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Taming of the Shrew and Sexism

Taming of the Shrew and Sexism

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Published by cory_ruda
Written early 2011. It is a piece written and researched to find the link between Sexism and Taming of the Shrew, arguing that the shows sexism should be understood and accepted as part of history.
Written early 2011. It is a piece written and researched to find the link between Sexism and Taming of the Shrew, arguing that the shows sexism should be understood and accepted as part of history.

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Published by: cory_ruda on Dec 05, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Ruda 1
Cory RudaSexism in
The Taming of the Shrew 
Sexism had permeated our culture just as thoroughly as grouping into societies.Only relatively recently in the history of humanity have women gained a great respectand equality, this idea most prevalently seen in the western world. Under this grandunderstanding, the artists and intellectuals of modern and contemporary times haveshunned most works, old and new, which present sexist ideals in anything but the mostdamning light. One work of classic literature and performance, William Shakespeare's
The Taming of the Shrew,
has circumvented this boundary, ignoring social ideals andmanner, and uses violent and unforgiving sexism as a tool of entertainment and humor.The reason for this is argued among intellectual societies of the arts and the sciences,both as simply a work of literature and performance, and of sociological andpsychological phenomena. Thus, it will be examined in this work under both the fieldsstudying it, as well as finally judging whether the play should or should not be performedand read in modern society.William Shakespeare's play,
The Taming of the Shrew,
was written within anunspecified year in the early-to-mid 1590's. (Pilkington) The play begins with a shortintroduction in which a drunk by the name of Christopher Sly is tricked by a noble andhis house into believing that he himself, a poor tailor by trade self-described as, “havingno more doublets than backs, no more stockings than legs, nor no more shoes thanfeet.” (Shakespeare 6) In this trick, the real Lord and Sly end by sitting and watching aplay, much like the more modern novel
Don Quixote
by Miguel de Cervantes.
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The play within a play follows the story of Petruchio, a man seeking “love,” or rather, the dowry behind the marriage, and Katherina, the “shrew” referred to in the titleof the work. There are also two other characters which need mention as they are thetrue young love of the story which follow the story of the low, new comedy type, in whichthe lovers are kept apart and must themselves find a way to be together. Thesecharacters are Bianca, sister of the shrew Katharina, daughter of Baptista, andLucentio, her suitor. The obstacle presented between them is the fact that Baptistarefuses to allow his Bianca, fair and innocent, to marry before Katharina, the older of thesisters, is herself married. (Hudson) The problem with this is that Katharina is short-tempered and stubborn to a fault, often striking out against those which anger or upsether. It seems, to Lucentio, a lost cause, until, at least, he meets Petruchio, a drunk fromVerona. Petruchio has but one goal in coming to Padua and meeting his friends Gremioand Hortensio, they themselves suitors to Bianca: To get rich by marrying a woman witha wealthy father, collecting her dowry, and, eventually, inheriting her father's estate.
“Petr. - …. If thou know one rich enough to be Petruchio's wife,as wealth is burdenof my wooing dance, be she as foul as was Florentius love, as old as Sibyl, and ascurst and shrewed as Socrates' Xanthippe, or a worse, she moves me not.... Icome to wive it wealthily in Padua, if wealthily, then happily in Padua.”(Shakespeare 21)
Thus, it is only natural that Petruchio should woo the woman Katharina andcollect her extremely rich father's wealth. This would then free Bianca from her shacklesand she'd be free to marry. This, however, is treated like nothing more than a game byPetruchio, who pledges to take her through wooing the woman, or by any other means
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necessary. Eventually, he tricks Baptista into allowing the wedding under the pretensethat Katharina has fallen in love with him (though it is exactly the opposite case,) andtakes her by force, violence, and, quite literally, torture, both mental and physical.
Petr. - “ She eat no meat to-day, nor none shall eat. Last night she sleptnot, nor to-night she shall not; As with the meat, some undeserved fault I'll find aboutmaking of the bed. And here I'll fling the pillow, there the bolster, this way thecoverlet, another way the sheet. Ay, and amid this hurly I intend that all is done inreverend care if her; and in conclusion she shall watch all night: and if she chance tonod, I'll rail and brawl, and with the clamour keep her still awake. And thus I'll curb her mad and headstrong humour. He that knows better how to tame a shrew, now let himspeak: 't is charity to show.” (Shakespeare 58-59)
Here Shakespeare has Petruchio literally torturing this poor woman, forcing her into submission through lack of sleep, nutrients, and mental duress. The problem withthis, however, is that in this time in Elizabethan society, discipline of the “shrew,” even tothe brutal means of violence and torture, as presented in the play, is legally acceptable,and, if even, only seen as “distasteful” in society. (Detmer 273-294)
He also purposelysets up the type of relationship he wants with her by choosing to not take advantage of his wife on their wedding night, abstaining from sex. This is not, however, in any attemptto have her hunger for sex, but is used only to further solidify the idea of a morepaternal relationship (abusive as it may be) with her. (Perret) The reader of the play isgetting first hand an account of a man instilling in his wife not only extreme examples of domination and submission, but completely (and knowingly) attempting to instill withinhis “subject” a sense of learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is the state in

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