Gender Norms in Taming of the Shrew

Christa O’Connell
Professor Rubright
February 17th, 2011

Gender norms vary throughout time and cultures.   In Western civilization, when gender norms are discussed, we automatically consider the stereotypical “Donna Reed” family.   The gender norms in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew are rather similar to the same gender norms that were seen in early North American culture.   Women were seen as objects.   Women were meant to be submissive and obedient.   Men were allowed to “tame” their women by any means including violence and depriving them of essential needs.   Almost everybody is aware of these gender norms but Shakespeare blatantly puts these on display in his plays.

Women being merely seen as objects is a long standing gender norm.   This is shown many times in Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew.   Katherine is treated as an object many times in this play. The first incident of this gender norm is seen in act two scene one, when Petruccio and Baptista first discuss the marriage of Petruccio and Katherine.   Petruccio asks “What dowry shall I have with her to wife?” (2.1. 118) and Baptista responds “After my death the one half of my lands,/ And in possession twenty thousands crowns.” (2.1. 119-120).   This interaction is as if they are selling cattle.   The price of Katherine was right so even before meeting Katherine, Petruccio can make the decision that he wants to be with her for the rest of his life due to the money he will receive from Baptista.

Another incident later on in the play that reconfirms this gender norm is when Petruccio claims he “will be mast of what is mine own/ She is my goods, my chattels.   She is my house.” (3.3. 100-101).   He is comparing Katherine to his possessions and saying that she can be bought just like he bought his house.   Petruccio says chattel which ties in with the previous quote when he is discussing her price with Baptista.   He sees her as goods and wealth he can acquire like an object rather than...