One of Shakespeare’s biggest accomplishments was appealing to all audiences. In a time rigidly divided by classes and gender roles, Shakespeare was able to appeal to the wealthy, the poor, men, and women. By showing both sides of the story and leaving some room for the imagination, Shakespeare was able to poke fun at the flaws in many groups of people for the amusement of the audience without offending those he joked about. In his play The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare manipulates gender roles through exaggeration in his characters and is able to comment about gender roles without turning a group of people away.
By exaggerating characters to the point where they represent a group of people but do not resemble them closely, Shakespeare was able to portray characters negatively without losing an audience. Many of the characters in The Taming of the Shrew are extreme. Katherine is the most heinous person in the city, Bianca is the fairest, and Petruchio is perhaps one of the crudest of the upper class. For example, Petruchio says that “women are made to bear” (II. i). This could be seen as offensive as it is saying that women’s sole purpose is to bear children. However, by placing the quote in the midst of banter between two clashing extremes, Shakespeare is able to acknowledge a point of view without offending people. His use of humor lightens the mood so that Shakespeare can touch on real issues without drawing reactions. Shakespeare uses humor again in the play when Petruchio says “rescue thy mistress, if thou be a man” (III. ii). Petruchio is implying women’s dependence on men but when he says this he is drawing a broken sword and waving it around like a madman at the guests of his wedding. Shakespeare again manipulates gender roles while using humor.
In fact, many parts of the play that mention gender roles coincide with the parts where humor is used. When Katherine is being tamed Petruchio asks absolutely absurd things of her which bring in humor. Katherine calls Vincentio, an old withered man, a “young budding virgin” (IV. v). The reasoning for her doing so could be very offensive but the humorous means of Katherine’s taming keep the whole crowd smiling.
The gender stereotypes of Shakespeare’s plays are unquestionably relevant today. While the stereotypes may not be as blatant or extreme they are still present. Women still have trouble obtaining positions of leadership in both work and romantic environments while men are still expected to be confident and dominant both physically and emotionally. These stereotypes affect everyone of both sexes, but they affect those who do not fit the stereotypes the most. People who don’t cohere with gender-based social standards are often cast out. This trend is evident in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew in the treatment of Katherine. Katherine isn’t a polite obedient woman and because of this she is constantly the subject of gossip and recipient of snide remarks. While some of the treatment may...