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The Taming of the Shrew: The Degrading of Women

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Introduction

In the 16th century, one of the last things anyone wants to be is a female. Throughout the play, it is evident that the role of a woman is burdensome. There is a set perception of a "perfect woman", and only those depicting these characteristics are accepted by society. In The Taming of the Shrew era, a woman's opinion is never valued, there is a "class gap" between males and females - men are born with a higher rank -, and women are often seen, and are treated, as pieces of property. A woman's opinion is not valued in the least and others always make decisions for her against her will. Throughout the male society, there are mental "expectations" as to how a woman should behave. These standards, although not written in concrete, are expected of all women. Not only is the male society aware of these expectations, but the females are as well, and they often live to meet these expectations. In the play, Katherina vocalizes the basis of these expectations: "...they are bound to serve, love, and obey" (V, II, 164). In this quote, "they" refers to women, and "bound" is a very interesting word to use in this context. ...read more.

Middle

Women are also treated as a lower class, and if they ever tried to "bridge the gap" between the two classes, they were shunned by society. Due to the widely known classification of the perfect woman, it is no wonder that only these women are accepted into society. Take Katherina for instance. Kate is described as ...wealth enough, and young, and beauteous, Brought up as best becomes a gentleman. Her only fault - and that is faults enough - Is that she is intolerable curst, And shrewd and forward so beyond all measure ...I would not wed her for a mine of gold! (I, II, 82-88) Clearly, Katherina is not accepted in society. The title "Katherine the Curst" (I, II, 123) is given to her because of her bad temperament. This is seen as a great betrayal toward the female "society" and may be compared to a servant's betrayal toward their king. The quote And when is forward, peevish, sullen sour, And not obedient to his honest will, What is she but a foul contending rebel And a graceless traitor to her loving lord? (V, II, 157,160) blatantly describes the society's view of a woman with, as they would think, shrew-like behaviour. ...read more.

Conclusion

Petruchio makes this quite clear after his wedding by announcing to his wedding guests: I will be master of what is mine own. She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house, My household-stuff, my field, my barn, My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything (III, II, 222-225) Here, Petruchio is claiming Kate as his own, but he is also degrading Katherina from his wife, to a cheap, movable possession he could easily replace. Women are also used as betting pieces, as Petruchio makes the bet Let's each one send unto his wife And whose wife is most obedient To come at first when he doth send for her Shall win the wager which we will propose. (V, II, 66-69), confident that his wife will win him the wager. This is not only demeaning to the women, but also reveals how much the husbands value their wives. This particular bet entitles the winner to boast about his wife's obedience - almost like a dog's obedience toward his owner. The winner of this bet would be able to revel in the glory of the great extent of his wife's trained obedience. Throughout the play, it is beyond evident that women are merely seen, by men, as trophies set in a display case; to be used, and talked of, to boost the winner's (husband's) ego. ...read more.

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