It is a prevalent belief among men that women should be tamed to achieve a more harmonious relationship. The concept of dominance prevails in Shakespeare’s plays Much Ado Nothing and The Taming of the Shrew. Katherina and Beatrice in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado about Nothing (respectively) respond differently to men in a chauvinistic society. Katherina initially presents herself as the quintessential shrew, resulting in the despair of other men who want to court the already tamed Bianca. Her cleverly witty speech and debasing treatment and disposition towards men can interpreted as a method to weed out the weak men from the strong men or as a means to show the independent nature women may choose to employ. Undeniably, towards the end of the play, she appears to adopt a more docile demeanor, possibly the result of Petruchio’s unorthodox taming methods. In Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice advances the idea that going against the passive role society demands for women yields better consequences. She appears to have a better, more trusting relationship with Benedick than Hero has with Claudio; yet, at the end of the play, it is not clear what genuine emotions lay beneath the surface: Does she really in love? Although Katherina and Beatrice are fundamentally similar, through an analysis of their initial reaction to their future husbands and analysis of the events in the plays’ plots, Beatrice establishes greater control of her husband.
Beatrice’s dialogue with Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing establishes her control over him, dissimilar to the discourse between Katherina and Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew. Beatrice’s first lines reveal much about her attraction to Benedick. “I pray you, is Signor Mountanto return’d / from the wars or no?” (I.i.30-31). Beatrice’s primary concern is Benedick’s wellbeing. From her opening line, she intertwines insult and concern. She uses “Mountanto” in this context to downgrade Benedick’s fencing skills, yet he is the first thing she mentions. She continues to throw a barrage of insults about Benedick and later to Benedick himself. The number, and the nature, of the insults insinuate love. For example, Beatrice says Benedick’s company is “like a dis- / ease; he is sooner caught than the pestilence, and/ the taker runs presently mad” (I.i.86-88). From these lines, the reader can infer that Beatrice “caught the Benedick,” for he is all that she mentions and seems to not shake him loose. In their interaction, Beatrice and Benedick complement each other with their quick and skillful insults. Towards the end of their discourse Benedick decides that Beatrice should “keep [her] way / a’ God, I have done” (I.i.142-143). In essence, Beatrice gains the upper hand. Her behavior is similar to Katherina’s behavior to Petruchio. From their first encounter, they engage in a verbal battle.
Good morrow, Kate, for that’s your name, I hear.
Kath. Well have you heard, but something hard