The Taming of the Shrew: Power Struggle Through A Family Dynamics Perspective
Power struggles occur throughout life and manifest in many forms. These power struggles arise in order to show an individual who they are as a person. This process allows a person to find their role, purpose, and meaning within their many different relationships with others. The most common form of power struggles happen within the configuration of the family, of every family. Although, over different time periods, such as the Renaissance where the play, The Taming of the Shrew takes place, there have been many changes to how the progression of power struggles take place within a family. In the play, The Taming of the Shrew, written by William Shakespeare, the presence of power struggles are observably detailed. Katharina and Bianca lack parental figures in their lives which changes their power struggles drastically. Due to the fact that Katharina and Bianca do not have strong parental figures they are unable to practice the valuable skill of testing their own power earlier on in life. Rather they are forced to release their frustration with their use of power issues by overcompensating in other ways, later on in life.
Fighting for the upper hand in the relationship occurs between many characters, for example: between Katharina and Bianca, Katharina and Baptisa, Katharina and Petruchio, and between Katharina and society. On one hand, Katharina who lacks a mother figure, in unable and unwilling to succumb to her obviously forced upon gender role. On the other hand, Bianca who is also missing a mother figure gladly puts on the stifling face of her gender role. Both sisters deal with this maternal void in different ways, but both are arguably and equally affected.
The article, “The Public, the Private, and the Shaming of the Shrew,” written by Gary Schneider discusses the difference in a woman’s public and private life. Schneider says, “For women to be publicized means to be confronted with the social role appropriate to her gender and class…” (Schneider 2002). Even though Katharina is slapped with the reality of her role as a woman she does not change her ways just to satisfy all of those people around her that want her to change; she stays true to herself. She rejects the idea of being a proper woman not only because she never learned the “rules” from someone she considered a role model, but because no one ever explained to her why she should act in that way. However, Bianca sees that acting like a lady has its advantages, for example: she gets treated better by her father than her sister, and she has more gentlemen wanting to marry her. Bianca also does show Schneider’s belief quite well because she is proper and as “expected” to the outside world, but privately she keeps her freedom in small ways. Katharina is unable to separate her two lives and therefore cannot keep her feelings hidden at any time.
Even with her father, Katharina does not change her feelings. After Baptisa agrees to Petruchio’s proposal to marry Katharina, Katharina tells her father that she will not marry him. Between the two of them there is a masculine tug-of-war that keeps repeating itself. This issue shows that both Katharina and Baptisa want to be seen as the most powerful; like most men do. Unfortunately, between the two of them there is really no solution; there is only the “taming” of Katharina attempted by Petruchio. The reason for this is again the painful feeling that the mother figure is lacking in her life (which may or may not be apparent to her- it is unclear because we cannot read her mind).
It is also interesting to know that at this time in history, “…many women died in childbirth and of disease…” (Hurlburt 2007). This is according to Holly S. Hurlburt who wrote the article, “A Renaissance for Renaissance Women?” Hurlburt also says that the rich families usually hired wet-nurses. This shows why Shakespeare puts such an emphasis on the role of masculinity within a family, due to the lack of femininity. Katharina wants to be able to make her own decisions because she has seen her father do that her entire life. It is also hard to want to become something that has never truly been represented or explained in any specific terms throughout one’s life. Without seeing how a woman really carried herself, up close and personal, Katharina is unable to find any relate ability in what she can only assume (and which is obviously true for the time period) is a role of submissive, powerless, and obedient actions.
The issues that Katharina and Petruchio have are also closely related to how Katharina’s relationship was with her father. Because they had a bad relationship, that hatred for men (which Katharina has) carries over to actually specific hatred towards Petruchio. At first Katharina really does seem to hate Petruchio and they throw back insults at each other. However, that soon changes as Katharina realizes that she cannot fight against this issue, surrendering to the arranged marriage. Once Katharina and Petruchio are married he starts to treat her more and more poorly by the day. Oddly enough, on the surface it seems that Katharina’s experiences with her father prepare her for her relationship with Petruchio and makes her becoming the ideal and proper lady like life that much easier. Yet, the reader might have to ask themselves why would a character like Katharina, who is so clearly passionate, rebellious, and anti-social, to say the least, just change so quickly into a character with a totally new personality, attitude, and way of life? That is were the ending comes into play. At the end of the play, it seems that both sisters have changed their ways, but then they barely show that little glimmer of hope that their real selves are still inside of them. In this example, Katharina’s and Bianca’s personalities are just shifted from being public all of the time to being private in order to hold on to their old ways of life.
