The Taming of the Shrew, a comedy written by William Shakespeare, is full of irony and lust. Between Katherine’s shrew-like nature, Bianca’s popularity among the men, and Baptista’s business like personality, questionable marriages are formed causing both physical and emotional transformations. The Taming of the Shrew exhibits marriage and gender of the Renaissance through Katherine’s alteration into an obedient and loving wife, and Petruchio’s transformation from a greedy “fortune seeker”, to a gentle and loving husband.
Amber Zuber’s essay, “Gender Roles in the Renaissance: Questions of Gender in Shakespeare’s As You Like It,” describes the very different roles men and women played and how they shaped marriage of the time. “The value, social expectations, legal status, and rights of citizenship differed greatly between the sexes as well as among the classes”, said Amber Zuber. Due to difference such as value women were mainly looked as property or a prize. Women were supposed to be “looked at but not heard.
” Meaning that women didn’t have a voice during the renaissance period. Therefore, women were more valued for physical beauty rather than something with a sense of worth.
Women were also valued for qualities that outlined them as submissive, making women such as Katherine in Taming of the Shrew undesirable because of her shrewish personality. However, characters such as Bianca were looked at as the “ideal women of the age.” The roles of men and women in society were very similar to their roles in marriage; both being clearly defined. The role of a husband was one of authority and dominance, “using his knowledge, wisdom, and judgement to maintain himself in the place that God intended him to have” (Zuber). Whereas, women’s role as a wife was more oriented towards obedience and submission. Women weren’t only supposed to meet the needs of their husbands, but also to avoid activities that were displeasing to him. Overall, women were mostly seen as mediocre in their capabilities to make moral decisions, or run a household. In the beginning of the story, Katherine is a prime example of the opposite of an ideal wife during the Renaissance, however we see how she slowly changes into a submissive wife throughout the story. There are many kinds of transformation portrayed in The Taming of the shrew, from Lucentio becoming a teacher to Tranio being a master. However, there are more than just physical changes that take place in the play, for example, Katherine goes from throwing stools at people to telling other women on how they should be a proper wife. Before Katherine marries Petruchio, she is aggressive, hostile, and violent. She would say things such as “ comb you noodle with a three legged stole and paint your face and use you like a fool” (Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 65-66). She was feared so much that people would refer to her as a devil. Although, her harsh actions and personality were changed by Petruchio after their marriage.
Petruchio would starve and patronize Katherine until she would believe that whatever he said was undoubtedly true. Katherine’s shrew like behavior from earlier was broken, and a new compliant wife emerged. Her transformation portrays the roles of women in marriage through aspects such as obedience and inferiority. Whatever Petruchio says is exact, no matter the circumstances. Therefore, Katherine is both obedient by obeying every word and inferior because she isn’t able to speak her own mind in the situation. For example, Petruchio says, “ I say it is the moon,” and Katherine replies with “I know it is the moon” even though it was already established that the sun was out. (Act 4, Scene 5, Lines 18-19) Katherine wasn’t the only character to transform in The Taming of the Shrew. For instance, Petruchio was introduced as a greedy man who believed that money was the only way to achieve happiness. As soon as he heard of a women who he could marry, and receive a large dowry in doing so, he completely disregarded the numerous rumors of Katherine’s attitude towards others. His change is a reaction to Katherine’s transformation.
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