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.