Taming or Shaming?
The Taming of the Shrew in Contemporary Times
The Taming of the Shrew has become one of William Shakespeare’s more controversial and divisive comedies in the past fifty years. It is a difficult play to present to a modern day audience because some of its themes can be interpreted or misinterpreted as statements on marriage, misogyny, feminism, female identity, domestic abuse, and romantic love. How has Kate’s final speech been staged over the years? Was it played straight or for irony? How might other characters respond to her account of a woman's duty to her husband? Has Petruchio been portrayed as a misogynist, a spousal abuser, a buffoon, a so-called man’s man, or even a metrosexual? Whose point of view prevails in the play? Katherine or Petruchio? With who has the modern audience sympathized? Has the play been a platform for the mockery of love and marriage? Or, has it been played just for the love of the language, colorful characters, or the fact that it’s just Shakespeare? An investigation of the play allows a better understanding of its power to provoke diverse reactions through performance and criticism.
The Taming of the Shrew can be a troubling play; the misogyny that may not have been troublesome for Elizabethan audiences can be hard for modern audiences to watch. When Kate and Petruchio first meet, they engage in an epic battle of wills; nevertheless, Petruchio vows to tame her of her ill nature and are hastily married. They travel to Petruchio's country house where he denies Kate food and sleep in an attempt to break her rebellious nature. When Kate and Petruchio return to Padua for a banquet, her family and friends are shocked to find her changed from a shrew into an obedient and loving wife. The play ends with a speech by Kate that summarizes a wife's absolute obligation to her husband. Recent critical studies of The Shrew have centered on the misogynistic implications of Petruchio's treatment of Kate, the...