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Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

The Battle Of The Sexes In Taming Of The Shrew

Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew raises some controversial issues about the roles of spouses and wives, the place of women in society, the expectations of marriage and more. A main topic throughout the play is Petruchio’s “taming” of Katherina and her eventual submission. Petruchio can be looked at in one of two ways- as a “cruel, unfeeling bully” or a “man who brings Katherina self-knowledge and contentment”. The way in which Petruchio’s manner is viewed depends on the historical context. In the 16th century, Petruchio’s attitude toward Katherina was accepted and normal. This is because women were not seen as equal to men. In the 21st century, where women are equal to men, Petruchio’s method would not be tolerated. I will be using the historical context of the 21st century to contend that Petruchio was a “cruel, unfeeling bully”, because I believe that the attitude toward women in the 21st century is the correct one of the two.

From the beginning, Petruchio does not see Kate as an opportunity to be happily married, but a chance to get rich and conquer her. When Hortensio tells Petruchio about Katherina, Petruchio says that it matters not how horrible she is, so long as she has money: “I come to wive it wealthily in Padua / If wealthily, then happily in Padua” (Act I; Scene 2; lines 72-73). Later, during his first meeting with Baptista, Petruchio is eager to settle financial matters with him, even before he meets Kate: “What dowry shall I have with her to wife” (Act II; Scene 1; lines 116) and
“Let specialties be therefore drawn before us, / That convenants may be kept on either hand.” (Act II; Scene 1; lines 122-123). Petruchio has no respect for any reasons that Katherina might have for getting married, such as love. He therefore fits the bill of a “cruel, unfeeling bully” by seeing marriage as a business opportunity with no consideration of Katherina’s wishes.

The way that Petruchio acts toward Katherina is also indicative of his insensitive nature. When he and Katherina first meet, instead of being friendly and cordial, Petruchio is already scheming to tame her by being indirect and annoying: “Say that she rail, why then I’ll tell her plain / She sings sweetly as a nightingale.” (Act II; Scene 1; lines 165-166) and “If she...

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