The submission is further amplified when she says, “I am ashamed that women are so simple… When they are bound to serve, love, and obey. ” The language choices Shakespeare uses here conveys this message further. For example, the word “bound” implies that this submission is the correct and proper thing for women to do- and also that they have no choice in the matter.
Not only would modern feminist audiences be offended by this notion when they wish to be treated equally, but the contrast of this speech in comparison to Kate’s previous attitudes may suggest to modern audiences that Katherina has had to endure horrific treatment in order for her opinion to change so drastically. This suggestion of abuse may be seen by audiences of today as sinister and disturbing, rather than comedic. However, alternative modern interpretations may see that instead of abusing Kate, Petruchio is liberating her.
Nichola McAuliffe, an actor who has played Katherina on several occasions, suggests that Petruchio’s treatment of Kate has direct parallels with the treatment of falcons during training- the owner has to be cruel in order for training to be effective, so the falcon can fly and have freedom. McAuliffe says that during training, the master may endure similar emotional pain in mistreating the falcon – The suggestion here is that Petruchio feels anguish himself in starving Kate, but does so in order for her to later experience liberation.
There are several explicit references to hawking in the Taming of the Shrew which support this interpretation, for instance in the Induction, when the Lord asks Sly, “Dost thou love hawking? ” Similarly, Lisa Dillon makes an insightful point about Katherina’s final speech-“Petruchio gives her the power of speech and language: he gives her freedom to speak. That is not a woman being crushed,” suggesting that Petruchio’s actions were for Kate’s liberation, albeit as much as was possible within the social boundaries of the time.
Some audiences argue that because the only way to liberate a woman was inside a marriage, the play is not misogynistic. However, this does not necessarily make the play comedic either; but presents the Taming of the Shrew as an insightful work of theatre reflective of its era rather than a disturbing one. However, some critics subscribe to a more comedic theory, seeing the misogyny in the play as irony. One such interpretation is a 1929 film, where after Katherina’s submissive speech, unbeknownst to Petruchio; she turns and winks at the audience.
This suggests she has remained ‘untamed’, whilst implying she has outwitted the men of the play by leading them to believe her submission. To modern audiences, this perhaps presents a refreshing, comedic interpretation of the play. There are also examples of irony in the text, particularly through role reversals. One instance is between Katherina and Bianca, who have seemingly swapped roles entirely by the end of the play. Kate is initially shrewish, independent and wilful, while Bianca is considered the archetypal perfect wife.
Petruchio’s taming of Katherina is an effort to make her a conventionally perfect Elizabethan woman, and his success in Kate’s submission defines her new role- she is more obedient than Bianca, and in contrast, Bianca is no longer the perfect woman. For example, in Act 5 Scene 2, when the men at Bianca’s wedding feast compete over their wives’ obedience, Katherina is the only wife who complies, whereas Bianca refuses to come, unless called by Kate- this is especially poignant as Bianca will only answer to another woman, not a man.
This could be considered ironic, meaning that audiences who would be disturbed by the play are perhaps amused instead. Shakespeare’s intentions in writing this play were unlikely to have been to offend women or to be misogynistic, but in fact to write a comedy that would be amusing and appealing to his audience. The misogyny audiences may interpret today is not there as a statement, but rather as a reflection of Shakespeare’s time.