Shakespeare and Gender: Traditional Gender Roles

Shakespeare portrays gender in interesting ways throughout his work by defying traditional gender roles. Many women in Shakespearean plays are strong and rational while their male counterparts are lost, irrational and carried away by their emotions. Examples of this dynamic appear in Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth.

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It would appear Shakespeare believed gender to be a role that people could choose to play in a variety of ways. A comedy usually contained romantic couples whose story ended in marriage. The Taming of the Shrew fits this criteria as there are three marriages at the end of the play, but it also communicates a rather bleak message about marriage and gender role expectations.

In this play marriage is considered more of a financial transaction between a woman’s father and her future husband rather than a mutual decision out of love. Women had very little say in the matter and were expected to behave sweetly and submissively in order to be more attractive to men. Petruccio is the character who most blatantly expresses his desire to marry a woman for money. Katherina is rude, abrasive and considered a shrew. The play focuses on the balance of society and how that is dependent in creating happiness.

The purpose of this is to show that one’s true happiness is in fact determined by their social standing; no matter how much one tries to fight where they are on the scale. They will always return back to where they came from overall. Katherina’s gradual acceptance of being attained as a wife, and the overall objective, is to show that societal harmony occurs from everyone playing their individual roles and no matter how many times one tries to fight it, the natural order of things will always be restored and re-establish itself. The audience for Taming of the Shrew were created to fit a more patriarchal society. It both portrays the reality of life as well as satirizing social attitudes, the play showed the impact and effect one can have on another.

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