What are some main arguments made by Shirley Nelson Garner about William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew?    

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a notable essay on William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew published in 1988 (see link below), Shirley Nelson Garner made a number of key arguments, including the following:

  • The play seems significantly misogynistic – that is, hostile toward women.
  • This misogyny makes the play difficult for many modern women and some modern men to appreciate or value.
  • Some critics have tried to defend the play, but these defenses seem largely unsuccessful.
  • Ultimately, this is not a “good” play.
  • Opinions about the value of works of literature are inevitably affected by the values of any particular society and moment in time. What seemed “good” to the Elizabethans may no longer seem “good” or acceptable to later readers or audiences.
  • From a modern perspective, the play will strike many people as simply “bad”:

What I wish to argue here is that no matter how you read the ending, no matter how you define the genre of the play, it is still a “bad” play.

  • Shakespeare seems deliberately to have written to appeal to an audience that did not value women very highly:

The central joke in The Taming of the Shrew is directed against a woman. The play seems written to please a misogynist audience, especially men who are gratified by sexually sadistic pleasures. Since I am outside the community for whom the joke is made and do not share its implicit values, I do not participate in its humor. Because the play does not have for me what I assume to be its intended effect, that is, I do not find it funny, I do not find it as good as Shakespeare's other comedies.

  • Although Shakespeare’s treatment of the “shrew” story is a bit more liberal than are earlier treatments, the play is still outdated and will seem unfunny or sad to readers who share Garner’s point of view.
  • In later works, Shakespeare seems to have begun to value “untamed” women much more highly than he does in this early drama.



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The Taming of the Shrew

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