Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare (Play)

Symbols in The Taming of the Shrew


The character, Kate in Taming of the Shrew, by William Shakespeare, represents a sell-out.  Taming of the Shrew is considered a “problem play,” because of its blatant sexist ending. The title itself sums up the exciting plot of the play: Kate-the shrew, gets tamed.  From a twenty-first century standpoint she is much more attractive in the first act where she literally winds up to slap Petruchio, the man she soon weds.

In the end, she is deprived of all her strength and pride and makes a speech denouncing her own purpose and instead preaches how it is a woman’s duty to take care of their man, and do as they say, and bow to their power.  It is really uncomfortable, which may be the reason of its popularity. To blame the non-progressive plot on Shakespeare is not necessarily a fair approach.

Just as it is not the Preachers job to solve the economists problems, it is not the job of a writer to teach a lesson, it is however his job to represent society as he or she sees it, be it ugly, be it seductive or be it scary. Taming of the Shrew is frightening in its honesty, and that is the cause of such murmuring in the theatres and slamming of the scripts.  It is unfair!  It is not just, and it is certainly not enlightened.

Kate appears in the beginning as some kind of heroine, a smart, brave girl unafraid to speak her mind with wit like lightening.  “If I be waspish,” she says, “best beware my sting.”  It is one of the most repeated and easily remembered lines in Shakespeare’s collection due to the rhetoric and double entendre.

All of this fire is put out by Petruchio’s use of manipulation.  Petruchio and his misogynistic tactics make Kate double over and her natural feminine sensitivity is bamboozled by Petruchio’s constant flash between torment and love.  The relationship is abusive emotionally and physically, and Kate becomes a victim.

This is not the opportunity to point fingers at Shakespeare and accuse of him of his sexism.  To this day, Shakespeare’s collection is host to the most authentic female characters wholly fitted to non-stereotypical prescriptive gender roles.  Taming of the Shrew is an absolute atrocity, but not of Shakespeare’s, of our society.

Kate’s last line confirms her abandonment of any independent thought or action and completely symbolizes her destitute defeat, “Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot, and place your hands below your husband’s foot; in token of which duty, if he please, my hand is ready, may it do him ease.

If you’re not standing up by the end of this play or squirming like a worm, you’re not paying attention.  This horrendous plot is meant to anger, it is meant to intrigue, and question.  Is this play relevant today?  Absolutely.  As long as women are considered a minority, this play will be called in over and over again, as it should be.

There are some people who relate to this play and “see past” the sexism, and understand the “love” of Petruchio and Kate.  While it is great for people to relate in positive aspects to a play under constant scrutiny, “enjoyment,” is not the objective of this play.  To question, to relate in discourse and discussion, and have “feelings” about a play is actually not a problem at all, but a complete success.

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