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Exploring Sexuality in Taming of the Shrew

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Exploring Sexuality in Taming of the Shrew

Human sexuality underlies many of the happenings of "Taming of the

Shrew." It affects the conflicts, theme, and resolution of the play. It

becomes evident throughout the play that sexual behavior denotes whether a

character is thought of as good or evil (not necessarily good evil as meant in

conventional terms, but rather as a "nice" character versus a "waspish" or

"mean' character).

In the beginning of the play, there is an obvious conflict between Kate

and her sister, Bianca. This conflict stems from the fact that their father

favors Bianca, as well as the fact that Bianca has many suitors, while Kate has

none. Kate's father, Baptista, tries to persuade some of Bianca's suitors to

pursue Kate instead. However, they make it clear that none of them could desire

Kate. "Mates, maid? How mean you that? No mates for you unless you were of a

gentler, milder, mold" (I,i, lines 58 - 60). From this it is clear that the men

in the play prefer a better "mold" than Kate, in other words, she does not carry

herself as well as Bianca. Kate does not play the coy flirting games, and is

therefore thought of as harsher than Bianca.

Bianca, however, knows how to be flirtatious, witty, and coy around her

admirers, and yet is almost intentionally mean to Kate. For instance, Bianca

knows that it hurts Kate to have no suitors while she (Bianca) has several.

Bianca uses this to hurt Kate. When Kate tries to find out which suitor Bianca

really likes, Bianca swears that she won't take the suitor that Kate likes. She

casually offers Kate whichever suitor she wants. Kate is enraged by this

because she knows that the only reason that Bianca has suitors while she has

none is because Bianca plays the sexual flirtation game.

When Kate gets a suitor of her own, Petruchio, there is a lot of sexual

tension in their relationship. At their first meeting, they exchange a barrage

of sexual comments:

Petruchio: Why, what's a movable?

Kate: A joint stool

Petruchio: Thou hast hit it; come sit on me.

Kate: Asses are made to bear and so are you.
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