How Does Shakespeare Present Marriage in the Taming of the Shrew? Essay
How does Shakespeare present marriage in the Taming of the Shrew? In The Taming of the Shrew Shakespeare is using Kate and Petruchio’s relationship to present marriage as something women should not aspire to, this is different to the conventions of other comedies, for example; in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing the two characters dislike each other but become better people through love and marriage. Apart from this ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ does seem to have many of the conventions that are required to make up a comedy.
Many of the characters appear to be the conventional or stock characters for a comedy, for example Petruchio could be seen as the fool and Bianca as the young, innocent maiden. The audience did not always respond well to the conclusion to the play, some of the characters do seem strangely disconnected throughout the play and their characteristics are un-naturalistic, Marchute Chutte – as well as other critics of the play – believe ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ “was an adaptation of an older play.
Shakespeare took what was originally a tidy little farce and transformed it into a vigorous and colourful one.
But it remains a rather heartless play, and although Katherina and Petruchio are entertaining they are not particularly real people. ” This is perhaps the reason for their relationship being so out of touch with the audience’s expectations. Katherine is presented as a strong and independent character and unwilling (and unlikely) to marry, but she is perceived as an annoyance or a ‘shrew’ by the other characters within the play, it is made clear of certain characters’ attitude towards her very early on; ‘No mates for you, unless you were of gentler, milder mould’.
All the characters are determined to change her and make her a ‘suitable’ wife, at first she resists but towards the end she changes dramatically, she changes from her strong-willed and independent character to one that seems dependant on a husband ‘Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper’, since this change is so sudden it angered and confused audiences when first performed – so much so that an alternative ending has been written, by Christopher Slie’ as they did not believe Katherina was a character that would succumb so easily to other’s xpectations, however her ending soliloquy could also be perceived in an ironic way or as sarcasm which would reinforce the idea that Shakespeare was trying to get a message across that marriage is not all that a woman should aspire to. Another reason it is rather shocking that Kate’s personality changes so quickly is because of Petruchio’s treatment towards Kate ‘She ate no meat today, nor none shall eat; Last night she slept not, nor tonight she shall not’ it does not seem that her character would put up with this treatment, but perhaps she changes to make things easier for herself because she is tired of people treating her badly.
Throughout the play Kate and Petruchio’s marriage is continuously shown as Petruchio having ownership over her, rather than a loving relationship, he is very forceful; ‘and will you, nill you I will marry you’, he clearly says that he will marry Katherine whether she likes it or not. It is also clear that for him the relationship is about wealth, he only weds Kate for the money, this intention is clear from the outset ‘I come to wive it wealthily in Padua, if wealthy then happily in Padua’.
The ownership in the relationship is reinforced by Katherine’s father, Baptista’s attitude towards it, he wants to get rid of Kate, he is almost selling her off, like a business deal. Shakespeare could be trying to portray his view on the attitude towards women and marriage at the time; Kate’s marriage isn’t based on love and she is unhappy whereas Bianca’s marriage is and she seems to get a cliche ‘happy ever after’ relationship.
This could suggest that Shakespeare believes marriage or a relationship is only real when true love is involved. The structure of Taming of the Shrew is slightly different to his other plays as his romantic comedies usually centre around or end with a wedding, however he passes over the wedding in this, and focuses on life after the event. This gives audiences a much closer look at the characters and allows them to have more of an opinion, which again, could suggest that he was trying to send a message to the audience.
As well as this Shakespeare seems to use a wedding as euphemism for sex in many of his other plays (as it is presumed that a couple would consummate the marriage on the wedding night) however because the wedding isn’t shown it could present the idea that their relationship is not a sexual one, this reinforces the fact that Pertruchio does not care about Kate, only money and wealth. Kate’s ending monologue seems to show the audience how much she has changed, however some critics think this monologue could be seen as sarcastic, which, arguably, would fit in much more with her character than the apparent sudden change in heart.
When Katherine speaks about being a wife she says “when she is forward, peevish, sullen, sour, and not obedient to his honest will, what is she but a foul contending rebel and graceless traitor to her loving lord? ” it could definitely be construed as sarcasm, as she is largely describing herself or how she acted before, and in calling Petruchio her “loving lord” she seems scornful as he has been anything but loving towards her and earlier in the text she thinks of him as a fool.
In my opinion it seems Shakespeare was trying to send a message to his audiences that marriage was not a suitable aspiration for young girls at the time, as he portrays Katherine as such a strong character that turns into a sad and withheld woman, which does not fit in with his conventional endings of other comedies – although it could be seen as a ‘happy ending’ because two couples have been married and seem content, it could also be almost tragic as Kate is unhappy.
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