Animal Imagery in Taming of the Shrew.

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Animal Imagery in Taming of the Shrew

Many authors, from Orwell in his famous satirical novel Animal

Farm to Shaw in his play Candida, have used animal images,

comparisions, similies, and metaphors to convey characters's, or

perhaps more accurately, man's internal idea's, aspirations, hopes,

goals, and actions.

The notable German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, in his essay

entitled The Gay Science, wrote that "people are animals - as the

mad animal, as the laughing animal, as the weeping animal, and as

the unhappy animal" Nietzsche realized that, especially though his

actions, man is a lot like the rest of the animal kingdom - we

laugh, we cry, we get angry, and we become sad. But, more than

that, we sometimes treat each other just as animals in the wild

treat their own kind.

In the same way, William Shakespeare, in one of his earlier

comedies, The Taming of the Shrew, uses animal references,

images, similies, and metaphors to provide insight into a

characters physci, as well as the complicated balance created in

and through the relationship of Petruchio and Katherina.

Also, through William Shakespeare's use of animal imagery, we

get a picture of Elizabethian leisure activities such as hawking and


The title of the play is doubly metaphorical: "taming" is a word

used of wild animals and is here applied to a woman; a "shrew" is

a tiny mouselike animal with a quite undeserved reputation as

venomous and ferocious.

From the very first time that Katherina is introduced to Petruchio

in the middle of Act II Scene 1 of The Taming of the Shrew, the

use of animal images becomes great. They are used to show the

couples initial feelings of "playful" repulsion and capture.

In a continuous one hundred and twenty five line interaction

between Katherina and Petruchio, references, similies, and

metaphors relating to animal images are used constantly.

Right from the start Katherina refers to Petruchio as a

"buzzard" to which he quickly retorts that as a buzzard he will

carry her away, showing his intent to marry her.

In the same interaction Katherina warns Petruchio to beware her

wasp like sting, to which he replies he will pluck it out once he has

found where it lies. This is an important quote as it shows

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Petruchio plan for, or rather intent to, taming Katherina.

Throughout the interaction Shakespeare subty reveals Petruchio

intentions, which Petruchio has explained in the earlier scene to

Hortensio. He does so with Petruchio and Katherina's exchanges

of animal images, metaphors and similies, like the buzzar carrying

away turtle dove like a husband does to his bride, and when they

refer to the cock (Petruchio) taking a hen (Katherina). Katherina

as shows her intent to repel Petruchio by manipulation the animal

imagery, particularly during the excahnge of word play involving

the wasp.


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