How might we interpret Katherina's long speech at the close of the play? Use stage and screen productions of the play to inform your judgement.

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How might we interpret Katherina’s long speech at the close of the play? Use stage and screen productions of the play to inform your judgement. In your essay ensure you address the following:

  • What does she say about a wife’s role in marriage in this speech?

  • How does this reflect prevailing attitudes to women and marriage in Shakespeare’s times?

  • How might we interpret these lines, especially considering the influence of the devices Shakespeare uses?

Kate’s changes in Shakespeare’s play, ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ are going to be examined here. I will look at Elizabethan attitudes towards women and see if Kate resolves to conform to these views or to retain her shrewish persona. Additionally I will examine Shakespeare’s use of devices in her final speech (to see whether she is tamed) and how she is portrayed in Zeffirelli’s film.

Women in Shakespeare’s time were not held in as high regard as men due to the hierarchical nature of society. At the head of this triangle of power in the Elizabethan society was God himself. This was because in Elizabethan times religion played a very important role in the lives of ordinary people and, interestingly, the Church itself was one of the most powerful and influential bodies (aside from the King) in society at the time. Also God was, and most often still is, portrayed as being male.

On the next rung down from God was the King who was the most powerful single person in society as it was widely believed that he had been divinely appointed. So if you went against the laws set down by the King you were seen as going against the will of God.

The following rungs were occupied by other men of power who were wealthy or who were in the professions and had a career i.e. law, medicine and politics. There were no women with any careers any of these avenues due to their lesser status in society. In the rung below this there were basically all women, who were seen as their husband’s property.

This brief explanation is only a rough outline of Elizabethan society as there were a wide variety of different rungs occupied by a whole range of people with different levels of influence and skills.

Women held such a low position in society mainly due to the fact that there was a total lack of effective birth control which consequently made it impractical for married women to work outside of their homes. So this led to the widely held, popular perception of women being able only to remain at home to work in the domestic sphere of the household. Women, strangely enough, generally conformed to these views and even took a great deal of pride in bearing a child for their husbands. So to all Elizabethans the roles of women were seen as completely different from those of men and not even as significant as what a man was required to do. While the women stayed at home and looked after the family as well as undertaking general household chores, the men went out to work and earn a living for the family. Though both these jobs were just as important as each other women still occupied a lesser status in society compared to men, and there were many limitations on what a woman could do.

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Girls could be educated by tutors at home but schools and universities were restricted to them. This was because women were not seen as to require the need for an education as all they should know, according to society at the time, was how to cook clean and raise a family.

Women also didn’t have as much power or control in their own marriage as a woman was considered to be weaker than the man. A man even had a legal right to chastise his wife as he was considered to be the ‘head’ of the marriage.

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