Examine the different ways in which Shakespeare presents issues connected with marriage and male and female relationships in the play The Taming of the Shrew.

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Sophie Johnstone


Examine the different ways in which Shakespeare presents issues connected with marriage and male and female relationships in the play The Taming of the Shrew

 “The Taming of the Shrew” is a complex play, which involves a taming plot and the theme of appropriate behaviour within marriage in Shakespeare’s time, and does so through the contrasting relationships of Petruchio and Katherina, and Lucentio and Bianca.

Shakespeare highlights how important money is to people when committing themselves to marriage. This is portrayed through Petruchio,

“That you shall be my wife; your dowry’ greed on;”

Shakespeare has made a point here of emphasising to the audience that money is a necessity for marriage.

Shakespeare also draws the audience’s attention to the character’s values, which, is mainly money and social status.  Money was so important as social status was a concern and without money you usually had none.

He illustrates this again through Petruchio and his desire for Katherina’s dowry, “As wealth is burden of my wooing dance”.

“The Taming of the Shrew”, depicts a materialistic middle class and very masculine society and social inferiority is highlighted from the beginning when the Lord toys with Sly’s mind,

“O, that a mighty man of such descent”.

Society is highlighted when Katharina is presented worthless until she is tamed, and the conventional society of Shakespeare’s time urges Katharina to learn what role she should play and take place the hierarchy accordingly.

Social status, money and middle class life are all evoked by reference to possessions, leisure pursuits, clothes, instruments, dogs hawks and horses, which are all signs of social standing,

“Huntsman, I charge thee, tender well my hounds”

Petruchio is initially attracted to Katherina solely because of her dowry as he feels money brings him the happiness, which he desires, however this changes as the relationship develops.

He is told that she is not suited to him due to her feistiness and ‘scolding tongue’,

“She is not for your turn, the more my grief”,

However, there is evidence that he is intrigued by the idea of taming Katherina, it seems that he views Katherina as a challenge that he wishes to accomplish,

“I will not sleep, Hortensio, till I see her,”

Women have little involvement with financial dealings or the marriage arrangement even though it concerns their future, this fact clearly emphasises to the audience how men dominate almost every aspect in a women’s life,

“Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare”

Following Petruchio’s negotiation of Katherina’s dowry is their first meeting together. The pair have a fiery argument with some sexual puns, which hints that there may be an initial attraction between the pair,

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“With my tongue in your tail?”

Petruchio insists that he is to tame Kate,

“For I am he am born to tame you, Kate”.

 Katherina strikes him and Petruchio restrains her physically,

“I swear I’ll cuff you, if you strike again”,

 the action that he takes is a visual symbol of his intention to tame her.

Katherina’s actions and speech in this scene highlights her violent nature and this is a sign of her shrewish tendencies,

“It is my fashion when I see a crab”.

Petruchio confirms his authority by using the familiar form and repeated use of ...

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