The Taming of the Shrew is a Shakespearian dramatic comedy, focusing on the popular subject of the ‘shrew’, who were women considered to be ‘bad tempered’. This has caused a lot of controversy especially during the 20th and 21st centuries due to the emergence of feminism. This has created many different views on how women are presented in the play.
Feminist literary criticism is literary criticism informed by feminist theory. In the simplest terms, ‘feminist literary criticism is concerned with the politics of women's authorship and the representation of women's condition within literature’ . However it wasn’t a concept until at least 300 years after Shakespeare’s death. Shakespeare therefore cannot be considered a feminist because of the society at that time saw women differently- inferior to men as they lived in a patriarchal society. Many critics have stated that due to The Taming of the Shrew Shakespeare was not a feminist. George Bernard Shaw said its tongue-in-cheek chauvinism was ‘altogether disgusting to the modern sensibility’ portraying how differently people view it over time as the views on women’s rights evolve.
Katherina, in The Taming of the Shrew is constantly referred to as a possession, either her fathers or Petruchio’s. Bianca is not allowed to marry until after Katherina, conveying how little freedom and few rights women had. Baptista wants to ‘sell’ Katherina first because it would be easier to get rid of her as Bianca has many suitors, portraying them as goods to be sold. Petruchio refers to Katherina as ”my goods, my chattels”, after they are married, making it clear she has been sold from one owner- her father, to the next- Petruchio, her husband. This presents the idea that all the power lies with the men. Petruchio is only interested in the money aspect of the marriage- at the start as he asks “what dowry shall I have with her to wife” with Baptista replying “one half of my lands and 20 thousand crowns”. It is clear, especially in the globe theatre production, how overjoyed he is to get the money. This portrays Petruchio as a selfish person, not caring about how Katherina will feel about the marriage, but only how he will benefit from it. Women are therefore portrayed as bargaining tools between fathers and suitors, their ‘price’ based on how worthy they were deemed as wives from a patriarchal judgment i.e. they were supposed to act silent and obedient, the opposite of Katherina. This led to the disempowerment of women from the taming process to make the more desirable in a male dominated society.
In Act 2 Scene 1 Petruchio meets Katherina for the first time in order to ‘woo’ her. Petruchio contradicts everything Katherina says, calling her ‘Kate’ when she wants to be called ‘Katherine’, and going on to call her ‘bonny Kate ‘ and ‘super-dainty Kate’ intended to be ironic as the audience has continually been told she is the opposite and is therefore used for comedic effect. Shakespeare uses stichomythia to show there...