Book Review: The Taming of the Shrew (William Shakespeare).

I plan to read all of Shakespeare’s works except Romeo and Juliet, I have read it already. For the other plays, I have only read the illustrated versions. I want to read these plays in their original language and composition even if it’s a big task. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare is the second play I have read now. It took me longer to read than I had anticipated, but I finished it.

I am not even going to attempt to explain the plot of this play because I will confuse myself and everyone with it. The Taming of the Shrew is a play within a play. It is like a madcap comedy, very farcical in nature. The main protagonists of the play are – Bapista Minola and his two daughters, the older one is Katherine, and the younger sister is Bianca. Katherine gets married to Petruchio, a gentleman from Verona who is searching for a wife. Lucentio falls for Bianca as soon as he sees her, and eventually, they get married as well.

Katherine is the ‘shrew’ in the play that itself is problematic. She is considered an undesirable match because she refuses to behave in a submissive and socially expected manner set for women. Bianca, on the other hand, is perfectly demure and her behavior is deemed socially acceptable; this attracts many suitors for her. Their father, Bapista Minola, wants Katherine to get married first because she is the older sister and then Bianca. Katherine is kind of forcefully married to Petruchio when he shows interest in her. Lucentio offers a good dowry which convinces Bapista to let him marry Bianca.

The main plot of the play revolves around the character of Katherine. Petruchio treats her horribly after they get married, not letting her eat or wear what she wants. All this so she can learn to behave in the manner he and others deemed ‘appropriate’. This is where the title makes sense. The theme of gender roles plays an important part in the story. The way everyone behaves toward Katherine because she refuses to follow the norms shows how stringent the gender roles were in those times. The play is supposed to be farcical, I get that, but it is hard to not notice the misogynistic, and sexist behavior, It pissed me off when I was reading it, and it’s one of the reasons it took me so long to finish the play.

The male characters almost behave in an entitled manner throughout while the two sisters are supposed to be submissive and behave a certain way. Bianca accepts this, which is fine, but Katherine is mistreated because she doesn’t. Marriage and education are two thematic aspects that are woven throughout the story. The slight digs at a formal education by Shakespeare make sense since he wasn’t formally educated himself.

The writing though language-wise is no doubt difficult; it is pretty fun to read. The technique of a play within play works well in this context. The way the play ends felt a little open-ended; the characters deceive and hide so many things from each other that this technique suits the narrative of the play. I like to believe that in the end, Katherine was just pretending to be ‘tamed’. Many of the dialogues are so funny and unique; you realize you would have never thought of saying or writing something like this. The wittiness of the writing is one of the plus points for this play.

I did take a month and a half to finish the play, but I am happy that I read it. It has a lot f interesting aspects and some problematic notions. Overall, it was an interesting read. I think I would have enjoyed the play more if I could leave the problematic social aspects aside and not focused on them because they were the norm back then. Since I couldn’t do that, I didn’t like the play as much as I thought I would. I enjoyed reading Romeo and Juliet much more than this one.

*Click on the book cover above to get a copy.

Author: Aarti Athavle

Daydreamer - Writer - Bibliophile

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