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Examine the different ways in which Shakespeare presents issues connected with marriage and male and female relationships in the play The Taming of the Shrew.

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Introduction

Sophie Johnstone 12CO Examine the different ways in which Shakespeare presents issues connected with marriage and male and female relationships in the play The Taming of the Shrew "The Taming of the Shrew" is a complex play, which involves a taming plot and the theme of appropriate behaviour within marriage in Shakespeare's time, and does so through the contrasting relationships of Petruchio and Katherina, and Lucentio and Bianca. Shakespeare highlights how important money is to people when committing themselves to marriage. This is portrayed through Petruchio, "That you shall be my wife; your dowry' greed on;" Shakespeare has made a point here of emphasising to the audience that money is a necessity for marriage. Shakespeare also draws the audience's attention to the character's values, which, is mainly money and social status. Money was so important as social status was a concern and without money you usually had none. He illustrates this again through Petruchio and his desire for Katherina's dowry, "As wealth is burden of my wooing dance". "The Taming of the Shrew", depicts a materialistic middle class and very masculine society and social inferiority is highlighted from the beginning when the Lord toys with Sly's mind, "O, that a mighty man of such descent". Society is highlighted when Katharina is presented worthless until she is tamed, and the conventional society of Shakespeare's time urges Katharina to learn what role she should play and take place the hierarchy accordingly. ...read more.

Middle

However, she has not yet experienced Petruchio's tenderness so her opinion may change. In the wedding scene, Shakespeare has set up a visual comedy with Petruchio's appearance, which will gain many laughs from the audience and makes us eager to observe how the couple will interact after Petruchio's bad behaviour. The final scene of the play demonstrates Katherina as a completely 'tamed' woman, this is emphasised when Biondello calls in the Widow and Bianca and they both refuse to come, "That she is busy and she cannot come", in contrast Katherina obeys her husband and comes immediately. She recognizes at last what she has failed to see at first-that Petruchio's extraordinary capers mirrored her very own behaviour. Some critics have argued Katherina's speech at the end of the play should be delivered in an ironic tone and is not intended to be serious. Other critics suggest that she is simply playing along with her husband's game, as it has helped her to find love and a place in society. In her final speech, Katherina suggests that women are physically weaker and dependent on men and the result of this is that they should be ruled by men, "To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor". She also says, "Thy head, thy sovereign...", suggesting that the husband is the 'head' of the household just like the monarch was 'head' and sovereign of his country. ...read more.

Conclusion

In contrast with this, Petruchio did not deceive a single character and still ends with a wife he is more than satisfied with, "Why, theres a wrench! Come on, and kiss me Kate!" The protagonist, Petruchio is consistently honest about his motives and does not deceive anybody about his intentions. It is quite ironic that the one character whose behaviour is considered unconventional is proved to have been telling the truth all along and seems to be far more successful than the other characters. "The Taming of the Shrew", is a significant piece of social comedy that has something to say about marriage in Elizabethan times and it does this through the contrast of characters and action in a very dramatic manner. Shakespeare presents the idea that men are superior to women through the main relationship of Petruchio and Katherina. I feel Shakespeare illuminates the wrong done to women of his time. He does this by creating some overwhelming and contrasting characters, and some modern critics would say he was a feminist. However I am inclined to agree with this as Shakespeare wrote for 'male entertainment' and it is historically incorrect to regard him as a feminist. "The Taming of The Shrew" is his way of presenting to the men the errors of their ways and then shaming them into showing women more respect. ...read more.

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