preview

Portrayal of Women in William Shakespeare's Plays

Powerful Essays
William Shakespeare's characterization of women varies immensely from one comedy to another. In his works, Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, and Much Ado About Nothing, he portrays both dominant and submissive women. Ultimately, Shakespeare examines the complexity of women by displaying the vast array of attitudes, emotions, and their treatment and reaction to men as well as refuting the typical subservient wife role.

In Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, the difficulties of marriage and submission take center stage. When the determined Petruchio marries the domineering Katherine it sets the scene for a battle of willpower. Eventually, Petruchio successfully 'tames' Kate at the expense of losing a potentially loving and affectionate wife. In fact, Kate behaves more like a fearful puppy dog longing to please her husband than a respectable wife. Though Kate contrasts other female characters in Shakespeare?s comedies by submitting to her husband, her obedience is merely the product of an authoritative husband?s demands and threats. Her submission is merely a façade of obedience. Before marriage, Kate is notorious for her ill temper and resistance towards men. A character named Grumio calls Kate, ? ?Katherine the curst,? a title for a maid, of all the worst? (Shakespeare 57). Men fear Kate because of her violent nature and unstable emotions. But after Kate is subjected to Petruchio?s torments, she relents to him and gives in to his ways for the benefit of sustenance and sanity.

In the end, Petruchio beckons Kate to teach the other wives to be subservient to their husbands. Kate explains, ?Such duty as the subject owes the prince, even such a woman oweth to her husband; and when she is forward...

... middle of paper ...

...Harold

Bloom. New York: Chelsea, 1988.

Newman, Karen. ?The Taming of the Shrew: A Modern Perspective.? The Taming

of the Shrew. William Shakespeare. New York: Washington Square Press, 1992.

Novy, Marianne L. ?Patriarchy and Play.? William Shakespeare?s The Taming of the

Shrew. Harold Bloom ed. New York: Chelsea, 1988.

Paster, Gail. ?Much Ado About Nothing: A Modern Perspective.? Much Ado About

Nothing. William Shakespeare. New York: Washington Square Press, 1992.

Rossiter, A.P. ?Much Ado About Nothing.? Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea,

1986. 163-176.

Shakespeare, William. Much Ado About Nothing. New York: Washington Square

Press, 1995.

---. The Merchant of Venice. New York: Washington Square

Press, 1992.

---. The Taming of the Shrew. New York: Washington Square

Press, 1992.
Get Access