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In Taming of the Shrew, in the end scene Katharina says women are unfit for labor and...

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scottangus | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted January 1, 2012 at 7:44 PM via web

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In Taming of the Shrew, in the end scene Katharina says women are unfit for labor and command. Is this a criticism of man?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 1, 2012 at 8:19 PM (Answer #1)

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We need to be very careful with Katharina's final speech, where she shows just how successful Petruchio has been in "taming" her by recommending that women place their "hands below [their] husband's foot." Although this speech apparently endorses and supports traditional notions of a strictly patriarchal society where men are in complete control and women are vieewed as "the weaker sex" and therefore should be subservient to their husbands, this speech has been performed in a number of ways and can be analysed very differently.

Perhaps most relevant to the question you ask is the way in which Katharina presents men and the kind of role that they should have. Katharina's speech argue that men need to live up to the roles that they have assumed with care and diligence:

Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,

Thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labor both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe,
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks and true obedience—
Too little payment for so great a debt.

If Katharina's speech robs women of any agency or power, it certainly stresses the way in which this responsibility, by default, needs to be taken up by men. They have to sacrifice so much in order to care for women, and the way that Katharina stresses such "painful labor" indicates that her speech is not just a challenge to women, but also to men and an implicit criticism of those who insist on having patriarchal rights but do not put the work in to justify having them.

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