Gender and the Battle Between the Sexes
The Taming of the Shrew draws much of its humour from its focus on the battle between the sexes. Within the play a clear emphasis is placed on the difference between the sexes and their determined place in society. It is possible to extract connotations of the feudal organisation of Shakespeare's time from the relationship between the two sisters, Katarina and Bianca, and their father Baptista and also between the sisters and the local gentlemen.
In USQ's production the focus is once again drawn to the issue of gender oppression and status and the exploitation of women. This is achieved in many ways throughout USQ's production, predominately via the controlling relationship between Katarina and Petruccio, and the allocation of Petruccio as a pimp, who initially only marry's Katarina for her large dowry and not for love. In this production, Leticia Caceres draws on the fact that these characters are living in a patriarchal society where men have a higher status than women through the use of stylised gestures and actions by the male characters, which demean the women.
Research and discuss the major female characters in any three of Shakespeare's plays. How does he depict women in these plays? Some play's and their main female characters which you may want to look at include: Hamlet - Ophelia and Gertrude Romeo and Juliet - Juliet, MacBeth - Lady MacBeth, The Tempest - Miranda (who is the only female in the play).
The following are websites, which will help you with this research as they include an analysis of each of the female characters in these plays:
Hamlet Website: http://www.shakespeare-online.com/playanalysis/hamlet.html
Romeo and Juliet Website: http://www.shakespeare-online.com/playanalysis/romeoandjuliet.html
MacBeth Website: http://www.angelfire.com/tx3/chrissandy1/caladymacbeth.htm
The Tempest Website: http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/tempest/charlist.html.
Some question's which you should ask of these plays and their character's are:
The battle between the sexes is most evident in the play in the relationship of Petruccio and Katarina. From the moment that they meet, these two characters begin a fiery relationship defined by witty, humorous dialogue exchanges. However, underneath the initial humour of this battle between the sexes lies the darker issue of domestic violence.
The following is a passage taken from Act 1 Scene 2 from the play text, which illustrates the presence of the battle of the sexes and the underlying issue of domestic violence in the play:
PETRUCCIO: You lie, in faith, for you are called plain Kate,
And bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the cursd,
But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom,
Kate of Kate hall, my super dainty Kate-
For dainties are all Cates, and therefore "Kate"-
Take this of me, Kate of my consolation:
Hearing thy mildness praised in every town,
Thy virtues spoke of, and thy beauty sounded-
Yet not so deeply as to thee belongs-
Myself and moved to woo thee for my wife.
KATARINA: Moved? In good time. Let him that moved you hither
Remove you hence. I knew you at first
You were a moveable.
PETRUCCIO: Why, what's a moveable?
KATARINA: A joint stool.
PETRUCCIO: Thou hast hit it. Come, sit on me.
KATARINA: Asses are made to bear and so are you.
PETRUCCIO: Women are made to bear, and so are you.
KATARINA: No such jade as you, if me you mean.
PETRUCCIO: Alas, good Kate, I will not burden thee,
For knowing thee to be but young and light.
KATARINA: To light for such a swain as you catch,
And yet as heavy as my weight should be.
PETRUCCIO: Should be?- Should buzz.
KATARINA: well ta'en, and like a buzzard.
PETRUCCIO: O' slow winged turtle, shall a buzzard take thee?
KATARINA: Ay, for a turtle, as he takes a buzzard.
PETRUCCIO: Come, Come, you wasp. I'faith you are too angry.
KATARINA: If I be waspish, best beware my sting.
PETRUCCIO: My remedy is then to pluck it out.
KATARINA: Ay, if the fool could find it where it lies.
PETRUCCIO: Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting?
In his tale.
KATARINA: In his tongue.
PETRUCCIO: Whose tongue?
KATARINA: Your's, if you talk of tales, and so farewell.
PETRUCCIO: What, with my tongue in your tail. Nay, come again,
Good Kate I am a gentleman.
KATARINA: That I'll try. (she strikes him).
This passage demonstrates the battle of the sexes via bickering between Kate and Petruccio and has subtle undertones of domestic violence, ie Kate slapping Petruccio. It also hints at the oppression of women via men and the patriarchal order through Petruccio's referral to the female role of bearing children.
This game is called hotseat. Ask your class to form a groups with two chairs up the front. Ask for two volunteers to sit in the chairs. They are Petruccio and Kate. The rest of the class asks Petruccio and Kate questions about the scene they have just witnessed to which they answer based on their feelings. Questions such as: "Why did you strike Petruccio, Kate?" "Petruccio, Kate seems to be a very independent woman, does this threaten you?"
This game will allow the characters to voice their inner feelings about the other and help the students understand the characters, their motivations and the deeper issues of the play such as domestic violence and the domination of women.