Marriage for personal gains

In the Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio states that he has “come to wive it wealthily in Padua; If wealthily, then happily in Padua.” (Act 1 Scene 2, lines 62-73) Petruchio married Katherina just because she was from a wealthy family. He doesn’t care if she’s ugly or mean-spirited, he just wants the money that Baptista is offering to whoever is willing to marry Kate. Instead of marrying because of love, people in the Elizabethan era might have married for personal gains, such as climbing up the social hierarchy, getting a dowry and tying two important families together.

Women treated as property

After the wedding, Petruchio compares Katherina to his “household stuff” and his pets. (Act 3 Scene 2, lines 204-209) Women in the Elizabethan era didn’t have any power after marriage – they belong to the men. At first, Katherina tries to defy Petruchio, but since he is so successful in taming her, she succumbs to him and truly becomes his subject, as she says, “thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee.” She had turned from threatening Petruchio that he’ll have him “hanged on Sunday” to worshiping him.

Forced transformation

Petruchio tells the audience that he’s going to tame Kate with “kindness” so that she can become subservient to him. He treats Kate like a wild bird that needs to be tamed by starving her and depriving her of sleep. In the end, Kate agrees to everything he says, no matter how wrong he is. Kate wasn’t the type to beg for things, she admits that she’s not used to having to ask for things since she’s used to getting whatever she wants back in her old life. Petruchio had made her change so much that she had become a different person. At the end of the play, she shocked everybody since she had changed so much, thanks to Petruchio “killing her with kindness”.

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Dominance

Katherina and Petruchio have similar levels of (verbal) intelligence, with Kate being slightly more quick-witted and Petruchio more… punny. They argued through Act 2 Scene 1, throwing insults and calling each other names. In the end, nobody ‘won’ the argument, but Petruchio managed to get Kate engaged to him. By Act 4 Scene 3, Kate was so tired of Petruchio that she agreed to (nearly) whatever he said. Petruchio had managed to dominate over Kate just with food and sleep (or the lack of both food and sleep).

Social roles

Bianca was the pure definition of a ‘proper’ Elizabethan woman. She was subservient, kind, pretty and gentle, as opposed to Kate, who is fiery, impulsive and hostile. Bianca’s role at that time was to sit still and look pretty. It worked well for her since she managed to get a husband that truly loved her, but Kate, who is probably the first literary feminist, defies her culture (is it even a culture?). Nobody wanted to marry her because she wasn’t a ‘gentlewoman’ like her sister. Social roles were apparent in the play: men dominated in the patriarchal society, women were subjects of men, and servants were practically slaves with little to no rights.

Wealth

Petruchio decided to marry Katherina just for the sake of getting dowry and land. Even when he got the money from marrying Kate, he still asked Hortensio to pay for his tools for taming Kate (the hat and the dress). Petruchio was so desperate for money that he claimed that he would marry anybody just to get more money for himself.

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