Over the course of his life, Shakespeare produced many of the most enduring love stories ever written. The Taming of the Shrew is not one of them. Because it is a comedy, the nature of the romantic relationships in The Taming of the Shrew is inherently different than those in Shakespeare’s tragedies, but the toxicity of the relationships in The Taming of the Shrew is alarming to say the least. Every single relationship that blossoms over the course of the play either features one party devising ulterior motives for entering the relationship or one party using disguises to slyly fool their desired partner. While I may not be a writer for Cosmopolitan, these less-than-honest tactics seem like a terrible way to start off a marriage. The men in The Taming of the Shrew think that their schemes are clever, but, when it comes to the complexities of love, they are no Carrie Bradshaw.
Katherine’s alarmingly regressive character development is a key contributing factor regarding her virulent relationship with Petruchio. Near the beginning of the play, Katherine’s headstrong attitude is very apparent in many of her lines. When Katherine and Petruchio enter a battle of wits, Katherine sternly warns Petruchio “if I be waspish, best beware my sting” (II. i. 223). This line clearly indicates Katherine’s attitude toward Petruchio and the concept of marriage itself. After her marriage to Petruchio, which is extremely abusive to say the least, Katherine’s will and spirit seems to break. She is transformed from a “shrewish,” independent woman to a doting, obedient wife. Instead of hurling insults at Petruchio, by the end of the play, Katherine tells her sister and Hortensio’s new wife that “thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee” (V. ii. 162, 163). This abrupt change of attitude brought on by constant abuse by Petruchio in the form of denying Katherine food and sleep demonstrates the problematic nature of one of the main relationships within the play.
While relationship standards in the 16th century were vastly different than they are in the present day, the alarming abuse and deceit the men in The Taming of the Shrew commit does not demonstrate healthy relationship standards to its audience. While I recognize that The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy, I find it difficult to find humor in starving your wife in order to bring about acquiescence. The Taming of the Shrew is a fun play on the surface, but when analyzed, many problems rise to the surface, primarily regarding the precarious nature of the relationships forged over the course of the play.