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Analyse the Presentation of the Servant-Master Relationship in 'The Taming of the Shrew'

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Introduction

Analyse the Presentation of the Servant-Master Relationship in 'The Taming of the Shrew' When 'The Taming of the Shrew' was written around 1593-1594, the working classes and servants made up the vast majority of the British population. This led to common social stereotyping of the servant classes. This can be clearly seen in some of Shakespeare's early plays including 'The Taming of the Shrew'. In this play there are many characters that are bound together by the servant-master relationship. These include: The Lord and his Huntsmen in the induction, Petruchio's domination over Grumio throughout the play and the comradeship between Tranio and Lucentio. Shakespeare explores a number of different types of relationship between the classes in a way that was only possible on the stage. This is the physical enactment of the servant master relationship. There are two different types of servant-master relationship shown in the play. One is the traditional, where the master dominates and sometimes abuses the servant so that he obeys his master's will. The other is the idealised, rare, if existent, bond, where there is equality and mutual respect. Through this comparison, the play re-evaluates the power of the servant's bond with his master and the portrayal of wives as servants. ...read more.

Middle

"Nor can we be distinguish'd by our faces for man or master." Lucentio is perfectly willing to swap places with Tranio in order to achieve the love of Bianca: "Let me be a slave t'achieve that maid." Through Tranio and Lucentio's relationship, Shakespeare points out that the differences between the master and the slave are only on the surface and each can transform into the other with little or no practice. This is also clear in the scenes where Sly plays the role of the Lord and easily picks it up. When Tranio puts on his master's clothes, Lucentio proclaims: "Tranio is changed into Lucentio". Tranio easily slips into the role of a traditional master and upper class gentleman. Tranio's speech about how he intends to woo Bianca impresses even the intellectual, Gremio, who remarks: "What, this gentleman will out-talk us all!" Unlike Grumio, Tranio is able to gain his own power and respect. He slips easily into the role and is able to wield the power and status freely. Although Tranio appears to enjoy his position, he always remains loyal to his master. When he plans with Baptista, how to win Bianca, he says: "Tis in my head to do my master good. ...read more.

Conclusion

Her sister and the widow do not respond to their husband's calls and Katherine is forced to "fetch them". Katherine's final speech shows her complete submission to the patriarchal system. She says that husbands, like masters are to be "thy governor" and "thy king". She also claims "Such duty... a woman oweth to her husband." She admits that she is willing to perform what her husband calls her 'duty'. At the end of the play, it seems that Shakespeare has submitted to the traditional orthodox beliefs of his society. However, the 'Sly' scene does not come to a close and this loose end still questions the seemingly definitive conclusion, which was Katherine's speech. At the end of the play, Tranio, the servant, still remains in an almost equal position to the other men and takes part in the wagering of the husbands. The very last lines of the play are oddly inconclusive and possibly suggest a doubt as to whether Kate's transformation is genuine. Lucentio in utter amazement, says "'Tis a wonder, by your leave, she will be tamed so". He almost seems to doubt that she could possibly change so completely. Throughout 'the Taming of the Shrew', Shakespeare makes clear that the "old" system functions, if with glitches, and that it is easy to fit into, but he also suggests that there is an alternative to the traditional roles of masters and servants, and even wives and husbands. ...read more.

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