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Concepts Of Love In Shakespeare's "The Taming Of The Shrew"

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Concepts of love in Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew"

1. Introduction

In Shakespeare's comedy "The Taming of the Shrew", the audience becomes aware of a variety of different love concepts. Such as romantic and rational love, mature and immature love, intimate and reserved love, paternal love and the love of a daughter. These concepts are represented by the different characters and are contrasted with each other.

I will sum up the play and furthermore elaborate on the contrast between the conventional and social accepted love and the unconventional love, which is looked down upon by society.

2. Summary of the play

The comedy consists of an induction and five acts. The play ends with a short scene, which one might call an epilogue. The induction and the "epilogue" serve as frame for the real comedy.

2.1 The induction

Christopher Sly, a drunken tinker, is turned out of an alehouse by the hostess. A lord and his train, who return from hunting, find Sly sleeping. For his own amusement the lord has sly taken to his castle. There the tinker shall awake and be told and treated as if he is the lord of that household. Along coming actors are invited to come to the castle and play in front of the "new" lord Sly, who does not really find his way around in his new situation, in order to cheer him up.

2.2 The comedy

The young Lucentio, son of the rich Vincentio from Pisa, arrived at Padua to start his studies. At first sight he falls in love with Bianca, the daughter of the old Baptista, who looks for a wealthy son-in-law. Before Bianca can marry, Baptitsta wants to find a husband for his older daughter Katherina. But Katherina has no admirers, or better, men get out of her way, because she is rebellious and high-spirited.

Petruchio, a nobleman from Verona, is interested in Katherina, to whom it seems as a task to tame her. By reacting fundamentally cruder than Katherina and repaying her doubly for what she says or does, he enforces in a quite short time the marriage with her. To which he not only comes late but also in ragged clothes. He also takes her immediately after the ceremony with him to his country house, where he has her go without food and sleep. By spoiling everything for Katherina, Petruchio achieves that she gives in everything, even that she leaves it to him if the sun or the moon shines.

In the meantime several suitors courted Bianca and Lucentio won the day over the others. But before they get engaged, Baptista makes it a condition that Lucentio's whole property falls to Bianca, even if he dies before his father Vincentio. A pedant shall play the role of Lucentio's father and agree with this condition. But in the counting moment Vincentio arrives at Padua and he forgives his son. In the end everybody meets at Baptista's banquet, at which Bianca and a widow prove to be stubborn, while Katherina, who was regarded as the rebellious among them, explains to them that "thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, thy head, thy sovereign" and that women have to respect him and do whatever he demands.

3. Convential and unconventional

love in "The Taming of the Shrew"

3.1 The induction

The induction contrasts the two different concepts of love relationships quite sharply.

3.1.1 The lord and the page

The conventional concept of love is represented by the lord and the page. This concept is presented as the one of love, which is predominant in the upper class. In Ind.i. 103-128 , the lord depicts the wife of a nobleman as her husband's humble servant, who is loyal and obedient to him as she is to her king.

The encounter between the page, which Hehl calls "das ironisch verzerrte Spiegelbild der gehorsamen Ehefrau" , and Sly shows another aspect of this concept of love, that is that of distance. Husband and wife call each other "lord" and "madam" (cf. Ind.ii. 103-112). Intimacy is nothing, which is desired, the partners treat each other with reserved politeness rather than with real affection.

3.1.2 Sly

Sly represents the socially less accepted concept of love which is more characteristic of the under class. He desires a certain amount of intimacy, mentally as well as physically. He wants to know his wife as an individual that is why he wishes to know her name. Sly does not understand that he is supposed to call his own wife "madam", and therefore he asks:

Alice madam, or Joan madam? (Ind.ii. 111)

His concept of sexuality is quite pragmatic, as soon as he believes that he has got a wife, he wants to consummate the marriage, which seems most natural to him.

3.2 The comedy itself

The play itself consists of two plots, which are "constantly and firmly interwoven" . The main plot deals with the relationship between Katherina and Petruchio; the sub-plot is about Bianca and her suitors. While conventional concepts of love dominate the sub-plot. The main plot deals with a relationship, which is very special and unconventional .

3.2.1 Conventional love: Bianca's suitors

Bianca is wooed by Lucentio, Hortensio and Gremio, later also by Tranio, who takes on Lucentio's role in society. Bianca's suitors all represent the conventional, romantic concept of love, especially Lucentio does. He immediately falls in love when he sees her for the first time, without having spoken a single word to her; he falls in love with the picture of Bianca, as he wants to see her. While telling Tranio about his feelings (cf. I.i. 146-176), Lucentio uses about every clichй that love poetry offers him. He compares her to mythical women and praises her physical and mental beauty. Lines like

Tranio, I saw her coral lips to move,

And with her breath she did perfume the air;

Sacred and sweet was all I saw in her. (I.i. 174-176)

Are purely Petrarchan and reveal his naпve and immature character. Rohrsen refers to Lucentio's speech to Tranio and

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