The Taming of the Shrew Study Guide

The Taming of the Shrew Study Guide

Original title:
The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare is a comedy that can be seen as controversial if we apply today’s moral standards to it. It involves things that are now considered forced marriage, abusive relations and domestic psychological violence. We should take into consideration that the severe misogyny was the usual thing in Shakespearean times and a strong-willed woman who demonstrated too many of the traditionally male traits was considered funny.

The main plot of the comedy is framed with a small subplot: an aristocrat tricks a drunken commoner into believing that he is a nobleman himself and arranges this story played before his eyes to draw the commoner’s attention away from his wife.

The story tells us about the two sisters, the elder Catherine, a stubborn “shrew” who no one wants to marry finding her temper unbearable, and the younger Bianca, who embodies all the virtues of the obedient wife. Bianca has a lot of suitors, but the parents of both refuse to allow Bianca marry before Catherine is wed. So, the suitors of Bianca temporary unite to find Catherine a husband and trick her into marriage.

The main plotline then divides into one where the suitors trying to propose the highest bid for Bianca to her father, getting into debts and tricking each other and the line of Petruccio, the Catherine’s husband, who wooed her by pretending to admire her temper, turning his wife into the ideal of obedience by not letting her eat, sleep and dress up. Finally, when all the couples are wed, they set a contest of obedience for their wives and invite Petruccio, sure that he will lose. Suddenly it appears that the severe psychological abuse can not only completely break the will of the victim but make them eagerly defend their new way of life. Catherine appears before her husband on his first demand and gives a sincere speech about the obedience as the uttermost virtue of a woman and wife - much to the envy and amusement of the rest of the men.

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