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Shakespeare's the Taming of the Shrew and Henry V

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Upon reading Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew and Henry V, I have noticed that the issue of gender ideology and identity has been an intriguing study in both Shakespearean comedies and histories. These traditional Western views have, in a sense deemed which roles are appropriate and socially acceptable, in regards to both males and females. This practice of 'social typecasting' has given men and women certain socially acceptable characteristics, which has influenced how they should think and act. In this essay I take an in-depth look regarding how Shakespeare dealt with gender identity, and if certain characters in The Taming of the Shrew and Henry V accepted their socially predetermined gender identity or if they rejected it.

In Shakespearean time and even up to the turn of the 20th Century men were expected to be the sole provider of the family, entailing them to be either well educated or hard working. They were also expected to be good with the handling of finances and property. It was also acceptable for them to be barbaric, boisterous and socially well connected. This has given the men of this time an overwhelming sense of power, respect and freedom; rights which were not given to women at this time. Far from what was socially acceptable in regards to men, the gender identity of women was of a somewhat weaker nature. Women during Shakespearean time were regarded as docile, quiet and non-opinionated. Their socially acceptable role in many cases was to be domestic, entailing them to spend countless hours in the home, tending to basic familial needs, such as cooking and cleaning. This position prevented many women to receive an education or to socialize outside of the home. As a result of their inferior social status, they were expected to be submissive and to cater to her husband's needs at all times. Women in Shakespearean time were also treated as property, either by their husbands or fathers, which diminished any sense of self-worth they may have possessed. This gender ideology ultimately paralyzed women, as the majority were helpless to alter their social standing or designated familial role.

In Act One of The Taming of the Shrew we catch a glimpse into the life of the Minola family. Baptista, the father is forced with a dilemma, as he needs to find a suitor for his daughter Katherine in order to marry off his other daughter Bianca. This controlling nature leads us to believe that they live in a patriarchal society, as the father is making life-altering decisions, without regard as to what his daughters think or feel. This marital practice was common during Shakespearean time, and sometimes led to unhappy marriages. This essentially regards women as property, as they are being treated as objects to financially better the men they marry. This can be seen in Petruchio's conversation with Baptista regarding the dowry he will receive if he marries Katherine: "Then tell me, if I get your daughter's love/What dowry shall I have with her to wife?" (2.1.126-127). It is evident at this point that Petruchio's only interest in Katherine hinges on the fact that he will receive a substantial sum of money and property, further objectifying Katherine. Petruchio's objectification of Katherine is clearly evident when he states: "I will be master of what is mine own./She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house,/My household-stuff, my field, my barn,/My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything

(3.2.235-238). This passage also reiterates the fact that women during this time were regarded as property, and not much more.

After reading this play it is evident that Katerine refuses to embrace the traditional gender identity which was socially acceptable during this time. As the reader is first introduced to Katherine, it is evident that she is nothing like her 'ideal' sister Bianca, who is the epitome of a "Maid's mild behavior and sobriety" (1.1.73). This can be seen by Hortensio's reaction regarding his potential courtship to Katherine as he states "Mates, maid? How mean you that? No mates for/you/Unless you were of gentler, miler mold" (1.1.59-61). It is evident that the suitors refuse to court Katherine because of the fact that she does not fit the socially accepted gender identity. The suitors seem to be scared of her, which portrays her as some sort of hideous monster not to be associated with. The fact that she exudes certain characteristics and emotions not common with the typical woman of that time ultimately instills feelings of fear and distaste of Katherine. I believe that this stems from the fact that the men are insecure with their own masculinity; they believe that they would be less of a man if they married Katherine, as they would clearly have less power in the relationship.

The way that Katherine speaks and what she says is an indication that she is unlike any other woman. Her rough dialogue "Put finger in the eye, and she knew why" (1.1.80), and "Asses are made to bear, and so are you" (2.1.210), also shows her rejection of the ideal femininity. Katherine's physical behavior also distances her from the traditional gender identity of that time, and can be seen in Act two Scene one when she physically abuses Bianca. This gender inappropriate behavior would be deemed masculine and would take place on a battlefield, not in her sister's room.

She is also characterized as "forward, peevish, sullen, or sour" (5.2.173) which leads us to believe that she is assertive. In this society a woman was supposed to be submissive, as opposed to being assertive and opinionated. Her actions deem her to be independent, as she feels that she does not need to marry to be happy. This is illustrated when Petruchio feels that he must break her will in order to tame her, in other words, to make her more feminine. The fact that Petruchio has such a hard time doing this illustrates just how strong willed Katherine is in her pursuit to be independent. By being overbearingly masculine, Petruchio finally wins over Katherine as she becomes "obedient to his honest will" (5.2.74). It is at this point where Katherine's pro-feminine views seem to disappear as she states: "I am ashamed that women are so simple/To offer ware where they should kneel for peace,/Or seek for rule, supremacy and sway,/When they are bound to serve, love and obey [...]" (5.2.161-164). Katherine is essentially 'selling out', as she denounces her femininity along with her gender as Lynda E. Boose reiterates: "In doing so, she rhetorically pushes everyone marked as "woman" out of that space along with her" (Boose 180). Boose later goes on to argue that Katherine's renunciation of her femininity also affects the play's



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