Analysis of Taming of The Shrew Through a Satirical Lense

In William Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of The Shrew, Shakespeare discusses a misogynistic outlook on gender equality. He utilizes thematic devices to allow the audience to create ambiguous conclusions, leaving the play to take on multiple interpretations. The play can be analyzed in a literal sense where women are downplayed and taken for granted, or as satire, which involves Shakespeare offering commentary on a concept that surfaces beyond his time. From my perspective, I viewed the play through a satirical lense due to Shakespeare’s use of irony, hyperbole, and deception throughout to suggest to the audience that Kate is above her suppressors. 

Before the play begins, Shakespeare uses the Induction as a metatheatrical device to foreshadow what the audience will see in the main act. The Induction starts out with the Lord and his disciples deceiving a poor beggar into believing he is a wealthy lord with a wife. The Induction parallels the main act where deception and hyperbole are used to trick characters into believing their situations. Shakespear’s inclusion of the Induction shows how easy it is for one to deceive another through flattery and obedience. The Lord in scene 1 of the Induction explains how he will “practice on this drunkard man”, referencing how practice can create believable deceptions which parallels how Kate begins to catch on to Petruchio’s tricks. In Act 4, scene 5, Kate finally becomes cognisant of Petruchio’s tricks and exclaims, “and be it moon, or sun, or what you please”. Kate deceives Petruchio as an obedient wife by playing along with whatever he demands. Shakespeare's use of deception is a trope across multiple characters as a tool towards personal gain. Just as Kate has used deception to escape punishment, Petruchio has deceived Baptista into believing he is a suitable and wealthy husband. 

Shakespeare further hints at Kate’s deceptive power with the use of hyperbole throughout the play. Initially, when Kate first comes to realize her inferior position, she begins to agree with Petruchio; Petruchio, however, remains unconvinced when he finds himself having to correct the newly subservient Kate during their run in with Vincentio as Kate says, “Pardon, I pray thee, for my mad mistaking”. Here, he tests Kate’s obedience as she suddenly changes her behavior from unpleasant and 'shrew-like' to “tamed”. Similarly in the Induction, Sly is unconvinced of his position as lord until his pretend wife exaggerates her obedience by saying, “My husband and my lord, my lord and husband, I am your wife in all obedience”. As the main act moves forward, Kate uses similar language when she states, “Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper”. Through the usage of hyperbole and playing the role of an obedient wife, she holds deceptive power over Petruchio and control of her situation by tricking Petruchio and others into believing she has succumbed to his societal superiority.

Shakespeare is known for his utilization of long monologues throughout his works, however, the longest monologue in The Taming of The Shrew is stated by Kate in her final speech. This suggests that there is more to Kate’s newly obedient behavior than the audience is lead to believe. The right to speak is a powerful concept, especially for a woman in this time period; I believe Shakespeare does this to prove Kate’s individual growth and newly found respect. Throughout the play, Kate is looked down upon as someone who makes rash decisions, speaks out of turn, and for her quick-tempered shrew-like behavior. However, after she has chosen to conform to her new social role as Petruchio’s wife, she witnesses the behaviors of the other characters change toward her as well. This is shown in Act 5, scene 2, when Kate and the widow get into a verbal argument; instead of responding in her usual ill-tempered manner, Kate says, “And I am mean indeed, respecting you”. Normally, a catfight would ensue, however, this line reveals Kate’s maturation as she takes note of her past behavior but continues to follow a different approach. This empowers Kate as she then gains respect by onlookers which Petruchio notes, “A hundred marks, my Kate does put her down”. Through her recognition that aggression does not always get her what she wants, she gains confidence in herself and her new social role; a role where she can, for once, be respected. Kate also states an analogy, “Such duty as the subject owes the prince, Even such a woman oweth to her husband,” showing her understanding that in her current situation she must conform to society by saying what Petruchio wants to hear, just as a subject would say to their prince. 

The Taming of The Shrew shows how Kate acknowledges her expected societal role, and uses this power to overcome adversity. From my perspective, Kate’s use of irony and deceit allowed her to take control of her situation where she was never truly tamed by her husband. I believe Shakespeare wrote the play to take on multiple interpretations knowing that the subjugation and misogynistic views of his culture were flawed. When viewing the play with a literal interpretation, where women are socially subservient to men, the play would not gain the same attention and praise that it receives today. Shakespeare addresses a variety of complex topics, one involving the intention of showing the world the power that women can hold. Shakespeare cleverly hid the irony embedded in The Taming of The Shrew with the consideration that the audience in his time would not accept a woman’s deceitful power over a man. If the play was to be viewed in this satirical sense, the audience would have most likely been displeased and the play itself would not have gotten the recognition it received. Shakespeare’s ability to create multiple interpretations allows for a wide appreciation across various audiences with an extremely relevant issue still seen today. 

16 August 2021
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