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Many critics wonder at the real seat of power in male/female relationships , not only in Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew,’ but also in other literature, such as Chaucer’s The Wife Of Bath.’ They are not the first ones to wonder who really ‘wears the trousers’ in marriages which seem, to the outside world, to be traditionally patriarchal. There are many ways of looking at Katherine’s famous speech, at the power dynamics, and at the sexual innuendo in the play. Some see female submission and acquiescence to perceived male power, others see a more ironic twist - that in wrapping men round their little fingers, it is the ladies who have the most power, manipulating men into doing things and using their power to control them. Really, it is a question of reading the play and seeing how it speaks to you personally. We modern readers have a more sophisticated outlook and expectation of relationships. We may perceive the physical description of the ladies as evidence of a farce, a source of comedy. In Elizabethan drama, female characters were always played by boys so it already had a comedic feel and it’s difficult to imagine a serious declaration of submission. The Induction in which Sly is attracted to the page disguised as his wife satirises gender roles and the idea of male power. Katherine's final speech seems ironic, suggesting to modern audiences that she is explaining that in reality women have the romantic power and control men while all the time pretending to obey them. The scene could be viewed as Katherine displaying how little her independence has been tamed as she takes over the scene from her husband, who has been centre stage from the start of the play, so illustrating that he is weak after all, failing to tame her as he originally wanted. He has managed to get a pretence of submission publicly but her strong personality and wild views are still her own. In intellect, in wit, she is more than a match for him, retaining all the power of a wild animal underneath, one who has power as shown in her summing up of his stupidity :
PETRUCHIO: Come, come, you wasp, i’faith you are too angry.
KATHERINE: If I be waspish, best beware my sting.
PETRUCHIO: My remedy is then to pluck it out.
KATHERINE: Ay, if the fool could find where it lies.
PETRUCHIO: Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail.
KATHERINE: In his tongue.
PETRUCHIO: Whose tongue?
KATHERINE: Yours, if you talk of tales, and so farewell.
PETRUCHIO: What, with my tongue in your tail?
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