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In the play, The Taming of The Shrew, William Shakespeare raises some issues regarding the roles of women in society, and what is expected of them in marriage, and as wives and spouses. A main topic throughout the play is Petruchio's taming of Katarina and her eventual submission at the end. Some may suggest that Petruchio's actions were very cruel and disgraceful in the manner he treated Katarina like an animal, but others might think that it was completely normal. The way in which the tamers actions are viewed really depends on which historical era we see it in. In the 16th century, Petruchio's attitude toward Katarina was widely accepted and normal, mainly because women weren't considered equal to men back then. Now, in today's world, Petruchio's actions to Katarina would be considered inhumane, and Petruchio would probably be punished for his actions.
At the start of the play, Petruchio knows that Katarina has no intention of getting married whatsoever. When Hortensio tells Petruchio about Katarina, he knows that Katarina is a terrible shrew, but decides to befriend her for the dowry. 'I come to wive it wealthily in Padua; If wealthily, then happy in Padua (I.ii.73-74)'. Further evidence is shown when Petruchio meets Baptista, Katarina's father for the first time, and all Petruchio is interested in is making a price for the dowry. 'Then tell me, if I get your daughter's love, what dowry shall I have with her to wife? (II.i.119-120)' and 'Let specialties be therefore drawn before us, that convenants may be kept on either hand. (II.i.122-123).' This shows us that Petruchio has very little to ask about Katarina, and more concerned on how much money he will receive, and wanting a contract written up to set the terms and conditions.
The manner in which Petruchio treats Katarina is with little respect, with Petruchio also making very little relations with at all. When the duo first meet, sparks ignite as Katarina tries to insult Petruchio, trying to assert her dominance over him, but Petruchio always backfires Katarina with a better line. '"Good morrow, Kate-for that's your name, I hear." "Well have you heard, but something hard of hearing. They call me Katarina that do talk of me." "You lie, in faith, for you are called plain Kate, and bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the cursedâ€¦" (II.i.182-186).' Petruchio, then disrespects and embarrasses Katarina again during their wedding by dressing up as a clown in old clothes. Why, sir, you know this is your wedding day. 'First were we sad, fearing you would not come, now sadder that you come so unprovided (III.ii.91-93).' Then, after the wedding, Petruchio again embarrasses Katarina at the bridal dinner by disrespecting all the guests at the wedding party by forcing Katarina to leave, saying that he now owns her, treating Katarina like an object. "But for my bonny Kate, she must be with me. [â€¦] She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house, my household stuff, my field, my barn, my horse, my ox, my ass, my anything (III.ii.222-227).' When they finally reach Petruchio's house, the taming starts, and he deprives Katarina of food and sleep making her exhausted, telling her that the food and the bed isn't good enough for her standards: 'Tis burnt, and so is all the meat. What dogs are these! Where is the rascal cook? [â€¦] I tell thee, Kate, 'twas burnt and dried away. And I expressly am forbid to touch it. (IV.i.138-148) Last night she slept not, nor tonight she shall not. As with the meat, some undeserved fault. (IV.i.175-176)' Then, Petruchio still tries to wear Katarina down mentally, by refusing her new clothes, telling her that the fabric is unsatisfactory for her. He also tries to make Katarina feel stupid, most likely Petruchio still trying to assert his dominance over her. 'P: I say it is the moon. K: I know it is the moon. P: Nay, then you lie. It is the blessed sun (IV.v.16-18).' In the end, Petruchio tames Katarina through fear.
Eventually, she is given no choice but to follow Petruchio's rules, otherwise she would be deprived food and sleep again. After the wedding, Katarina starts to give in to Petruchio and tries to know him better, but Petruchio doesn't care at all, and only perceives her as money.
In today's society, Petruchio's actions would have been unacceptable, as it was cruel and inhumane. He doesn't see anything in Katarina and doesn't try to get to know her at all. All he sees in Katarina is a passageway for him to become wealthy quickly, but by doing so, he crushes Katarina's unique attitude towards life. By crushing Katarina, this is evidence that it was socially acceptable for men to do things that were done to Katarina, and that woman's roles in the 16th century was to take care of their husbands and bear children.