Book Review: The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

Book Rating

4/5

Book Review

I can’t make up my mind on this play! While on one hand, it’s completely misogynistic, on the other it’s absolutely brilliant. LET ME EXPLAIN THAT STATEMENT! It’s all in the eyes of the beholder. For being written in the 1500’s, it’s completely modern when it’s read in a certain way. Bear with me here.

QUICK RECAP: Ok, so I’m going to give spoilers because if you haven’t read it or heard the recap now, you basically live in the dark. A man has two daughters. The eldest (Kathrine AKA Kate) is strong-willed and completely disrupts the norms of what a “lady” should be. The younger one (Bianca) is the opposite. Petruccio enters and says he wants to marry the daughter (certainly not because of the dowry that comes with marrying her!) and the father basically is like, “I’ve gotta get rid of crazy Kate before I can marry off Bianca.” Petruccio is like, “sure, I’ll take it”. After being forced to marry him, Kate and Petruccio have a stubbornness battle. He brainwashes her (through acts of starvation and trickery) to be a “gentle woman” and she retaliates. At the end, she gives a big, long speech in public about how the husband is “thy lord” and “keeper” and everyone’s like “OMG YOU DID IT! YOU TAMED THE SHREW!” The End.

Okay, so if it’s meant to be a misogynistic play saying that brainwashing strong-willed women into compliant, obedient wives is the best way to deal with them, I completely hate it. Obviously. But, in some ways I really don’t think he meant it that way. Hear me out.

Katherine has the longest speech of the entire play. If Shakespeare hated women as much as this play initially led me to believe, would he give her the closing speech? The speech at the end is so unlike her that it almost drips sarcasm. If the play performed it in a way where she’s saying that with sarcasm, then I’d say that this play is the opposite of misogynistic. I would say that if performed that way, Kate won the stubbornness battle.

Even if it’s not performed dripping with sarcasm, it can be argued that Kate still wins in the end. I have to believe that she’s not afraid of Petruccio, because it never seems to indicate fear through the play. She might have just out-witted him. Maybe Kate just gave him exactly what he wanted so she could get exactly what she wanted. In the Shakespearean era, a woman was only known as either “married” or “to be married” and Kate found a man who could match her on wit, who married her and gave her a place in society. He infuriated her, but was also easily manipulated. Say a few things right here and there, do what he wants, and then live happily. I could totally see Kate doing some passive aggressive things to make his life more difficult, and then pretending she had no idea what happened. Maybe the idea of taming the shrew just meant that the shrew needed to change battle plans. What do you think it meant?

Anyway. I like this play because it really made me think and evaluate things. Plus, the fact that it can be read either way is quite brilliant, if he meant it to be that way or not. So, 4/5. Also, I read this book from The Norton Shakespeare… that’s what’s in my picture. This book is 3,438 pages long, so if you want something that you may never finish, link below!

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2 Comments

  1. I have the most battered copy of Norton, but I also love this play (although I haven’t read it for years, so may have to go back). The misogyny is huge and makes it really difficult for us as modern readers because obviously, the world progresses and it’s now, rightfully, utterly unpalatable. However, I also think Shakespeare was making a point about strong women being smart women because Elizabeth was on the throne and he needed her support. So he played with gender stereotypes in a way society could handle. Katharine is the heroine rather than a villain (if I remember rightly). I don’t think I’ve ever had a blog post land in my inbox about Shakespeare, you’ve made me a very happy reader this morning. I may well dig my copy out. Thank you.

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    1. I’m on a kick so you may see more posts about his plays in the near future! I love that thought as well, of course the world has changed so much and even if he did mean it to insinuate that wild women should be tamed, the fact that he does it in a way that can later be interpreted differently, or at the very least still taken and tweaked to be widely accepted (10 Things I Hate About You) is absolutely astounding! His works transcend time and adapt to modern day, which is an extremely hard thing to do!

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