• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How does Shakespeare present society's treatment of women in "The Taming of The Shrew"?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

How does Shakespeare present society's treatment of women in "The Taming of The Shrew"? Throughout "The Taming of The Shrew" the audience is shown the manner in which women were treated in the 16th Century. This is done through the female characters: Katherine, Bianca, Widow, Bartholomew: yet we must question Shakespeare's intentions. Was the play written in order to instruct inexperienced husbands as to how they could tame an unruly wife; which would display Shakespeare's acceptance of the treatment of the women; or is he mocking the customs of the time by using theatrical comedy to warn men who wish to consider 'taming' a wife, as Petruchio does in the last scene? "Petruchio: ... We three are married, but you two are sped. ..." (Act 5: Scene 2) He is making the point that Katherine may have been tamed. Yet both of the other men's wives have shown themselves to be 'shrews'. I referred above to Katherine having supposedly being 'tamed', yet we have to question why she was deemed that unacceptable to make it necessary to 'tame' her. At the time this play was written there were specific social norms, to which people had to conform, particularly in the way women were supposed to act. Shakespeare displays these in the Induction scenes, through Bartholomew. As part of the deceit, which is inflicted upon Christopher Sly in the Induction scenes, we are introduced to a page, Bartholomew, who is expected to act as a wife to the drunken tinker, whom the Lord has decided to 'practise' upon. ...read more.

Middle

Bianca on the other hand is mild, obedient and subservient as Bartholomew shows us is expected, this is compared with the outlandish behaviour of her sister. "Tranio: ... The one as famous for a scolding tongue As is the other for beauteous modesty." (1:2) This may be the cause of the number of suitors willing to court her, they find her attractive and she appears to fulfil all the criteria wanted and expected in a wife. Yet, Shakespeare shows us that this is not the case. "Bianca: ... Good master, take it not unkindly, pray, That I have been thus pleasant [teasing] with you both." (3:1) Bianca is displaying the shrewish side of her character, which until this point her father, and the audience were unaware of. She knows that she has many suitors, so she can afford to play them off against one another. Baptista only becomes aware of her 'shrewish' nature on the day of his elder daughter's wedding. "Baptista: ... And let Bianca take her sister's room." (3:2) This is more than just an instruction, it shows that Baptista has become aware that Bianca is likely to turn out like her elder sister; 'shrewlike' and despised. Shakespeare shows the most deceived character in the play to be correct by making this point. "Biondello: Sir, my mistress sends you word That she is busy, and she cannot come." (5:2) This is displayed upon her reaction to scolding from her husband; she states she has her own ideas about a woman's duty. ...read more.

Conclusion

While attending the 'Taming School', Petruchio's country house, Katherine is deprived of food and sleep as an animal may be. Shakespeare adds that she shall be allowed all of the things expected from a husband, and 'keeper' once she is 'tamed'. "Petruchio: When you are gentle you shall have one [a cap] too, And not till then." (4:3) She constantly defies him and continues with her wild ways, until we see her behaving mildly, obedient and subservient; exactly the expected norm displayed by Bartholomew. Shakespeare shows this during Katherine's last speech, at the wedding reception in Act 5. She states that women are 'bound to serve, love and obey', which would never have been spoken by her before. This speech is given at Petruchio's request, to inform the other women present of their newfound marriage duty. She may herself be using this opportunity to show onlookers the extent to which she has been 'tamed'. Possibly, however, the old, 'shrewd' Katherine is still showing through although she believes she will be refused food and sleep if she disobeys Petruchio, she may actually enjoy insulting her sister and the widow. I believe that Shakespeare was mocking the accepted treatment of women in the society in which he lived. We can see the way in which the stereotypical image of the sexes are portrayed throughout this play; most of the men are less that manly, and the female characters are shown to be very strong-willed. These features challenge the images conjured up in Katherine's last speech, making me believe that she was playing to her audience, and that 'Katherine the curst' still lurks below the surface. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level The Taming of the Shrew section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level The Taming of the Shrew essays

  1. Explore the different nature of disguise and identity in 'The taming of the shrew.'

    When she finally decides to settle down with someone she chooses as acceptable, she exerts more control over the marriage than may have been expected. During the wager the husbands make at the final dinner, Biondello reports that Bianca says, "Sir, my mistress sends you word that she is busy and she cannot come."

  2. Is it possible to stage Katherina's final speech as a suitable closure and/or does ...

    Grumio when agreeing to find a husband for Katherina says ' would I have given him the best horse in Padua to begin his wooing that would thoroughly woo her, wed her, bed her and the rid the horse of her'.

  1. How does Shakespeare present relationships between men and women in 'The Taming of The ...

    Hortensio is also used to strengthen this idea, as he is quick to give up his pursuit of Bianca for a 'wealthy widow'. By doing this, Shakespeare is stating that men of his society did not value the relationships with their women and had little respect for their existence except for their bringing of wealth.

  2. Animal Imagery in Taming of the Shrew.

    Young falcons that contiually resist there resist their masters are kept awake and forced to comply until their exhaustion caues their inevitable acceptance. So after already having kept his falcon, Katherina, from eating Petruchio keeps her from sleeping as well, and intends to continuasly from night to night until she,

  1. The Taming of the Shrew - Petruchio and Katherina's relationship.

    This links directly to when Petruchio is first presented; in the stage directions it shows him hurting his servant Grumio: "He wrings him by the ears". Immediately you can begin to see the direct correlation between the personalities. When Katherina and Petruchio first meet, they seem to have a battle

  2. With close reference to Kate(TM)s final speech, discuss Shakespeare(TM)s treatment of women in The ...

    Bad women where often described as the cabinet of horror, scream of an owl or the claw of a crocodile. A good example of this would be Kate in the start of this story. Shakespeare shows how women were mistreated in the scenes.

  1. Explore Shakespeares presentation of men and women in Taming Of teh Shrew

    In act four, Petruchio has a long soliloquy about taming a falcon; he is actually talking about taming Katherina. In this soliloquy, Petruchio informs the audience of his plan to deprive her of food and sleep, in a bid to drive her into submission.

  2. How effective are Shakespeare's linguistic choices in conveying the power struggle between Katherine and ...

    The repetition of her name also serves to make fun of her. 'Pet. You lie in faith, for you are call'd plain Kate, And bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst;' By repeating her name in these noun phrases he is showing he doesn't care that she does not like

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work