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Contempt of women in The Taming of The Shrew

Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is often criticized for its seemingly misogynistic themes: namely, the notion of breaking a woman’s spirit and producing her subservient to her husband. This is apparent through the “taming” of the play’s lead female character, Katherine Minola. Katherine, much better known as Kate, is challenging-headed, stubborn, and prone to speaking her thoughts. In the patriarchal society of Shakespeare’s day, which valued weak and submissive woman, her behavior does not go more than effectively with her male counterparts. Therefore, all through the play, her groom, Petruccio, makes use of starvation, humiliation, and sleep deprivation to “break” her and turn her into what was then viewed as a correct bride — the total antithesis of the character to which the audience is initial introduced. That destruction of a powerful and potent woman into one suited for the Stepford Wives is controversial: need to the play be viewed in a tongue-in-cheek manner, 1 criticizing the society in which it takes spot, or need to it be taken literally and blasted as a work of anti-lady propaganda? Even though it appears unusual for Shakespeare’s work, The Taming of the Shrew is in the end riddled with misogyny and suggests the necessity of a subservient bride and the stifling of a woman’s voice.

Kate’s sharp tongue becomes apparent in the play’s first scenes. Following Horatio criticizes her, claiming that she will not discover a mate unless she becomes kinder and gentler, Kate quickly delivers a scathing retort:

<BLOCKQUOTE>I’ faith, sir, you shall by no means need to fear, / Iwis it not halfway to her heart / But if it were to be, doubt not her care ought to be / To comb your noddle with a 3-legg’d stool, / And paint your face, and use you like a fool. (1.1.61-65)</BLOCKQUOTE>

As Horatio, Gremio, and Tranio witness Kate’s fiery spirit in action, they comment on the possibility of marrying such a strong-willed woman:

<BLOCKQUOTE>Horatio: From all such devils, very good Lord provide us!</BLOCKQUOTE>

<BLOCKQUOTE>Gremio: And me also, great Lord!</BLOCKQUOTE>

<BLOCKQUOTE>Tranio: Husht, master, here’s some very good pastime toward / That wench is stark mad or great forward!


Simultaneously, the men notice Bianca’s silence and seeming meekness, and judge her as quickly as they did Kate: while Kate is far as well ardent to be a appropriate bride, Bianca is best, with “mild behavior and sobriety.” Kate scoffs at the thought, referring to Bianca as a “pretty peat,” a spoiled little pet, and making apparent her contempt for Bianca and for the men’s basic desire for a docile lady.

Additional evidencing Kate’s fierceness is a scene of dialogue in between Kate and Petruccio, the man who will ultimately tame her. The two look to have somewhat of a battle of wits, each and every verbally sniping at the other. It is clear that Kate is intelligent and can hold her own in a verbal sparring match with any man. When Petruccio attempts civility, greeting her with, “Good morrow, Kate, for that’s your name, I hear,” Kate snaps in return, “Well have you heard, but something hard of hearing: They call me Katherine that do speak of me.” Petruccio continues to attempt to win her more than with compliments and sweet talk:

<BLOCKQUOTE>Petruccio: You lie, in faith, for you are call’d plain Kate, / And bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst / But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom, / Kate of Kate-Hall, my super-dainty Kate, / For dainties are all Kates, and for that reason, Kate, / Take this of me, Kate my consolation— / Hearing thy mildness prais’d in every town, / They virtues spoke of, and they beauty sounded, / However not so deeply as to thee belongs, / Myself am mov’d to woo thee for my wife.


And whilst a lot of girls would have swooned over being known as fairly and dainty, the a lot more challenging-hearted Kate is not at all moved. “Mov’d! in excellent time! Let him that mov’d / you hither take away you therefore. I knew you at the initial / You have been a movable.” The two continue to verbally spar, and with every single flattery Petruccio utters, Kate responds with an insult.

