How does Shakespeare present relationships between men and women in 'The Taming of The Shrew'?

Authors Avatar

How does Shakespeare present relationships between men and women in ‘The Taming of The Shrew’?

Shakespeare uses the relationships in the play in order to express his own views of society and the roles of men and women in the Elizabethan era.  Through his portrayal of the two genders in the ‘the Taming of the Shrew’, in particular Petruchio and Katherina, Shakespeare demonstrates the idea that men are too dominant over the female race, and that women should be given a more contributory, and equal role in society.  He does not explicitly show this, because it would have been seen as too diverse for 16th Century literature, but he does show parity as an underlying opinion in the play.

        A common motif in the play is the idea of money and wealth.  This was seen as an important factor in life decisions such as marriage, particularly for men characters because, in the Elizabethan era, they owned all of their wife’s belongings, riches and earnings, if any.  Consequently marrying into wealth had a key part to play in happiness. In ‘the Taming of the Shrew’, this is apparent through Petruchio, and his marriage to Katherina.  In the play, he is challenged to ‘tame’ her, and agrees to it because she is ‘rich enough’.  Katherina is referred to as ‘shrewd and froward’ by the men, and is ridiculed by Hortensio who ‘would not wed her for a mine of gold’; Petruchio replies ‘thou know’st not gold’s effect’, suggesting that his determination to ‘woo’ Katherina is not because of his love for her, but his lust of money.  Shakespeare reinforces this when Petruchio is discussing his marriage agreement with Baptista, Katherina’s father; he is keen to find out ‘what dowry’ he shall ‘have with her to wife?’ and by stressing his eagerness to find out, Shakespeare is showing a demonstration of Petruchio’s greedy character.  The way in which Shakespeare has worded the phrase ‘have with her to wife’ implies that Petruchio is seeing Katherina as a task he must complete and put up with in order to gain a prize.  Hortensio is also used to strengthen this idea, as he is quick to give up his pursuit of Bianca for a ‘wealthy widow’.  By doing this, Shakespeare is stating that men of his society did not value the relationships with their women and had little respect for their existence except for their bringing of wealth.  This idea is furthered by Baptista’s comment ‘that is, her love, for that is all in all’. On the surface he seems to be caring for his daughter and concerned with the fact that she falls in love with Petruchio, however, because he later adds ‘well mayst thou woo, and happy be thy speed!’ suggests that he wants more for Katherina to be married quickly than to be happily in love, and perhaps Shakespeare may have used the first as a passing comment to appear interested in the well-being of his daughter, while ironically giving the impression that even fathers are uncaring and too concerned with themselves when it comes to relationships with their daughters as he wants to get them married quickly.  Wealth imagery is used to present women also, as Bianca is referred to as a ‘treasure’, ‘jewel’ and a ‘prize’, suggesting that women were seen as possessions that must be sold to ‘merchants’ as assets.

Join now!

        Baptista displays more of a fondness towards Bianca, the younger of his two daughters, and favours her over Katherina.  For example, after breaking up an argument between the two, Baptista calls Katherina a ‘devilish spirit’ which demonstrates his lack of care for her feelings, whereas Bianca is seen as a ‘poor girl’ in his eyes as a result of the dispute. This favour is common in the sisters, as Bianca is described as ‘meek and mild’, an idyllic woman for men in Shakespeare’s time, and so people would have been more fond of this character.  The contrast Baptista uses for ...

This is a preview of the whole essay