Women Lose Their Battle in “The Taming of the Shrew”

A major focus of critical commentary on The Taming of the Shrew is the related themes of female submission and male domination. There are a lot of controversies raised by Shakespeare play The Taming of the Shrew ranging from the role of spouses to marriage expectations.  There are a number of critical issues on “the battles of the sexes” such as power, sexuality, and gender that come out in the play. The play’s treatment of female behaviour and the treatment of the male conventions as well as other interrelated issues depict women as inferior and always lose out to male. In this case, women submit to the dominance of a sexual partner in relationship. Female submission in the play has been manifested when a woman relinquishes personal control to another. Does a husband stand as a king in relation to his wife? This paper evaluates Katherina who is at first seen as an independent, unmarriageable, cod-tempered, and dominant woman who ends up losing out to men; Baptista and Petruchio.  Focused on the theme of illusion and reality, Petruchio “supposes” the qualities he desires to be in Katherina and gradually assimilates her to the image he wills hence drawing her into enthusiastic acceptance of the role of obedient wife.

When Lucentio arrives to study at the University of Padua from Pisa, he falls in love with Bianca, Katherina’s younger sister. Her father though, does not let anyone woo Bianca before Katherina is married (Brady, Andrews, Gibson, & Wienand 67). Baptista avers that no one approach Katherina as she is bad tempered. When Petruchio arrives in Padua, Hortensio his friend realizes he may have found a husband for Katherina after hearing Petruchio’s intentions of marrying a rich girl. Petruchio sees an opportunity to get rich and conquer Katherina and not a chance to be happily married with her. Petruchio is introduced to Katherina and is also told what kind of a shrew she is.  Hortensio is told by Petruchio that he does not care what kind of a woman Katherine is all he values is that she is wealthy: “I come to wive it wealthily in Padua / If wealthily, then happily in Padua” ( Brady, Andrews, Gibson, & Wienand 72-73)At the party, Petruchio offers himself as a suitor to Katherina. The rich bachelor is rejected by Katherina although he considers himself as a “shrew tamer.” The first instance when a woman loses out to man is when Katherina keeps quiet the moment Petruchio lies to her dad that she could not keep her lips and hands off him when they were alone and she’s interested him and wants to get hitched. She does not object to his sentiments owing to the fact that Petruchio was eager to settle the dowry even before he met her as he tells Baptista, “what dowry shall I have with her to wife” (Brady, Andrews, Gibson, & Wienand 116)   The woman who is seen as bad-tempered and whom her father thinks will never get married agrees to get married to a man who proposed to pay her dowry long before meeting her and. Additionally, she does not decline to be married to a man who out rightly lies in front of her and her dad.

The wedding is on a Sunday and Petruchio arrives in wild and unsuitable clothing. He also keeps everyone in suspense by arriving at the wedding late. He causes a big scandal and the pulls her with force before a slice of cake is shared at the reception. She is made miserable the moment they hit the road and arrive at the house of Petruchio. Petruchio manipulates her psychologically, starves her, and deprived of sleep. He acts like an even bigger shrew than Katherina in an attempt to launch a campaign to “tame” her of her evil ways (Brady, Andrews, Gibson, & Wienand 96). Petruchio wants to utterly transform Katherina, rather than lecture or beat her into submission. He continues to mess with Katherina’s head. Katherine does not wear the ready-made clothes by the tailor during Bianca’s wedding. Before the set off for Padua, she is made to wear her wear dirty old rags. Katherina break down and admits to go along with what he wants from her while on the way to Padua. She says fine when Petruchio pretends the sun is moon and an old man is a young virgin boy. Thirdly, Katherine runs out and delivers a long speech on her obedience to her husband during the talking smack at the banquet (Brady, Andrews, Gibson, & Wienand 98). Her speech demonstrates her submission to her husband, Petruchio. Her behaviour reinforces the conventions of female submission and male domination hence losing out. In other words, Katherine draws out the role of obedient wives while Petruchio accentuates male domination.

In conclusion, The Taming of the shrew is a battle of the sexes as played out by Katherina and Petruchio. Petruchio’s actions toward Katherina are indicative of insensitive nature. When Petruchio meets Katherina first, he is not cordial or friendly, but indirect and annoying scheming to tame since both fight for an upper hand in marriage. Eventually, the husband stands out as a king to his wife in a relationship. Petruchio transforms Katherine from a bad-tempered and aggressive into an obedient, honey-tongued trophy wife. In a battle between a man and a woman on who should have an upper hand in the play is a battle of the sexes where the woman loses to a man.

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