The Role of Women in Challenging the Status Quo in Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew
The female characters of Shakespearean literature inspire much controversy over their roles. Many critics assert the female characters are depicted as unreal portrayals of passive women. Other critics argue that the roles portrayed were considered normal for the period in which they took place. During the period of the Enlightenment, many social norms changed and evolved. One such norm was the position of women in society. Queen Elizabeth was a controversial female in power during Shakespeare?s life and challenged all traditional thinking. In The Taming of the Shrew, Katherine (Kate) is the controversial female character. The comedy is about Kate, a strong-willed woman, whom is expected to conform to the unwritten rules of the late 16th century society. There are many aspects of her character that can be interpreted in more than one-way, such as her attitude, appearance, and actions. Many critique the true motivation for Kate?s actions. Kate is not tamed within the play but liberated, taught to love, and taught how to enjoy life.
Kate is stubborn, harsh, and cruel at the beginning of the play. When Hortensio describes her to Petruccio he calls her shrewd, ill-favoured, an intolerable-curst, and a froward (I.2.ll. 57, 85-86). It is questionable however that all these names are true. Hortensio holds pretenses against Kate for she stands between her sister, Bianca, and any suitor. Such a dame intrigues Petruccio that she may offer him a challenge, and she is wealthy. Kate?s actions and attitude have never been challenged before she met Petruccio. Everyone she knows has always been afraid of her and the only way she knows to get attention is to act out, against the status quo. When Kate and Petruccio first meet, they are both challenged. Kate realizes she has no way out of the marriage arrangement and this scares her. Petruccio and Kate contend in a verbal war with each other. This is the first conversation Kate has with a mind of similar wit. In the advancing relationship Kate has with Petruccio she starts to enjoy herself. They both have skill with word games and true wit coming out of their fingers. Petruccio?s actions give Kate no choice but to obey an orderly, structured schedule. This is something Kate has never had to deal with. It is in this manner that critics may argue she was tamed, but actually she is liberated from her old, boring life. Petruccio opens her eyes to a life where she does not have to be mean and shrewish. He gives her the opportunity to be her true self without extinguishing her inner spirit and fire. Petruccio?s challenge of ?taming the shrew? helps Kate fully become herself.
The verbal games played between Kate and Petruccio are similar to intense flirting when they first meet. Petruccio slathers on all the compliments and makes sexual innuendos that astonish Kate. Kate has never known love in...