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How does the Interpretation of Misogyny affect the Dramatic Impact of "The Taming of the Shrew"?

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How does the interpretation of misogyny affect the dramatic impact of the play? Before any occurrences of misogyny in The Taming of the Shrew can be explored, it is essential to define the word. The dictionary definition of ?misogyny? is, ?ingrained prejudice against women.? Some audiences? interpretations of The Taming of the Shrew as a misogynistic work means their opinion of the play?s comedic value may be altered. Although we may not have achieved gender equality, women in the Elizabethan Era had far fewer rights still, and were objectified and traded as was customary of the time. To Elizabethan society, women were viewed as either one of two polar opposite roles: a wife and mother, or a prostitute. This is especially ironic, considering the ruling monarch was female. This second class treatment is apparent in the Great Chain of Being, an ancient chart Elizabethans believed depicted the order of the universe. Women fell below men in this chain, exemplifying their position in Elizabethan society. It was not just unconventional for a woman to act above her station, but was seen rather more as a disruption of the balance of the universe- demonstrating how truly misogynistic Elizabethan society was. ...read more.


However, when Shakespeare explicitly intends a male character to be disguised as female, the cross-dresser becomes a caricature of a woman, which Elizabethan audiences would have found comedic and amusing. Although cross dressing may still be comedic to many modern audiences, who may be amused by the effeminate actions of the man, Elizabethan audiences would perhaps be more amused by the caricatured representation of femininity in Bartholomew. Perhaps the most debated aspect of the play is the actions of Petruchio towards Katherina. In many ways, Petruchio?s overall aim and the main theme of the play, the ?taming? of Katherina, can be viewed itself as misogynistic by modern audiences, who would not consider women in need of taming by men. However, Petruchio?s singular actions and speech allow for an alternative interpretation by modern, feminist audiences? meaning they are less likely to consider The Taming of the Shrew a comedy. For example, Petruchio makes a speech about Katherina in Act 3 Scene 2, describing Kate as, ?[his] goods, [his] chattels?, stating that Kate is his possession to use as he pleases. ...read more.


For example, the word ?bound? implies that this submission is the correct and proper thing for women to do- and also that they have no choice in the matter. Not only would modern feminist audiences be offended by this notion when they wish to be treated equally, but the contrast of this speech in comparison to Kate?s previous attitudes may suggest to modern audiences that Katherina has had to endure horrific treatment in order for her opinion to change so drastically. This suggestion of abuse may be seen by audiences of today as sinister and disturbing, rather than comedic. However, alternative modern interpretations may see that instead of abusing Kate, Petruchio is liberating her. Nichola McAuliffe, an actor who has played Katherina on several occasions, suggests that Petruchio?s treatment of Kate has direct parallels with the treatment of falcons during training- the owner has to be cruel in order for training to be effective, so the falcon can fly and have freedom. McAuliffe says that during training, the master may endure similar emotional pain in mistreating the falcon - The suggestion here is that Petruchio feels anguish himself in starving Kate, but does so in order for her to later experience liberation. ...read more.

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