Marriage and Relationships in William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew
Getting married in modern times is not something which is viewed as
necessary. There are many couples that are together, but do not want
to marry, because they do not feel they have to. Couples that do, can
have a marriage almost anywhere they choose. Couples can marry in
houses, shopping centres and even petrol stations. Anywhere you can
get a marriage licence and a vicar, is seen as a place fit to hold a
wedding these days.
In “The Taming of the Shrew” however, marriage was seen as something
of a necessity. It was a very important stage in life, but a stage in
which love was not seen as a key or important ingredient. Women were
sold off to the highest bidder and became the husband’s property to do
with as he saw fit. This is shown in “The Taming of the Shrew” when
Petruchio says: “I will be master of what is mine own. She is my
goods, my chattels, she is my house, my household stuff, my field, my
barn, my horse, my everything.” This proves that women were seen as
nothing but pieces of meat. Marriage was almost compulsory and if a
lady were not married by the time she reached the right age, she would
be seen as a worthless failure and would have no respect in Society.
This is a huge contrast with the modern day relationship.
In the play, Katherina is referred to as a shrew, because she is
constantly defying the more superior men, so is seen as a figure of
fun in the community. The roots of this stretch back to the Commedia
dell’Arte, a “panto dame”, someone who is constantly joking around and
no one takes seriously. However, Shakespeare looks beyond the
“pantomime” aspects of the play and gives us an insight into how
“Shrew’s” in those days were ruled by men. They had no way of
expressing their feelings; “Thus I have politically begun my reign.”
Women like Katherina would not see their way for another 100 years. In
this way Shakespeare shows exactly how men’s attitudes to these kinds
of women made their lives considerably hard and miserable.
When Shakespeare was in his twenties, he had a relationship with a
woman who was a lot older than he was, he ended up getting her
pregnant. In Shakespeare’s time, if you got a woman pregnant then you
almost always had to marry them. There were no ways of contraception
and therefore no way of stopping the birth. Shakespeare was forced
into a “Shotgun” wedding, which was most definitely not based on love.
This may have had an influence on the way that he wrote some of his
plays, for instance, “The Taming of the Shrew”. In “The Taming of the
Shrew” it is quite obvious that love is seen as in no way important
when people are to be married. Perhaps some of Shakespeare’s own
experiences, have been transferred into the characters.
In Elizabethan England, men were...