To beast or not to beast?

The play starts with Sly being yelled at like an animal because he has not payed his tab.  The threat is to throw him into the gallows as to embarrass him into acting better.  But before her threat can even be delivered, Sly is passed out.  There is no real background on why Sly is drinking himself to a stupor but either way he is immediately looked down upon for being a passed out drunk.  Then the lord comes in and discusses hunting and choosing the right dog to hunt with.  Now this is not such a subtle metaphor for a wife during these times.  The partnership isn’t about love but money.  And the power initial lays with the hunted (the lady) because her father has the fortune that the hunter (man) must win.

It is interesting to see Shakespeare has all the characters use beautiful language to try complete their devious goals.  The play is called the taming of the shrew because Katherine (the shrew) must be tamed so her lovely younger daughter Bianca can get married.  There is something very animal about the whole setup as if the women are wild animals needed to be tamed and put in their place by a man.  But the men are like animals biting at the bit to try and get at Bianca.  Shakespeare makes it so the women have backbone and power and keep the men at bay initially, but finally crack.  Katherine is key here because she is powerful for that fact that she isn’t a docile woman trying to be wooed.  But Petruchio is the grand hunter and his pray is Katherine who he immediately calls Kate, making her informal.  He sets the tone for their relationship and really pushes her into a box quite quickly attempting to tame her.  We see earlier that other men trying to woo her or even teach her lead to them getting hit over the head with a blunt instrument, but Pertuchio has more fight.  The men are too funny for the fact that they all are fighting for one girl but all are trying to deceive her in order to win her “heart”.  But really they are winning a title, money, and power.  Which is transferred from the lady to the man.  So how much power does the hunter have if there is nothing to hunt?  The women have a role of importance these men neglect openly to the extent of fault.  I feel that Shakespeare is going to turn this on it’s head like in Merchant because he has Portia dress up as a man, save her husband and her husband’s friend, and then gets them to give her the one thing the girls said not to give up the rings.  Then she goes on to continue, that the girls slept with the lawyers to get their rings back.  And I think Shakespeare has fun showing the hypocrisy of men thinking they have power when in fact both genders have equal power, which shines in this play.  The battling of the genders is too complicated to have an obvious outcome which is perfect to show the equality of the genders because they are both worthy opponents rather than a hunter and its prey. 


4 thoughts on “To beast or not to beast?

  1. Steph Cryan

    I certainly have to agree with your metaphor of the hunter and the prey, especially after Petruccio's speech that turns Katerine into a falcon that must be tamed so it does not lash out at others. I also agree that usually Shakespeare does turn it all on it's head and gives the power to whoever, not just to one particular gender (though it could be said that this isn't seen possibly at the end of this play). The idea of the women being the hunted, is certainly one that I saw being played out in this play as well.

  2. Megan Jordan

    I think it's very important to pay attention to how Shakespeare gives women so much power, considering the status that women had during his time. Although it seems that Katherine "cracks" under Petruccio's rule at the end of the play, the fact that Shakespeare created a female character who has the gusto to speak back to men and state her opinion is ground breaking. This characteristic is what makes Shakespeare both a writer of his time and a writer of all times.

  3. Cyrus Mulready

    It seems, Sam, that you see the end of the play leaving Katherine with some power? Or do you think that the play reverses the tide and gives power back to Petruccio? I like the idea that the hunted holds some kind of control over the hunter–an idea we didn't cover in class. Perhaps this reading is another way to recover the end of the play for a feminist reading?

  4. Ray Kelly

    I liked they way you compared the way the men approach the women to being similar to a hunt. The men all use different techniques to approach their pray. I think it is funny that all the men who wish the marry for love use lies and schemes to get the girl to fall in love with them, but the one man who admits to marrying only for money is the only man who uses the direct approach. It may be because he has no competition, but i also thinks the way the men try to win the girls reflects their character. Petuchio wants to be in control of the hunt, and face his prey head on.


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