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Misogyny and Understanding in The Taming of the Shrew

Out of all of the Shakespeare shows I’ve assisted with at Stageworks, THIS particular show seems to be stirring up the most drama amongst the students. Why is that? Well, it seems to be the "relationship" between Petruchio and Katherine is a large sore point for many of our players. Not familiar with The Taming of the Shrew? Let’s break it down…

This play was written sometime around 1590. It’s a Shakespearian comedy—full of farce, switched identities, and misogyny. Wait, what? Yes, you read it right: misogyny. However, this theme is NOT a "Shakespeare specialty"—we see this same theme popularly presented in folklore and medieval literature—covered in stories and poetry the world over; most notably, in The Canterbury Tales (which the majority of students read their junior or senior year). Would that theme fly today? Oh, heck no! Did it fly in the 1500s? Yes, yes it did. Society was different. What women and men expected and presented of themselves was different.