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What Aspects of 'The Taming of the Shrew' identify the play as a comedy?

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Introduction

What Aspects of 'The Taming of the Shrew' identify the play as a comedy? Shakespeare - a well known playwright throughout the 16th Century - wrote many comedies and tragedy plays to entertain Elizabethan audiences. The plays were aimed at all classes and ages, after being performed in front of Queen Elizabeth, and approved of. Queen Elizabeth was very feministic and 'The Taming of the Shrew' faired well with the monarch. One of the leading characters, Katherina, is very feisty and classes herself as better or at least equal to men, something unheard of in Elizabethan society. Men were seen as the superior sex, where as women were expected to be sub-dominant and weak. Their role was not to challenge the husband, but to support him; also women were seen as an asset to a married man. Reasons for this philosophy perhaps resided in The Great Chain of Being, a concept accepted and followed by society at the time. These stereotypical views of women were challenged by 'The Taming of the Shrew'. The play revolves around four main characters and a whole host of involved background characters. There are two love stories running through-out, which become tangled and more complicated as the plot thickens and emotions run wild. One of the most complicated aspects of the play is that characters repeatedly dress up as each other - a concept taken from Commedia dell'Arte. ...read more.

Middle

After this, Petruchio's taming of Kate is complete. Commedia dell'Arte played a great part in the way that Shakespeare wrote his plays. The 16th century society were great supporters of Commedia dell'Arte, which influenced Shakespeare and his comedy plays. Commedia dell'Arte originated in Italy in the mid 1550's when pros formed companies. They all took after each other and formed larger groups. One of the initial companies was known as Gelosi. As the years wore on, further companies - Unite, Desiosi and Fideli - formed. Zannis were a main feature of Commedia dell'Arte - in The Taming of the Shrew; Tranio would be an example. The Taming of the Shrew is revolved around disguises and deception. Straight away, this concept is highlighted as the fat drunkard is deceived and tricked into thinking he is a noble. Later in the play, Hortensio dresses as a music teacher, Lucentio as a latin teacher. Tranio as Lucentio and pedent as Vincentio. This, as well as being amusing, adds dramatic irony. For example, when Tranio meets the real Vincentio when Tranio is dressed as Lucentio - this is dramatic irony and is humorous for the audience. Such role swaps and elaborate dress is derived from Commedia dell'Arte. Throughout the play, there is much wordplay and punning to heighten the comedy. The more sophisticated members of the audience - particularly the upper classes and especially royalty such as Queen Elizabeth - would have understood and found them funny. ...read more.

Conclusion

'The Taming of the Shrew' also highlights the sexism that's apparent in every-day society that goes unnoticed. This is shown through the way that men talk about women when they are not present. A good example of sexist and men being chauvinistic is when Hortensio, Lucentio and Petruchio have a one-hundred crown bet on whose wife is most obedient. In modern-day society this is seen as very sexist and disrespectful. Another message in The Taming of the Shrew is that 'Honesty is the best Policy'. While this seems somewhat ironic, it is shown that when every character comes clean about disguises, plots and plans - everything is solved. Another controversial message in the play, is that you shouldn't judge on material wealth. Petruchio makes his intentions of marrying Katherina for wealth for Hortensio clearly known towards the start of the play, regardless of they women of who he is to wed. This is also seen as very arrogant. The concept of humour in Elizabethan society and the way humour is perceived in modern day theatre may seem a mile apart, yet they have many distinct similarities. Both rely on wordplay and punning to add a sophisticated edge to the play and provide humour. Yet the bulk of the comedy comes through exaggerated stage actions and frantic antics. These come across in scenes where people are fighting, arguing or chasing. Two good examples are when Katherina chases Bianca and when Petruchio's servants run around ridiculously when he returns home from the wedding. Both show extreme actions on stage to provide humour to the audience. Alan Jones, 11KO ...read more.

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