Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Taming of the Shrew - Katherine's final speech

The speech that Katherine offers in 5.2 presents the reader with a heavy reinstatement of typical gender roles, yet it is curious that Katherine would get the final word in. The sharpness of her tongue is reined in, no longer offering insult and rebuke to Petruchio, however she does have sharp words for the other women. The Taming of the Shrew seems to have no quarrel with women speaking their minds, so long as their eloquence is in support of the dominant discourse on the ideal woman. Katherine has no need of a scold’s bridle to curb her tongue because Petruchio has constructed a new reality for her, breaking her psychologically into adhering to his ideal.
Katherine’s reference to the other women as “froward and unable worms” offers the lowest animal comparison in the play. Although the men previously referred to Katherine as a shrew or a hawk (which though unfair at least suggests that there is at least a kind of strength inherent in her willfulness), Katherine’s broken perception places women who disobey at an even lower level, suggesting that willfulness is weak and easily crushed underfoot like an insect. She also equates feelings of unease and anger with ugliness, suggesting that perhaps she has convinced herself that her ugly behavior has led her to deserve such treatment at the hands of her husband. Though I doubt that Shakespeare meant to suggest such a thing, it reminds one of victims of domestic and sexual violence who blame themselves rather than seeking justice against those who have wronged them.

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