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William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew: The Societal Need to Respect Women’s Need

By Nancy Olakunle (B.Sc. Language Art)

Taming-of-the-Shrew-Gillray

Parenthood comes with its perks: the joys and the tears. However, sometimes while attempting to balance things up, some parents upset the course of destiny and personal inclinations. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW by William Shakespeare is an exemplification of some of the failures of parents in realising that the difference in faces is just the beginning of the diversity in the lives of their children.

In the book, Baptiste Minola was a man who wanted to regulate the flow of events by making sure the his first daughters was married off, first. In trying to achieve this, he banned the younger daughter who had suitors from getting married until the older one, Katherine, who had no suitors due to her shrewish and absolutely uncompromising nature, get married first. The journey from that point involved a lot of deception and lies, but more importantly, Katherine fell into the hands if a man, Petruchio, who was well-equipped in the art of reverse psychology, ending up a human cat instead of a human being. Right to the end of the play, we are left in doubt of Petruchio’s love for Katherine, since he was put up to the task of wooing her by her younger sisters suitors who had started to see her as a hindrance to their happiness.

Many African parents make similar mistakes in their handling of situations and often make their children unhappy by saying things like “Why can’t you just be like your sister?” This unfair comparison of course never goes down well with the subject. Some parents even compare their children with other peoples’ and this, to say the least, leads to some sort of resentment. Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, though humorous and light-hearted through comedic techniques such as slapstickcism and even satire, still manages to point out the evils of comparison, as these kinds of attitudes put unnecessary pressure on children, and may prevent them from making right decisions for themselves.

Just as the ‘Shrew’ became the hindrance to her younger sister’s happiness, the father, through his policies, also became the hindrance to the Shrew’s happiness even though it was in an indirect fashion. The Taming of the Shrew is a book that would be useful for parents to know all the possible chains of events that can follow such guiding principle.

Another way to look at the book is to see that it is not just an account of fathers and daughters or husbands and wives, but a story that illustrates the extent to which society could go to subdue women and make meek dollies out of them. A child need guidance, but is it okay to apply patriarchal values and domestic abuse toward a girl-child? Does this book suggest that women who refuse to be silent and meek should be subjected to emotional and intellectual abuse in order to make a “good” wife out of them? From the book, it is true that Katherine puts up a good fight, but she didn’t play that to the end, as she was down on her knees at a juncture talking about her being meant to serve and obey and love.

However, the point is that Katherine had little or no choice in the events of her life as a woman who lived in the 16th century. But has anything changed now in these present days? We are in the 21st century, and from the look of things, the abuse upon women has taken modern and more sophisticated forms. Some parents still pay less attention to the education of their girls than that of their boys. Some parents still mutilate the genitals of their own baby-girls in an unfounded attempt to keep them from promiscuity.

Women are now made to regret their attempts at resilience and bravery, to be the best in their field, and to reach the top of their professional world. .All these beg the question: Do women have to be weak and always compliant? Why does being docile and subservient have to be compulsory attributes of women? Why do women who strive so hard to soar and be better always meet with demands and pressures to be tamed and subjugated?

This play reveals a naked and bitter truth, that no matter how many times in the past women rights have been brought to fore, women have continued to be dominated at every point and it is high time every woman, with the assistance of the society, stands up for herself and refuses to be pushed to her knees by the pressures of the society that Katherine lived.

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Updated: January 29, 2015 — 5:56 pm

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