Monday, February 20, 2012

Old vs. Young

I enjoyed the theme of old versus young in Act II scene 1 of The Taming of the Shrew. Gremio represents old age while Tranio represents youth. They go back and forth trying to one-up each other in front of Baptista. Whoever has the most wealth to offer Bianca will be rewarded with her hand in marriage. Baptista states: “he of both that can assure my daughter greatest dower shall have my Bianca’s love” (333-335). The interesting issue of age is introduced in lines 380-382 when Baptista tells Tranio: “let your father make her the assurance… If you should die before him, where’s her dower?” Tranio has more wealth to offer than Gremio, yet virtually all of it is his father’s and not his own. This raises the issue of maturity –of the ability to work for and to maintain one’s own wealth and the idea that wisdom increases with age. Tranio responds to Baptista’s question with, “That’s but a cavil: he is old, I young” (383). Tranio’s answer itself exemplifies immature black and white thinking. He sounds foolish with such idealistic, invincible rationale. Gremio counters this argument with: “And may not young men die as well as old?” yet Baptista is surprisingly unreceptive to his point and agrees that Tranio may have his daughter. Ignoring such a significant factor of age and maturity in favor of wealth seems like faulty logic.

It is also interesting that in regards to Katherine, Baptista says, “The gain I seek is quiet in the match” (320) when marrying her off. He is concerned with finding Katherine a compatible match rather than a financially rewarding one. It’s funny that the only reason Baptista considers the personalities of the suitors is because Katherine refuses to be used as a pawn in his wealth accumulation. He wants to quiet her because she can be no help to him. Bianca, on the other hand, can be and is willing to be so he ignores aspects of personality and maturity in her suitors, focusing only on wealth. The concept of money intermingled with love is similar to that which we saw in The Merchant of Venice.


Ben Burgholzer said...
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Ben Burgholzer said...

I noticed this as well while reading the play. I thought it was an interesting commentary on the importance of financial gain in marriage in Shakespeare's time. I think that Shakespeare is further commenting on how shallow marriage can be-Baptista does not even seem to care that "Lucentio" actually has no wealth of his own; he's only concerned with that the wealth exists in the family.

Cyrus Mulready said...

This is an interesting insight, Natalie, and one that hadn't occurred to me specifically until I read your post. Age is important in the play--it dictates who can be married first, for instance. Gremio also seems to be an object of ridicule because he is old and wooing Katherine. Perhaps age is another of the social structures that the play is brining up for ridicule?