Critical examination of works of fiction, combined with a reflective analysis of one’s reactions and emotions from reading them, is an effective academic strategy. For this assignment, the object of study was William Shakespeare’s monumental play The Taming of the Shrew, written in 1590. As an illustrative example of a classic Italian comedy, the play reveals the romantic relationship between a man and a woman. It should be pointed out that the entire text is a narrative of a woman’s capacity to submit to her husband’s will. The eldest of the two daughters, Katharine, initially appears stubborn and rebellious: this behavior causes her father, Baptista, to fear her marriage.
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At a show of suitors, Petruchio takes the initiative to tame the girl. His strategy was uncomplicated: not to indulge her whims, to behave strictly, and to test the woman through a long journey, dirt, hunger, and lack of sleep. Eventually, when Katharine’s younger sister, Bianca, marries Lucentio, a climactic scene occurs at the feast. The men’s submissive and kind wives are unwilling to leave the room at their husbands’ first call, while Katharine, the initially willful and strong protagonist, finds herself submissive. Petruchio demonstrates to the other men what his wife has become through his upbringing: such transformations cause natural amazement to all present. Among others, Baptista is so pleasantly shocked by what his eldest daughter has become that he decides to increase his dowry and thank Petruchio.
Immediately after reading it, it is natural to think that such narratives are demeaning and insulting. The woman within this play is seen as an object that can be passed between powerful men. At first, such a man is the father, who, when his daughter reaches a certain age, has the right to dispose of her life. When the girl grows up, she must necessarily become engaged to a man who satisfies her father’s moral and material expectations. Thus, the woman in Shakespeare’s play has no voice or right to decide her fate. It is to be expected that such ideas would provoke hostility and skepticism toward a comedy that ridiculously treats women.
In reality, the problem with The Taming of the Shrew is much broader than the unequal nature of gender roles in society. The story of Petruchio and Katharine is about the capacity of a man to break the strength and core of another individual. Petruchio was not interested in Katharine as a person, but instead, he was driven by a desire to take up his friend’s challenge and conquer what the others could not conquer.
Petruchio forced his wife to undergo an unpleasant and uncomfortable ordeal of physical, emotional, and spiritual pain right during the celebration, without expressing any respect for his partner. In this regard, it seems expected that Petruchio is a collective image of the antagonist-abuser, whose psychological unbalance manifests itself in the suppression of his loved ones. Feelings that may characterize the perception of such a man include resentment, discomfort, or even hatred.
Nevertheless, it must be recognized that transposing patterns and behaviors from the material we read into the framework of contemporary society is a misguided strategy. To create a competent and academically accurate reactionary review, it is essential to consider the context of the era in which the comedy was created. Since Shakespeare wrote The Taming of the Shrew more than four hundred years ago, it would be wrong to evaluate the play in terms of contemporary social trends of gender equality and women’s suffrage. On the contrary, this model of man’s behavior toward women was the perfect norm for the world of that time, and any deviation was perceived as deviant. In other words, a self-respecting man had to act with his wife in such a way as to show the rest of society the traditional family model of the couple.
However, the present day’s inherited preservation gives the modern reader a legitimate parallel between worlds separated by four centuries. There is no doubt that Shakespeare’s social attitudes and patterns are not popular in the developed countries of today. On the contrary, if a man today shows such a blatant humiliation of female dignity, this causes a natural wave of misogyny and social rejection of such an individual.
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This was also true at the time of reading: every mention of Petruchio was coupled with a desire to help Katharina free herself from the oppression of her domineering husband. An individual with power and a unique character must possess and follow their path. For this reason, one of the scenes in the play’s finale, when Katharine tells the other wives about the woman’s submissive duty, seems monstrous and eerily unconventional.
To summarize, although The Taming of the Shrew is not a current or contemporary play, this comedy is recommended reading. The reader should be familiar with William Shakespeare’s work to understand the extent of social progress.
“The Taming of the Shrew.” The Folder Shakespeare. Web.