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

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Introduction

Everyone has an opinion about Petruchio and Katherina's relationship. What is yours? There are many possible interpretations of the relationship between Petruchio and Katherina. A very superficial reading of the play might lead one to conclude for instance that it is an extremely sexist relationship and shows a man like Petruchio taking control of a 'shrew' like woman, in order to gain a dowry, the methods he uses both physically violent and psychologically crushing. Another interpretation might be that the play portrays a man and a woman, both of them hot headed and determined, working through their difficulties with one another, using exaggerated comic actions. A more feasible explanation probably lies somewhere between these two extremes, or as a clever compromise between the two. This essay sets out to debate whether or not the relationship between Petruchio and Katherina has some depth, or whether it is simply a demonstration of the gross sexism displayed towards women in Elizabethan society. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that this play is purely sexist and that the relationship between Katherina and Petruchio has nothing to do with love. For instance, when we first meet Katherina she is treated with contempt even by her father; he tries to marry her off to two older men Gremio or Hortensio. ...read more.

Middle

His first line in this speech straight away is very explanatory of what he feels his position is with Katherina: "Thus hate I politically begun my reign". He sees himself as a king or a ruler over his wife. This is an obvious point to direct the fact that there was never any equality or understanding in their relationship. He tells the audience that "She ate no meat today, nor none shall eat". He is starving her like a hawk, training her to obedient and come to him like a Hawk, as she does in the end, when she comes obediently to him and says "What is your will, sir, that you send for me?" Also, he keeps her awake all night to keep her wary, as would happen in Hawk training. At the end of the play, there is sufficient evidence to prove that she has been beaten down by Petruchio's hawk plan; her end speech shows this. She tells Bianca and the widow "Dart not scornful glances from those eyes, to wound thy lord, thy king". She has been brought to believe this of Petruchio. On the other hand, there are many reasons for us to believe that there is more depth to the relationship than is initially seen. ...read more.

Conclusion

Almost as though she is playing with Petruchio and making him seem the fool. She takes it over the top. It is also important to remember the context in which the play was written. Women were not expected to be like Katherina, bold and mean, towards men. They were expected to be mild, modest and subdued like Bianca in order that they get a husband. It was very important for a girl to marry and have children in the sixteenth century, not for love, but for money and political reasons. In order that they could ensure themselves somewhere to live and guarantee that they are safe financially. Queen Elizabeth was ruling England at the time when this play was written, so it is also unlikely that Shakespeare would write a sexist play likely to offend her in some way, in fact probably quite the opposite. It seems that the play may really be a comedy about an assertive woman coping with how she is expected to act in the society of the late sixteenth century and of how one must obey the unwritten rules of a society to be accepted in it. She manages to make a compromise with the man who respects her enough to fight fire with fire for her. ...read more.

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