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Taming the Shrew, Shakespeare

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The Taming of the Shrew

"The Taming of the Shrew" through the ages is one of the best-known William Shakespeare’s plays. Action of the play takes place in Italy in the 14th century. It was time when women obeyed to men entirely: first they obeyed to their father’s will, and then they had to obey to their husbands. The Italian city in the play represents a specific social space, and all characters are subject to the conditions of that reality, its traditions and behavioral norms.

It would seem that a plot of the play can be told in several phrases. Baptista, a powerful father, has two daughters. Bianca, a younger daughter, is a modest girl who is in love and dreams to marry. But it isn't possible until her rough and obstinate elder sister Katherine will marry. Only Petruchio, one of her marriage candidates, have succeeded to tame Katherine using cunnings and tricks. And then the happy end follows. We should note that the play is deeply psychological, and there is a set of nuances which are important for understanding of the author’s true intention in it. The principal morals of the play are as follows: first, a person should adhere the course of nature and shouldn’t oppose his/her higher purpose; second, far from always a person’s appearance corresponds to his/her true essence, and any secret becomes obvious once.

The play begins with an introduction. One lord finds a sleeping drunk man on the street and decides to play pranks on him. He orders to his servants to carry that man to his house and, when he will awaken, to tell him that he is a nobleman who has been ill for a long time and lost his memory. For entertainment of the "nobleman" a troupe of itinerant actors puts on a play about taming of a shrew, therefore the effect of "a performance within a performance" appears in the Shakespeare’s comedy. So, we feel veiled hints at a true author’s intention early in the introduction. First, we understand that as "a performance within a performance" will be performed on the stage, perhaps, we shouldn’t trust everything that we will observe. The true essence of characters of the play can be hidden behind masks, as all people play their roles constantly. In one of his first comedies Shakespeare told about it: "All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players". Second, although Christopher Sly, a drinking tinker, believed in his imaginary nobility, he doesn't wish to refuse his vulgar habits and demands ale, therefore demonstrating need to obey his purpose: despite magnificent clothes and groaning table, he remains an ordinary tinker.

The next plot line is a story about marriage proposals to Bianca. Baptista, Katherine and Bianca's father, refuses to wed his younger daughter before his senior daughter will get married, therefore Bianca's bridegrooms have to apply for tricks with impersonation and clothes changing to meet with beautiful Bianca and to get into her graces. Severe Baptista who was fooled in the end of the play, dexterous and crafty servants, bridegrooms who are stingy with money. Thanks to their speeches and behavior, the comedy gets close to farce. As for Bianca, she is an obedient externally but hypocritical young woman who in the end of the play appears to be more obstinate than her soothed sister.

All these characters with their closeness to the types of "the comedy of masks", with their cunnings, tricks and clothes changing introduce the atmosphere of a carnival into the comedy and create a background for the main plot line - Petruchio and Katherine's story. The story of taming of the beautiful shrew represents one more "performance within a performance" but is played not for the audience, but for other characters of the play.

Shakespeare’s Katherine is a bright, sincere, freedom-loving nature who has her own opinion. She understands that the father loves her younger sister Bianca more than her, as he trusts naively to her external decency and hypocritical humility. By the way, it is Katherine who shows the real daughter’s obedience and marries the bridegroom chosen by her father whereas Bianca is secretly married to Lucentio. All marriage candidates are interested only in dowry or beauty and mildness of the wife and they don't look for mind and imagination in her. Katherine’s inner world doesn't interest her father, he doesn’t care for her feelings and offers her to marriage candidates as a thing. In such situation it isn't surprising that Katherine is angry about people around and begins to protect herself using impudences, later it becomes her habit.

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