You Shouldn't Change The Politics Of Shakespeare's Most Sexist Play; Taming People Isn't Normal

You Shouldn't Change The Politics Of Shakespeare's Most Sexist Play; Taming People Isn't Normal

The Taming of the Shrew is not like Shakepeare's other comedies. It doesn't have to be.


Shakespeare is the most famous playwright of all time, and The Taming of the Shrew is one of his most well-known comedies. It's also the most controversial, mainly because of the much-debated misogyny/not misogyny at its center.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, here's a refresher: Katherina and Bianca are both daughters of a nobleman. While Bianca is well-loved and sought after by many suitors, Kate is a "shrew," and her aggressive, stubborn disposition drives away any potential suitor's affections. A man named Petruchio is offered financial rewards if he will marry her and tame her. So here goes. The two constantly spar, but Petruchio breaks Kate down through different psychological torments until she is tamed and expresses her deference to him.

To a contemporary reader or audience, this immediately raises red flags. Not only does it cause friction with a more contemporary view of women's rights and gender roles, but it's also incongruous with many of Shakespeare's works.

Although I don't like to apply modern terms like "feminist" to someone who lived centuries ago, a running theme of Shakespeare's comedies is that the female protagonists end up with the person they want to be with. The women are usually empowered in their love lives, so it seems shocking to see it flipped on its head here.

In most productions of The Taming of the Shrew, the creators seem to try to flip the play back to a place where the audience will be more comfortable. They don't want to play Petruchio as an outright misogynist, or Kate as someone who is truly beaten into submission, so creative teams often attempt to make the play seem more like Shakespeare's other comedies.

You can say that Petruchio truly loves Kate and wishes to get closer to her--well, it might explain away a few lines, but it will hardly change the fact that he keeps her from eating and drinking. You can say that Kate really loves Petruchio and is just afraid of letting her walls down, but even if she does love him, it doesn't change Petruchio's actions. George Bernard Shaw said about an actor playing Petruchio as a sympathetic character: "He cannot make the spectacle of a man cracking a heavy whip at a starving woman otherwise than disgusting and unmanly."

Perhaps in an effort to visibly lessen some of the misogynistic themes and actions in The Taming of the Shrew, some productions have switched the gender of the characters, or cast the show with actors of all the same gender. But you don't need to look outside the play's text to see a gender-bending version of the story--although few productions show it, it's right there, before Kate and Petruchio's story begins.

The Taming of the Shrew truly opens with the story of Sly, a drunken peasant. A lord happens upon Sly, sleeping in a drunken stupor, and decides that it would be fun to see if he could convince Sly that he was actually a great lord, with servants and a noble wife. He dresses Sly in fine clothes, has his servants attend him, and has his page dress as a woman, pretending to be Sly's wife. Kate and Petruchio's story is presented as a play for Sly's entertainment.

And all the while the servants, page, and lord insist, despite Sly's arguing, that Sly is a great lord until Sly's trust in his own mind breaks down and he accepts that he is something that he is truly not. Sound familiar?

When you see these two stories next to each other, it feels harder to argue that Kate and Petruchio's relationship is secretly loving and healthy, that perhaps Kate pretended to be tamed so Petruchio could win a bet, or that maybe he treated her respectfully in secret. Both Sly and Kate's stories show a character being worn down until they accept whatever is told them, although Sly's taming is less disturbing than Kate's.

This doesn't mean that The Taming of the Shrew isn't relevant for a modern audience. It just means that it can't be treated like Twelfth Night or A Midsummer Night's Dream. Despite the entertaining drama, and yes, the comedy that exists in the exchanges between Petruchio and Kate, there are elements of tragedy to this story.

Whether or not you believe the characters truly end up happy at the play's conclusion, the fact remains that more than one character has been changed by a person exerting physical and psychological power over them. Shakespeare shows us there's humor in "taming" another human being, but we're pulling wool over our own eyes if we think he isn't also showing us the damage.

Popular Right Now

A Letter Sent To Myself In A Time Machine

I see you blooming.


A letter to myself in the future,

Good morning, I've been trying to tell you for years now that you are talented. That your body is just an add on to you. Don't let edges define you. Calories were made to be eaten so stop counting. Please write it's the only thing that's going to get you out of this hood. You can make it out. Write until every birthday journal is filled, until you have nothing left to say. you will always have something to say. I'm here to tell you, "Poet Breathe Now." Go get back in your zone and spit mind-boggling metaphors into the mic, because someone needs to hear the truth. You need to make that stage boom because once it shakes you will every ones heartache. So poet speak now because no one else will do it for you. Go find the good people like grandma told you.

Remember it's hard to find them, look where vines grow from trees our ancestors planted. Where their fingernails were filled with dirt from plantation owners. They left this for you. Notes tied with leaves smeared with bloody soil. I am praying you make it further them. That these roots from southern trees won't drag you underground with the earthworms. That you will rise with all the beautiful creatures.

You are beautiful.

Inside and out.

Stop doubting yourself.

Let your true roots show.

Never be ashamed of where you came from. It made who you are today.

Let your arms stretch wide like the branches from your favorite childhood tree.

Lather in self love.

Take time for you there is no shame in being alone it does not mean you are lonely it means you have find solitude in being alone. You have found peace in a time you never thought you could again because the universe never gives us anything we cannot handle. You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it. You are a flower child so bloom. Let your petals reach for the sun. She believed she could so she did.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Posting About Something On Social Media Isn't Going To Change The Problem, Its Time To Step Up

Use your voice, not your keyboard.


Often times when we hear about something that happened we always go to social media. We try and see who else posted about a certain issue. We try and find a post and put it on our story. But why? Is it to show people you care? Is it for views? Or is it to show people that you noticed something that they didn't?

Silence has a volume. A tweet I saw the other day. Many people agree to this and many people have debates over what it actually means. So let me ask you: What is your purpose?" Is your purpose to post for views? Is your purpose to spread awareness? Or is your purpose to be along those who found something to talk about?

Are you just posting about an event and walking away? Or are you thinking about how to activity talk about an issue and raise awareness and go and speak out against it? See that's the question that's going to have you thinking. How easy is it to just tweet about an event that occurred to seem like you care but never step up for what is right.

We often hold this fear of "If I step up I will be targeted" or if I step up I don't want to be viewed as what I am not. Why all these excuses? Why hold yourself from changing the world or changing the way a certain issue is taken care of?

Why always command the opinion of people over every decision you make? Posting on social media about a cause will do nothing but show your understanding of an event. You might argue the purpose of posting over a cause. But the harsh reality is the post is nothing but a post.

Will a post speak out against a cause? Will a post step up against discrimination? What about the words you type on the caption? People will read it and swipe. Will people really take the time to know the exact story? No, because we live in a day and age where the media shows us what they want us to see and doesn't show us any more than that.

Social media is a platform where its really easy to manipulate people in either telling the truth or simply lying. You never know the intentions of a person behind the screen so why even try to argue with such a person about a cause?

If you really want to stand up to issues and make a real change its time to step up. Use your voice, not your keyboard. Start advocating for what is right or at least what is morally right in your perspective.

Don't wait on your post to make a difference. Make the difference within your voice. Make your voice heard and if it gets shut down continue to raise your voice for what is right.

If you want to make a change I urge you to start within a class setting and then start going out of your way and speaking to different organizations and people about what you feel is justice and what you feel is unjust. Waiting around for people to see your post isn't going to do much good.

If you care to make a change than do the steps necessary. Quit depending on social media to take care of all your needs. Whets most important in speaking out for what you believe is right is being passionate to raise awareness.

Related Content

Facebook Comments