Explore Shakespeares presentation of men and women in Taming Of teh Shrew

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Rebecca Toole

Explore Shakespeare’s presentation of the relationships between men and women in ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.


William Shakespeare wrote ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ in 1593. In the play, Shakespeare explores the relationship between men and women. Shakespeare creates two contrasting marriage plotlines that ironically link with one another. The first is between Katherina and Petruchio, the other Bianca and Lucentio. Using characters, language techniques, such as stichomythia and repartee, also setting Shakespeare presents a multitude of male-female relationships in many, very different, ways.

At first reading the play, it appears that Petruchio and Katherina’s marriage is simply about gaining riches. In contrast to this relationship, Lucentio and Bianca’s appears to be based solely upon true love.  When deducing meaning from the text, we begin to understand that Petruchio and Katherina’s relationship is far more likely to flourish, as they generally appear to have the same views on many subjects, including marriage. Another relationship explored in the play is between Baptista Minola and his two daughters, Katherina and Bianca. The relationships between all the men and women in the play have one main focus, wealth; Hortensio marries a widow only to gain money, Baptista agrees the marriages of his daughters on the terms of money, and Shakespeare presents this to be the only focus of Katherina and Petruchio’s marriage, or so it appears to be in the opening stages of the play.

The most notable of all relationships explored in the play is between Katherina, the shrew, and Petruchio, a man who comes to ‘wive it wealthily in Padua’. This statement from Petruchio echoes the voice of many of the other males in the play. Petruchio sees women as merely an object, from which he can obtain riches. The relationship between Petruchio and Katherina develops steadily along the course of the play, from their first meeting, when the two cannot be civil to one another, through to obedient love. The very first time the two meet, Petruchio seems almost familiar with the shrew-like Katherina. His constant references to her as ‘Kate’ show that their relationship is far more informal than other relationships that are developing in the play, therefore far more likely to succeed.

Petruchio’s constant use of puns on Katherina’s name shows the importance of language in Shakespeare’s presentation of relationships. He calls her names such as ‘cake’ and ‘cat’, these names objectify Katherine, meeting the aim of many men from Shakespeare’s era, to own a possession in the form of a woman. Katherina is constantly referred to as different animals, mainly as a ‘falcon’ and a ‘bee’. In act four, Petruchio has a long soliloquy about taming a falcon; he is actually talking about taming Katherina. In this soliloquy, Petruchio informs the audience of his plan to deprive her of food and sleep, in a bid to drive her into submission. Petruchio claims to be Katherina’s master, and believes his is able to ‘train’ her to act in the way he wants. Petruchio also aims to replace Katherina’s language with that of a tamed woman, he renames her, and the couple share a battle of witty repartee, Shakespeare’s use of this stichomythia presents how relationships are changing and developing throughout the course of the play. After Katherina has been ‘tamed’ she feels embarrassed and ashamed of her previous behaviour, she calls her arguments with Petruchio ‘bandy word for word’ and clearly states that women should treat men, as royalty. This clear change in Katherina’s attitudes towards men show just how much she has changed, and how deeply she is under the influence of Petruchio. The use of lists of three, ‘serve, love and obey’, metaphors, and repetition show how obedient she has become and similies in Katherina’s final speech show how liberated and content she feels to have finally found love and a place in society. Katherina shows that she is now choosing to conform to social expectations, by respecting the ideal of a patriarchal society by referring to her husband as the ‘head’, ‘lord’ and ‘sovereign’ of the household, Shakespeare is using a list of three to convey her new ideals. Katherina also talks about the imagery of war, enforcing the idea that Petruchio has tamed her, and has won the war of the sexes. In contrast to Bianca and Lucentio’s love, Katherina and Petruchio’s relationship appears to be like a very long argument. Whilst the two are arguing, or flirting, they begin to understand one another, this is very much like the relationship that Beatrice and Benedict share in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’.

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In the play, Shakespeare explores the need for a practical love through the characters of Bianca and Lucentio. After seeing Bianca only once, Lucentio declares his undying love for her; he declares that he will die, unless he can marry Bianca. Bianca and Lucentio only ever meet face to face once throughout the play, before they are married. Their meeting is largely flirtatious and consists of Lucentio talking about his love for Bianca, as he is disguised as Tranio.  Although the couple end up marrying each other, it is clear that they are unhappy together and there is no ...

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