The broadest struggle of power occurs between Katharina and society, in a general or overview like sense. True, this character’s personality, attitude, and way of life are dependent on how her life is specifically played out, but that was not Shakespeare’s only facet, moral, or lesson within this play. Shakespeare wants to show the audience that during the Renaissance gender roles were very much relied on for comfort and familiarity, which is understandable. If there were women that behaved the way Katharina did then they were most likely “corrected” in the error of their ways, and it was probably done fairly quickly. Gender roles serve a purpose of being easy and safe for society as a whole, but that rationale does not make it the right way to live individually, nor the way that should be forced upon others. Katharina noticed this problem, while being unhappy with the way she was expected to present herself, and decided to stand up for a change. Her courage is phenomenal and something that is very rare especially for the time period. Shakespeare makes it obvious that the readers are supposed to like Katharina, and be able to sympathize with her and her very socially recognizable and personally familiar problems (especially if the reader is a woman).
Katharina and Bianca are two characters that are very different but are also struggling with the same issue of lacking a mother figure in their lives. Katharina deals with her pain through acting out against the ideals of what a woman should be, while Bianca deals with her pain through making sure to be the perfect example of the ideal woman so she will please everyone’s expectations (and her own). However, the power struggles that occur with every other character in the play because of Katharina’s and Bianca’s issues shows how important Shakespeare thought this moral was. This emphasis also shows Katharina’s and Bianca’s journeys to discovering themselves, what they stood for, and what they would and would not compromise about. Thus, power struggles help people find out who they are, which betters them greatly. After all, no pain no gain.
Hanawalt, Barbara A. "Women and the Household Economy in the Preindustrial Period: an Assessment of Women, Work, and Family." Editorial. Journal of Women's History 1999: 10-16.
Hurlburt, Holly S. "A Renaissance for Renaissance Women?" Editorial. Journal of Women's History 2007: 193-201.
Parkin, Sally. "Privacy, Domesticity, and Women in Early Modern England (Review)." Editorial. Parergon 2005: 183-185.
Schneider, Gary. "The Public, the Private, and the Shaming of the Shrew." Editorial. SEL Studies in English Literature 2002: 235-252.
Thornton, Arland. "The Developmental Paradigm, Reading History Sideways, and Family Change." Editorial. Demography Nov. 2001: 449-465.
Kate and Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
2183 Words9 Pages
Kate and Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew
An exploration of the way Shakespeare presents the characters and relationships of Kate and Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew.
The relationship between Kate and Petruchio is central to the development of The Taming of the Shrew, as both characters clearly represent and are centrally involved in the main theme of the play, the taming of the "shrew", Kate.
The audience is first introduced to Kate by other characters' opinions of her, such rather than from Kate herself. Language such as Gremio's,
'she's too rough for me,' and Hotensio's, 'Unless you were of gentler milder mould,' gives Kate her reputation as a "shrewish" character.
When Kate first speaks, she speaks rudely,…show more content…
Kate is equal to Petruchio linguistically which also displays an aspect of her character, that she feels that she is easily the equal of any man.
During their first exchange, Petruchio immediately sets about Kate, that he will, 'woo her with some spirit when she comes,' and that he will describe her as the opposite of everything she is in order to confuse her and break her down. In Petruchio's first exchange with
Kate, it is clearly he who comes off better, immediately setting about her with short witty lines, and puns, 'for dainties are all Kates.'
This gives the effect if making Petruchio seem very confident and sure of himself, if he begins his taming with such good humour and interest. In contrast to this, Kate is very angry and frustrated by the Petruchio, and immediately becomes "shrewish," resorting to insults, 'A joint stool,' and violence. This gives the effect of Kate being much less in control of what is going on, and perhaps reflects the direction their relationship is going to take, that Petruchio will be the one in charge, and Kate will not have any control. This could however also demonstrate Kate's intelligence and wit, that she is able to keep up and match Petruchio's wordplay. However Kate feels the need to resort to violence, again demonstrating Petruchio's intelligent wordplay and calm attitude, as he does not react violently towards
Kate, but simply