quote about Lucentio’ father agreement).
Even though the romantic love brings both Lucentio and Bianca to a happy ending of the marriage because of the presence of spontaneity, it is noticeable that this type of love is still based on the financial match. As the analysis about the offers, which are made by Lucentio and Gremio to make a compromise of the best dowry to Baptista (short quotes about the bidding). The Taming of the Shrew demonstrate the significance of property deals in marriage in the Elizabeth era.
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