“The Taming of the Shrew” by Shakespeare | Plot Overview

The Taming of the Shrew is a critically acclaimed comedy written by William Shakespeare. It is a wonderful read for anyone interested in exploring parental relationships of the late 16th century. The story is based on the Italian city of Padua. Katherina is the protagonist and the elder daughter of Minola Baptista. She is the shrew of the story because she is a very headstrong woman who rejects the conventional notion of submission to men. Bianca is her younger sister who sits on the other end of the spectrum and is as mild in behavior as vicious Katherina is in hers. The purpose of this essay is to explore the relationships between Katherina and Bianca with their father. The following discussion will comment on what kind of influence these relationships have on the two girls.

As Katherina is the shrew of the story, she naturally comes across as a very hotheaded young woman who is keen to follow her own mind. Baptista is more worried about her marriage than Bianca’s because she always treats her suitors very rudely. Katherina’s hostility towards men, particularly those who express a desire to marry her, worries her father to no end. It is due to the nature of such events that Katherina’s relationship with her father never remains smooth for long. Her tendency to defy the very core of the society in which she lives serves to annoy her father. Part of Baptista’s frustration can also be explained by the fact that Katherina turns down one eligible bachelor after another. It is due to the hostile nature of Katherina and the unsatisfying relationship that she shares with her father that Baptista is more anxious to marry her than Bianca. This relationship has an almost tumultuous effect on Katherina because it inculcates a deep-seated sense of insecurity in her. For example, in Act I scene I, Baptista disgraces Katherina by discussing her situation and poor marriage prospects with Grumio and Hortensio. This causes her to retort and she asks her father, ‘is it your will to make a stale of me amongst these mates?1 Baptista’s obvious demonstration of anxiety over his elder daughter’s marriage proves to Katherina that the only kind of happiness she can find is by way of conforming to those ideals which she resists.

In contrast to Katherina, Bianca has a smooth relationship with her father. For example, when Baptista tells Bianca to develop an interest in books and music, she does not object once. Rather, she humbly complies saying, ‘my books, and instruments, shall be my company; On them to look, and practice by myself.’2 Such a kind of relationship has a healthy effect on her because she always comes across as a happier person than her elder sister. Her mild behavior and conformation to social ideals explain her smooth relationship with Baptista. Baptista showers Bianca with attention and affection in contrast to how he treats Katherina. This conflict in the treatment of his two daughters contributes to Katherina’s unattractive personality. It also serves to create animosity between the two sisters.

Reference:
Shakespeare, W., The dramatic works of William Shakespeare, Oxford University Press, 1851.

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