Shakespeare’s Katharina, of The Taming of the Shrew and Beatrice, of Much Ado About Nothing, are very similar characters. Each is plagued with unrequited love, and depressed by their inability to woo the suitor of their choosing. Neither will accept the passive female role expected by society. Yet, both women seem to accept their role as wife by the conclusion. Upon further examination, one will find that Beatrice is a much more complex character. One would have to agree with the critic who said, "Katharina is a character sketched in bold, rapid stokes, with none of Beatrice's sophistication, verbal brilliance, or emotional depth."
In Taming of the Shrew, the first introduction to Katharina, by Gremio and Hortensio, tells that she is a shrew, (1.I .54-60) and that she will never find a groom. When she first speaks we see her responding to these insults, but she was provoked so her words seem appropriate. Yet as the play continues we see Katharina tying up Bianca, (2.I.29) and hitting her. This can be rejected as sibling rivalry, but later Katharina slaps Petruchio when he is trying to woo her (2.I.214). Katharina seems to have a physically violent side that isn't present in Beatrice. She also does not seem to have as strong as a character as Beatrice, especially when one considers that Petruchio was able to tame her in a very short time.
In the opening scene of Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice says some harsh things about Benedick (1.I.37-43). She seems to be unprovoked but very rigid in her opinion of him. In Leonato's house, the discussion of Beatrice and marriage leads her uncle to conclude that, "Thou...
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...y is important. But the most important thing to note is that the weaker of the two did change her attitudes, beliefs and actions in order to become a better wife for her husband. Both women seem to be happy as do the men and like most conclusions of Shakespeare's plays, all the loose ends are tied up.
Works Cited and Consulted
Barton, Anne. Introduction. Much Ado About Nothing. The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1997. 361-365.
Dash, Irene G. "Wooing, Wedding, and Power: Women in Shakespeare Plays". The Critical Perspective Volume 2. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 825-833.
Shakespeare, William. The Taming of the Shrew. Logan, IA: The Perfection Form Company, 1996.
Shakespeare, William; Much Ado About Nothing; Washington Square Press; New York, NY; New Folger Edition May 1995
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