SHAKESPEARE: The Taming of the Shrew

William Shakespeare’s, The Taming of the Shrew, was first performed in 1594. It tells the story of an Italian nobleman named Petruchio and his courtship, marriage, and taming of a shrewish Italian noblewoman named Kate. Some modern scholars who are intimidated and corrupted by modern feminism are highly critical of the play because of its misogynistic elements. The play, however, has an important and insightful message. The play’s message is that happiness can be attained only when men and women perform their proper roles.

Kate, the eponymous shrew of the play, is equivalent to the modern feminist who hates men because men find her unattractive. Spurned by countless men, Kate grows angry and scorns all potential suitors. Her hostile behavior renders her uglier than she ever was before, thus compounding her predicament. Petruchio, nevertheless, resolves to marry and tame her.

By the end of the play, Petruchio successfully tames the shrew. Kate redeems her past behavior by submitting to her husband’s will. She assumes her proper and natural role, and thereby becomes happy. Not only is Kate happy, but Petruchio is happy too; proving that, when men and women fulfill their proper roles, happiness ensues.

When men and women, on the other hand, do not fulfill their proper roles, misery ensues. In the most famous speech of the play, Kate upbraids women who do not obey their husbands, advising them that disobedience in a woman is ugly and leads to unhappiness.

“Fie, fie! unknit that threatening unkind brow,
And dart not scornful glances from those eyes
To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor:
It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads,
Confounds thy fame as whirlwinds shake fair buds,
And in no sense is meet or amiable.
A woman mov’d is like a fountain troubled,
Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty;
And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty
Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks, and true obedience;
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord? —
I am asham’d that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace,
Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.
Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,
Unapt to toil and trouble in the world,
But that our soft conditions and our hearts
Should well agree with our external parts?”

Modern feminism tries to destroy the traditional family unit and alter the traditional social roles that have generated for centuries the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Shakespeare, in his inimitable eloquence and genius, has written a stern condemnation of this movement. It is high time that the liberal feminists look to the classics of a liberal education for instruction.

Quotes:

Let the world slide.

No profit grows where is no pleasure ta’en;
In brief, sir, study what you most affect.

Old fashions please me best; I am not so nice
To change true rules for odd inventions.

Fie, fie! unknit that threatening unkind brow,
And dart not scornful glances from those eyes
To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor:
It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads,
Confounds thy fame as whirlwinds shake fair buds,
And in no sense is meet or amiable.
A woman mov’d is like a fountain troubled,
Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty;
And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty
Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks, and true obedience;
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord? —
I am asham’d that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace,
Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.
Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,
Unapt to toll and trouble in the world,
But that our soft conditions and our hearts
Should well agree with our external parts?
Come, come, you froward and unable worms!
My mind hath been as big as one of yours,
My heart as great, my reason haply more,
To bandy word for word and frown for frown;
But now I see our lances are but straws,
Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.
Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot,
And place your hands below your husband’s foot:
In token of which duty, if he please,
My hand is ready; may it do him ease.

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2 thoughts on “SHAKESPEARE: The Taming of the Shrew”

  1. I don’t think modern feminism can be criticised by using a text that was written well before the pioneering work of Simone de Beauvoir. Modern feminists have changed the world for the better, regardless of the art of Shakespeare. There is still more to be done because poverty affects more women than men around the world. Nevertheless, thank you very much indeed for a provocative post which reminds of a play that was probably highly amusing when it was first performed.

    1. It’s always helpful to define terms. I should have done so in the video, but I like to keep the videos as short as possible. By ‘modern feminism’, I mean the movement which seeks to eradicate the traditional family unit; the movement which encourages women to prefer careers over being a housewife; and the movement which persuades women that they “don’t need a man.” Therefore, any text that discusses relationships between men and women can be used to criticize modern feminism.

      First wave feminism and second wave feminism certainly have made the world a better place, I won’t argue with that.

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