Monday, February 20, 2012

Kate the Snake??

Taming of the Shrew was a play that I was skeptical to read. I had heard several opinions in regards to this play, mostly in regards to how women are portrayed. They warned me that if I was at all feminist that I would have certain issues with this play. Sure enough there are certain scenes so far that I have some uneasy feelings about, but there is one character in this play I cannot seem to understand. Katherine.

In the beginning of scene two we are given Katherine and her sister Bianca, who has been bound by no other than Katherine herself. She is not simply questioning her sister in regards to what suitor she prefers and she goes so far as to physically hurt Bianca. Why? When asked if she prefers Hortensio she replies “Is it for him you do envy me so?” (2.1, 18) Is Katherine envious of Bianca? What other reason would she have for beating her own sister for simply not knowing who she might prefer? I am not quite sure why Shakespeare put this in the play other than to enhance the brusque nature of Katherine, but did he perhaps go too far within this scene. There are better examples of the nature of Katherine later on in this scene alone.

When she has her interaction with Petruccio that, in my opinion, is still showing Katherine in her harsh nature, but it’s more in an empowering fashion than almost crazy fashion. The continual witty remarks back and forth are something to be admired when reading this. She calls him a stool and he returns by asking her to come “sit on him”, a sexual innuendo that is understood. Her response is, “asses are made to bear, and so are you.” (2.1, 198) She refuses to let him have the last laugh, so to speak and as a result is one of the few women in Shakespeare’s plays that can mentally compete with a man. This is something that needs to be addressed.

Katherine is no shrinking violet, and she is someone that within Shakespeare’s time period would not have been accepted into the normal culture. Her actions towards men, general men and her father as well, are something that would be seen as shocking. I am not sure if Shakespeare intended to make such an outrageous female role, knowing that she would, in some cases, be looked upon as almost mad. While I continue to read the play I will see if I can try to understand why Shakespeare created a character like Katherine and what was his true purpose for making her act the way that she does.


Nicole Wissler said...
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Nicole Wissler said...

I agree with you, Katherine as a character really bothers me. The whole aspect of marriage in this play is annoying to me. I hate the fact that the older sisters fate in marriage is in the hands of her sister. Katherine is forced to get married so how could she not reject her sister? I know if I were in the situation I would be made at the fact that I was being forced to be married and the fate of my sister's happiness was in my hands. It's as if in order for one sister to be happy, the other has to be miserable. It's a double edged sword for these characters. It is hard to imagine what is going on in either of their heads because Shakespeare does not allow us that detail, so it is hard to say what Katherine's true intentions are.I would enjoy knowing what is going on in Bianca's mind. Does she even feel bad that her sister now has to get married for her own sake? And in the case that Bianca did not care for her sisters forced marriage I would deem her to be the selfish one.

Sammo Khan said...

Taking from one of your points, that Katherine is one of the few female characters in Shakespeare's plays that have the ability to empower men with their intelligence, I would also mention that although Shakespeare makes his male characters into men that are chauvinistic, he has a certain liking to make certain women to be as mentally equal to man. For example, we see the same intelligence in the character of Portia with her wisdom to find a flaw in Shylock's contract when other men had failed to do so. Although women were treated differently and lesser then men in regards to freedom of choice, in Shakespeare's play we see a break through from that stand point into a future of freedom for women.

Cyrus Mulready said...

Tori and Jade (in the previous post) both make apologies for the representation of Katherine--or, at the least, consider broader possibilities for what Shakespeare is up to in developing this character. It's a fascinating question, and one that is difficult (if not impossible) to resolve. But one thing that occurs to me as I read this post is how there are examples, yet today, of strong women who also stand with their men. Hillary Clinton comes to mind, as do a number of pop stars. Maybe the point of the play is that holding on to ideals is one thing, but practicing them is always difficult?

Ray Kelly said...

Katherine's interaction with Petruccio is one of my favorite scenes of this play. The scene is overflowing with wit, which makes it very entertaining but also demonstrates their intense personalities. I must say i was disappointed that Katherine had to lose her independent personality in order to bring the play to the resolution.