Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sexism in the Taming of the Shrew

       So, as we have discussed in class, the Taming of the Shrew is a very sexist play.  The majority of the male characters in the work show their blatantly sexist characteristics by the words they say and by the way they treat the women in their lives.  A prime example of sexism is the relationship between Petruchio and Katharina.
      One of the first demonstrations of sexism by Petruchio in the work happens at a luncheon after he and Katharina's wedding.  At the luncheon, the two are both surrounded by family and friends of Katharina.  While this party is in their honor, Petruchio wants to leave immediately and does not acknowledge Katharina's protests.  "I will be master of what is mine own.  She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house, my household stuff, my field, my barn, my horse, my ox, my ass, my anything; and here she stands, touch her whoever dare."  This scene shows that Petruchio felt that he had dominion over Katharina and that she should do whatever he commanded.
      Later in the play, the couple get into an argument over what time it was.  While this may seem a very rudimentary argument, for Petruchio it is more.  He sees this argument as a test of his manly dominion and will not back down, despite his obviously being wrong.  "Look what I speak, or do, or think to do, you are still crossing it.--Sirs, let't alone.  I will not go today, and ere I do, it shall be what o'clock I say it is."  Here, Petruchio practically states that his opinion is the only one that matters.  He openly disregards Katharina's statements and shows his disrespect for her and her opinions.
      Lastly, in the final scene of the play, Petruchio engages in a very sexist bet with Hortensio and Lucentio.  The three make a hefty wager on whose wife will answer their call the fastest.  After neither Hortensio nor Lucentio's wives come after being summoned by their husbands, Petruchio does the same.  After Katharina answers his call and comes to him, he begins to boast and show his dominion over her by commanding her to throw off her hat.  "See where she comes and brings your forward wives as prisoners to her womanly persuasion--- Katharina, that cap of yours becomes you not.  Off with that bauble.  Throw it underfoot."  This scene shows how Petruchio feels that he needs to control Katharina in every aspect in her life, even with what she wears.
      These examples show that the relationship between Petruchio and Katharina was a highly one-sided relationship.  While Katharine started out the play being a very strong opinionated person with much to say, by the end of the play Petruchio's sexism had broken her down severely.  In return, Petruchio got exactly what he wanted, a wife with low self esteem willing to obey his every command.