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Explore Shakespeare's presentation of Katherina and Petruchio's wedding and the preparations for it. What do these scenes reveal about the Elizabethan society?

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Introduction

Explore Shakespeare's presentation of Katherina and Petruchio's wedding and the preparations for it. What do these scenes reveal about the Elizabethan society? 'woo this wildcat?' (1) Nobody in their right minds at the beginning of the play would ever consider wooing Katherina 'the cursed' (1); she is outspoken, quick-tempered and violent; she despises men and threatens them, unlike any other woman in the Elizabethan period. This ghastly 'shrew' (1) is tamed by her husband who is considered more vulgar then Katherina herself, and is determined to put this 'simple' (1) woman back in her place, to become how all women should be-nothing more than 'goods' (1). The anticipation builds up in act 2 scene 1 where the hostile pair meet and entertain their audience with quick-witted sexual innuendo. However the plot climaxes in act 3 scene 2, where the embarrassment of the wedding takes place, and poor 'bonny Kate' (1) is thrown into this whirlpool of humiliation and despair. These dramatic and eccentric scenes show us the values and customs of Elizabethan marriages and society's impact on their lives. Furthermore Shakespeare has cleverly placed these scenes in the centre of the plot so that he can show us not only the characters before marriage, but after, allowing us to experience how an unstable marriage survives in an era which a modern audience would find very interesting. The self-proclaimed fearless Petruchio is the man destined to wed 'plain Kate' (1); he is shown at the start of the play as a rich gentleman, who is romantic, dashing, intelligent, and determined. However we soon find out that he is violent, rude, harsh and only after money, not a compassionate wife to love and cherish, 'I come to wive it wealthily in Padua: If wealthierly then happily in Padua' (1:2:73-4) (1). When Petruchio is told of this woman that Hortensio describes as 'a shrewd ill-favoured wife' (1) ...read more.

Middle

Petruchio knows that this simple woman is meant to be quite smart for a woman, but still tamable in his eye, however he still, makes a plan, to make sure that he dominates Katherina, and makes her his. He puts his first idea in the plan is to call her Kat instead of Katherina, which he knows will make her mad, as you usually only use shorten names with people that you are friends with, Katherina has no friends so has never been called "Kat". When he uses his first idea she corrects him, of course saying she is Katherina but yet he carry's on and then starts to compliment her calling her 'plain Kate... bonny Kate... the prettiest Kate in Christendom... my super-dainty Kate.' (2:1:19-181) (1) Which annoys her even more, as she is not used to being called pretty and normal, it agitates her as she does not know how to respond to this, nevertheless, Katherina, abrasive as always, tries to outwit Petruchio but it does not work, it turns out the Petruchio can handle Katherina and appears to be just as quick witted, putting poor 'bonny Kate' (1) in the centre of a long vocal duel between the pair, Katherina unable to destroy the man in front of her with verbal abuse she soon realizes that the man she is going to marry is quick and intelligent, unlike most of the other men that she has meet. Their verbal duel is filled with complex puns each one building a new metaphor from the last character's insult, or sexual innuendo, Katherina's puns are harsh and insulting, at one point she even insults his mother, saying 'A witty mother! Witless else her son.' (1) Where as Petruchio's puns contain mainly sexual innuendo 'with my tongue in your tail' (1), he twists her puns to his own advantage driving her crazy. She hits him in a last out burst and he threatens her, we know that Petruchio is not afraid to use violence much like Kate as he in Act 1 scene 2 wrings his man-servant by the ear as he misunderstood Petruchio. ...read more.

Conclusion

up with the rudeness and bluntness, the sexual comments, such as 'with my tongue in your tail' (1), and name calling such as 'you wasp' (1). This unique and sad marriage would have been seen with much amusement and some light shock, just like the whole play. Over all I think that an Elizabethan audience would have approved of the twisted marriage, the story of 'the spirited, rebellious, and sharp-witted Katherina,' (4) who has to marry the 'exuberant and clever Petruchio,' (4) however the way that Petruchio treats Katherina today would be seen as mean, harsh and abusive, in those days it would have been the proper thing to do, politically correct. Today's audiences would have little knowledge of things such as dowry's and most people these days usually have quite happy weddings, the traditions have changed, not just the money, or the themes, but most people today search for love, not a large dowry when it comes to a marriage, however this can still be dependant on their religion, 'some of the lines in the play have been viewed as misogynistic by modern critics.' (5). An Elizabethan audience would not be able to comprehend this, as it was their customs to marry for money, have solemn weddings and do exactly what men told them to do. On the whole, I think that Katherina's behavior towards others, her defensiveness and rudeness, disguise her insecurities and lack of confidence, no doubt the role of women in the Elizabethan times was the central cause of her deep distress, resulting in her lack of confidence. This was very much a male orientated world, yet she only comes to accept this after she is married to Petruchio, an Elizabethan audience would of completely agreed with what Petruchio did, 'This is a way to kill a wife with kindness'.(1) (1) - Taming of the Shrew Play (2) - file:///I:/Yr%2010/english/coursework/taming%20of%20the%20shrew/Elizabethan%20Wedding%20 Customs.htm (3) - http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/shrew/section6.rhtml (4) - http://www.enotes.com/shakespearean-criticism/taming-shrew-vol-64 (5) - http://www.enotes.com/taming/q-and-a/taming-shrew-often-hard-play-modern-audience-but-3686 (6) - www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dowry ?? ?? ?? ?? Alexandra Hebden 5/5/2008 ...read more.

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