<BLOCKQUOTE>Petruccio: Why, what’s a moveable?</BLOCKQUOTE>

<BLOCKQUOTE>Kate: A join’d-stool.</BLOCKQUOTE>

<BLOCKQUOTE>Petruccio: Thou hast hit it come sit on me.</BLOCKQUOTE>

<BLOCKQUOTE>Kate: Asses are made to bear, and so are you.</BLOCKQUOTE>

<BLOCKQUOTE>Petruccio: Females are created to bear, and so are you.</BLOCKQUOTE>

<BLOCKQUOTE>Kate: No such jade as you, if me you mean.</BLOCKQUOTE>

<BLOCKQUOTE>Petruccio: Alas, great Kate, I will not burthen thee, For understanding thee to be young and light.</BLOCKQUOTE>

<BLOCKQUOTE>Kate: Too light for such a swain as you to catch…


Petruccio’s use of the phrase “women are produced to bear” demonstrates the play’s notion of ladies: while Kate means that asses are produced to bear workloads, Petruccio insinuates that ladies are created to bear children, hence supporting the play’s continual suggestion of a woman’s location as a meek, servile getting, excellent for tiny other than raising kids and following the misogynistic overtones of the function as a entire.

Comparing Kate’s fire in this scene with her speech in the play’s final scene leads the audience to recognize Kate as a broken woman. Her spirit is entirely gone, and she seems to assistance all of the things about patriarchy that she as soon as despised she is now subservient to Petruccio and condemns women who act insubordinately to their husbands. To Kate, the husband is the wife’s king, keeper, governor, lord, sovereign, and head — a far cry from the woman who initially spurned all such notions.

<BLOCKQUOTE>Petruccio: Katherine, I charge thee inform these headstrong girls / What duty they do owe their lords and husbands. …</BLOCKQUOTE>

<BLOCKQUOTE>Kate: Fie, fie, unknit that threat’ning unkind brow, / And dart not scornful glances from these eyes, to wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor. / …. Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee… / I am asham’d that girls are so simple / To offer you war where they ought to kneel for peace, / Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway, / When they are bound to serve, adore and obey. / Why are our bodies, soft, and weak, and smooth, / Unapt to toil and trouble in the world… / But now I see our lances are but straws, / Our strength as weak, our weakness previous compare…”


So then, how can one account for this final scene, in which Kate delivers this passionate speech about the meekness of ladies and responds to Petruccio’s beck and get in touch with with totally no resistance? It is evident that he has destroyed her with his actions toward her throughout their “courtship.” He humiliates Katherine by purposely dressing distastefully and riding a diseased animal at their wedding, and then by substantially leaving their wedding dinner with Katherine in tow. He also publicly announces what Kate means to him:

<BLOCKQUOTE>I will be the master of what is mine own. / She is my goods, my chattels, she is my residence, / My household stuff, my field, my barn, / My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything…


This sort of public humiliation can be seen as component of Kate’s ultimate collapse as a particular person. One can only bear so a lot degradation just before it affects his or her persona, weakening the will, and Kate is a clear demonstration of this. Moreover, whisking Kate away from dinner and refusing to permit her to eat is also proof of the starvation she endured at the hands of Petruccio. Petruccio also savagely beats his servants in front of Kate, assuring that he would in no way lay a hand on her but nonetheless instilling in her the understanding that he has the possible to be a violent man. He proclaims that he will tame her by depriving her of her demands, disguising it as really like and kindness.

<BLOCKQUOTE>Thus I have politely begun my reign, / And ’tis my hope to end effectively. / My falcon now is sharp and passing empty, / For then she by no means appears upon her lure. / Another way I have to man my haggard, / To make her come, / And know her keeper’s get in touch with, / That is, to watch her… / She consume no meat to-day, nor none shall consume / Final night she slept not, nor to-night she shall not / As with the meat, some undeserved fault / I’ll discover about the generating of the bed… / … This is a way to kill a wife with kindness.”


Therefore, by way of this series of starvation, sleep deprivation, and humiliation, Kate becomes the docile shell of herself that she appears to be at the play’s close. As a complete, the function is anti-woman and shows the cruel and abusive destruction of a human. In the end, Kate’s “taming” is tiny a lot more than the ruin of her spirit, and the work seems to praise brutality and malice toward girls. A stark contrast to the feminist movement, it is no surprise that the perform and its recognition are unnerving to numerous.
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