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Taming of the Shrew

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"The Taming of the Shrew" was a play written by William Shakespeare during the early 1590's. It combines both comedy and social commentary, which raises questions and ideas regarding the prominence of women in this time in history. Shakespeare draws from other texts of that era to appropriate his understanding of a "shrew", the integral idea of the play. Through two of the main female characters, he illustrates the vast differences between his conceived notions of a shrew, and the qualities of the expected female roles of this time.

According to dictionary definitions, a shrew is a term used to describe a woman with a violent, scolding, or nagging temperament. Placed in the context of Shakespeare's play, a shrew is a woman who refuses to exist complacently with their right to a life of subservience and passiveness. For this to be exercised was to be ashamed of and strongly disapproved. However, the original meaning of "shrew" was the name of an insect-eating rodent not unlike a mouse in appearance and behaviour. This mammal confines itself to solitary lives, and is rarely seen or heard, except for a recognizable high-pitched squeaking. The origins of the concept of the "shrew" in question were likely to have been drawn from this animal.

As the qualities of this animal are undesirable and unpleasant, this word's intended use is as a direct insult. The church was responsible for issuing the most prominent influence over the manner in which people live. The church clearly dictated the operation of society and gave people roles and expectations of their behaviour. Female equality was absolutely unheard of in Elizabethan times. The population took to Biblical principles devotedly, and it was the Christian interpretations of the Bible that translated into the ground rules for appropriate, correct lifestyles. They adhered to the belief that God created Adam first, and Eve from his body, and this is where the notion of subordination first appeared. The people reflected this concept upon women, citing that as Eve was conjured specifically for the comfort and satisfaction of Adam, they would be obedient and self-sacrificing. This ethos was obeyed so strictly that a woman demonstrating dominant characteristics was considered unnatural, at fault, disorderly, and evil. It is on this basis that the word 'shrew' was used.

Women who had not married were

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