The Taming of the Shrew


William Shakespeare

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The Taming of the Shrew: Genre 1 key example

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Explanation and Analysis:

The Taming of the Shrew is an Elizabethan comedy. While bearing characteristics that tie it to the broader genre of comedic drama, The Taming of the Shrew contains several elements that situate it as singularly Elizabethan. The play engages critically with contemporaneous social mores, principally those associated with gender, romance, and marriage. Shakespeare uses comedy in this context to draw attention to those aspects of human behavior he deems ridiculous, or worth criticizing. This method of leveling critique is typical within comedic genres. Characters against whom the playwright directs humor often become, through comedic tonality, objects to be viewed through the playwright's satirical lens.

The Taming of the Shrew centers the nagging or "shrew" wife trope, which was commonplace in the work of Shakespeare's contemporaries and predecessors, including Chaucer. This trope is often employed in an uncritical manner, frequently for the purpose of emasculating the husband or suitors of the "shrew"—to comedic effect—for being unable to control her. If not emasculated or cuckolded, husbands with "shrew" wives in literature typically respond with violence, beating their wives into submission. Shakespeare combines this "shrew wife" trope with comedy in The Taming of the Shrew, drawing attention to its absurdity by revealing Katherine's behavior to be a performance rather than an immutable or intrinsic element of her nature.