To watch or study The Taming of the Shrew is to plunge into a constantly boiling debate about how audiences and readers might interpret the idea of a wife being ‘tamed’ by her husband. That this can be an appropriate part of a loving relationship is immediately challenging. Is Petruchio a misogynistic bully intent on transforming an unmarriageable woman into a model of wifely decorum acceptable to the patriarchy? If so, does this place the play beyond the pale in a post-#MeToo world — unfit for the modern stage?
An alternative view might urge us to remember that this is a comedy, a satire — and one with much evidence of affectionate laughter and love. In this light, perhaps Katherina can be seen as the misunderstood victim of her father who is liberated by a madcap eccentric who sees beyond the mercantile world of clothes and possessions. As the taming process develops, we are forced to consider where we stand. When Katherina proves herself the most obedient wife in the Act V love test and, most of all, when she delivers her final speech, is the taming complete and Petruchio the victor? Or is the Shrew just playing the role of obedient wife to signal that this is the canny way to get ahead?
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