Shakespeare's plays chronicle the human condition. Their success over time is a testament to their applicability to the Sixteen and Seventeenth as well as the Twentieth Centuries. It is the universal nature of Shakespeare's writing that allows the presentation of characters, large and small, to parallel our own experiences.
This essay will explore the "minor" female roles in The Taming of the Shrew and Othello, showing how they contribute to the themes and action in the plays and the characterization of the major characters. In doing so, this essay contends that all the characters are integral to the complexity of the whole, the stories and parables that Shakespeare wishes to portray. Written at different times in Shakespeare's own development, the two plays differ in format and purpose; they both, however, portray the composite of the emotional and physical life of the actors in their social context.
It is easy to argue that there are no minor roles in Shakespeare's plays. Each character is necessary for the action to progress along the intended lines. Shakespeare was a careful writer whose characters all intertwined to develop the story. Still, Shakespeare introduces characters who advance the story and their presence forms the basis of the action. The minor characters, as in life, provide the context for the major characters: they are the community and the society in which the story's "stars" interact. The roles of the minor female characters are particularly telling in each of these plays, and form the basis for a discussion of the role of women during Shakespeare's time and our own.
The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare's earlier plays, thought to be written around 1593-94. It is essentially about the relationships between the sexes, although it is also a metaphor for human relations in general: between the sexes, among differing peoples, between men and between women. The play within the play acts to emphasize points in a farcical manner; the real story of the lovers and the need to marry the sisters and tame the shrew form the basis of a story that presents a spirited view of relationships in colors of all shades.
The major characters in The Taming of the Shrew are Petruchio and Kate, around whom the story revolves, Bianca and her suitors, Gremio, Tranio, Horteniso and Lucentio. The household of lesser characters — the father, the servants, the tailor, the...
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