The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

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What was Shakespeare's main purpose in writing The Taming of the Shrew?

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Christopher Jerde eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Considering how little we know of Shakespeare as an individual, it is impossible to definitively determine what his purpose was in writing The Taming of the Shrew. Seeing as it is a comedy, one of Shakespeare's earliest comedies at that, one can assume Shakespeare primarily wanted to entertain his audience with the antagonistic antics of Katharina and Petrucchio, then give them a satisfying finale by having the two wed.

The play ends with Katharina submitting to her husband's will and becoming the ideal wife, reinforcing Elizabethan ideas about gender and marriage—or so it would seem. In recent times, some have speculated that Katharina's final submission is not what it seems to be. For example, film versions such as the 1929 Sam Taylor film and the 1967 Franco Zeffirelli movie suggest that Katharina's submission is more a facade and that she only pretends to submit, while still remaining very much her own woman. (The 1929 movie even has her literally winking at the audience in the middle of the speech!)

However, whether or not this is the modern world's way of salvaging the play from its problematic content or an intended irony from the Bard himself is hard to say. In any case, the play does showcase an interest in gender roles and the relationship between men and women. It is up to the individual audience member and/or reader to decide if Shakespeare is reinforcing male domination or subverting it.

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markchambers1966 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Shakespeare was a working playwright who needed to write in order to pay his bills (he was not some rich lord writing for his amusement or to send work to his friends) so his primary aim was to entertain. Taming of the Shrew is an early play and explores the division of the sexes. It many ways it makes uncomfortable watching today as the treatment of Kate at the end of the play sees her as 'broken.' Remember a play is a product of its times and we need to see it with the eyes of the people who first watched it, and how they would see it exploring issues of female independence and the role of marriage. That it has remained in common theatre repertory today is an indication that it continues to provoke debate and thought.

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