Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700


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No one cares for Katherina's fate, as long as they are happy in the end.

Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500–1700

Her only reason for existing in these people's lives is to help them progress in theirs. Here, Shakespeare is characterizing Katherina as an obstacle that must be overcome instead of a fully realized person. In Elizabeth Taylor's famous portrayal of Katherina, she is undisputedly a wild woman. Her hair is unkempt; her eyes exaggerated with a dark liner which accentuates their size and wildness in her rage. Any portrayal of Katherina wherein her character is faithful to the text effectively eliminates the possibility of her being anything more than a shrewish woman to tame.

In stark comparison, Shakespeare introduces Beatrice as someone who is enjoying life in Messina with her loving family.

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She doesn't need anything more to make her entirely content. Having the same quick tongue that Katherina displays, she is lighthearted and fills her time with wordplay and joking instead of cruel insults. In the rare occurrence that Beatrice words turn venomous, it is never without reason, and she is justified through the context of the play. Beatrice's physical depictions on stage and screen are always of a beautiful young woman, who is clean and well groomed.

It's hard to not feel at peace looking at the infectious smile of someone who is so loved. In the argument of nature versus nurture, Beatrice and Katherina's nature is strikingly similar, but their particular nurturing is the contrast that shaped their emotions and self-esteem. Katherina's father, Baptista, is not afraid to show that his love leans far away from her and towards her soft-spoken sister, Bianca. Having a parent show bias towards a sibling is enough to damage a child's self-esteem and the measures that Baptista goes to show his disdain towards Katherina push her farther away from establishing an emotional connection with him.

With her own father calling her a good-for-nothing creature with the spirit of the devil, Katharina has never learned how to connect with others and thus has no companionship in the community. She has absolutely no one to turn to in confidence and simply be who she is. Katherina is the ultimate outsider. In Taming of the Shrew, the first person to ever show any interest in her is a man who abuses her. Katherina's outbursts of anger and emotion make sense given that she has never been able to share any intimate thought throughout her life. The only other interactions she has had with other people was that of ridicule.

She might as well have been a feral child raised by wolves. Katherina is what Beatrice, in the text of Much Ado About Nothing, described as the jester: Why, he is the Prince's jester, a very dull fool, only his gift is in devising impossible slanders. None but libertines delight in him, and the commendation is not in his wit but in his villainy, for he both pleases men and angers them, and then they laugh at him and beat him.

Despite Beatrice being an orphan and having to live under her uncle's roof, she is perfectly content with her position in life. Instead of being treated like the aforementioned jester, Beatrice is the family's lovable comedian. Unlike Katherina, Beatrice understands that she has value and deserves respect because it has been shown to her all her life! By giving Beatrice a family that admires her, especially her uncle who finds it possible to share his love for both of the children under his care, Shakespeare created the definitive differentiating factor in his two leading ladies.

Actor Maggie Steed, who played Beatrice in a production, infatuated herself with this companionship between Beatrice and her uncle explaining, "He [Leonato] acts almost as her stooge, egging her on, and feeding her her next passage He is allowing her to be confident and outspoken" McDonald, This encouragement enables Beatrice to come into her own and not allow anyone to step over her. Beatrice has a close relationship with her cousin, Hero, as well. Having the ability to confide in a trusted ally every night releases any tension and anger that might be festering beneath.

Because of this outlet where she is allowed vent her frustrations and share her hopes, Beatrice is the ever-joyous woman who can dream of sadness and wake herself up with laughter. Everyone who comes into contact with Beatrice can't help but fall in love, even the Prince. Beatrice's upbringing in Messina harbored a space where she was allowed to be as quick-witted as she pleased, and gave her emotional connections to those around her, teaching her to be pleasant but also to know her value.

Both suitors of the women are quick to engage in the kind of repartee that the women excel in. Their wits are well matched, only Petruchio's lack of understanding of Katherina, and his narcissism stand in the way of making an honest connection. The only purpose of Petruchio perusing Katherina is to obtain her wealth, and thus, there is never a deeper emotional connection made.

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Even with Katherina's attempt to join him in his fantasy banter about the sun and the moon, he dismisses her rebuttal insisting that she should always agree with his reality. Petruchio forces Katherina into submission and admiration for him giving none in return. Their relationship is substantially based upon his ownership over her, refusing to let her live outside of him and his domain. He cuts her off from her home and isolates her. Being the only person who has spent an extended amount of time with her, Katherina has no basis to go off of and accepts that this is her life now and that this is her role.

Having no assertion of personal value in the past, she believes this is what her life is supposed to be. Without a loving figure in her life to compare him too, her loyalty to the only person who has spent time focusing on her was inevitable. Along with Beatrice representing a more fleshed out version of Katherine, Benedick acts as the foil against Petruchio.

It is apparent that Beatrice and Benedick already held disdain for each other, but having that past together gives them the foundation they needed to grow as a couple.

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The two were familiar long before they began to fall for each other and knew the other's personality. Shakespeare's most significant distinction between Petruchio and Benedick is having Benedick respect Beatrice. Benedick views her as his equal and does not hold back in their banter because she is a woman, but he never crosses the line of crudeness or cruelty. This regard comes into play when he outright refuses to kill Claudio for her sake. He doesn't need to be romantically involved with Beatrice to be happy, but he needs her. When he realizes how far this injustice against Hero endangers the family he loves, takes arms up against his best friend, "Enough, I am engaged, I will challenge him.

I will kiss your hand, and so I leave you: by this hand, Claudio shall render me a dear account: as you hear of me, so think of me, go comfort your cousin. Not only does he allow her to be her own person, but he recognizes the importance of her family and does not attempt to remove her from them. What distinguishes a Shrew from the comedic and the tragic depends upon the perspective written. A character can rarely be taken at face value for who they truly are; everyone has layers to their reasoning and actions. Unfortunately for Katherina, Shakespeare didn't spend the time while writing The Taming of the Shrew to flesh her out as a full person or to provide a friendly face for her to turn to in a time of need.

Katherina, having never been given an opportunity for personal redemption had no choice over her own life. However, in Much Ado about Nothing, Beatrice is portrayed from the beginning as a person who is much loved and allowed to explore her complex emotions. This difference directly correlates into her relationship. Each woman's treatment at the hand of her husband affects her self-image and determines her ability to speak for herself. While Petruchio focused on getting Katherina as far away from her home and family as possible, Benedick vowed to fight for Beatrice's families honor.


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Most importantly, however, is that Beatrice has a confidant and close friend in Hero whereas Katherina has no one. Shakespeare's reconstruction of the Shrew brings to light that no matter the woman's nature, her nurture can make or break her. The Bedford Shakespeare. Martin's, More From api Popular in Psychology. Wan Ash. Klau Manriquez. Shraboni Sinha. Zia Kakar. Zach Scouras. Jack Fu. Roger Pearson. Don Quixote de la Mancha.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Doctor Faustus. Christopher Marlowe. Mary and The Wrongs of Woman. Mary Wollstonecraft.


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Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700 Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700
Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700 Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700
Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700 Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700
Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700 Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700
Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700 Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700
Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700 Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700
Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700 Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700
Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700 Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives, 1500-1700

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