In Elizabethan contexts, women are often portrayed to play a peculiar and often stifled role in society. Considered to be one of the greatest writers in the Elizabethan era, William Shakespeare often uses female characters to assume the roles of somewhat rebellious women in the era. In addition to this, views on women and marriage are also touched upon. In the literary context of Taming of the Shrew, the character of Katarina is shown to originally be a head strong, determined, and at times jealous and aggressive young woman who can also be selfish when considering her younger sister, Bianca. One of the main themes of this play was to overcome the challenge of taming the strong character of Katrina.Order now
In Elizabethan times it was expected of women for them to obey and comply with their husband completely, and for a woman to be outspoken in such a way that Katarina was, was frequently looked down upon. Women are almost seen as a second class citizen compared to men, and to tame an easily irritated character, such as Katarina’s is seen as sport in some way to the man who she married in the play.
Although it may on the surface seem that Shakespeare is incredibly ahead of his time by using the controversial topic of feminism in some of his plays, when this is looked at in deeper contexts, it becomes clearer to the reader that although these women are portrayed as strong and confident women who cannot be dictated, in the end, marriage is an eventuality. This is what happened in Taming of the Shrew and even lead to a speech in which she condemns her fellow female counterparts for not appropriately attending to their husbands in the way that society seems fit. By doing so, being such an influential literary figure, Shakespeare almost undermines women in society by implying that any woman can be ‘fixed’ by marriage and also a stern hand, in the case of Taming of the Shrew.
This theme of strong women is also touched upon in other plays, such as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and Viola in Twelfth Night. Especially in Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is converted into a strong woman. The main female character of Juliet is originally seen as a curious person, but due to her age is between maturity and immaturity and in some ways naive and lacks defiance or rebellion. This is changed when she meets Romeo; he almost leads her into a path of destruction, but the shackles of her naivety are broken by Romeo’s influence.
Marriage is continuously a theme in Shakespeare and can often create a problem for older women. In Taming of the Shrew, Katarina runs the risk of bringing shame upon her family by not marrying before her younger sister. Marriage is such an important theme in this play that Katarina was forced to substitute for a man who was excited about the zeal of her personality, and not someone that she immediately felt comfortable with.
From this alone, the reader can tell that in the Elizabethan era women were under constant pressure to marry as soon as possible. Furthermore, even when a woman is widowed, she is still desperate to try and seek a man to be dependant of. This is displayed with the wealthy widow in Taming of the Shrew, who bought herself security in a husband. Another theme which is carried within marriage is pride. When a woman gets married she is expected to make the husband proud and please him; this was arguably the most prominent theme within Taming of the Shrew.