The Renaissance Woman
Pablo Picasso once said there are two kinds of women; there are goddesses and doormats. This quote perfectly reflects the outlook of Renaissance women. Shakespeare fully illustrates this in his novel, Taming of The Shrew. By portraying the darker side of the Renaissance life of Elizabethan women, the concept of marriage as a business agreement, and by using animal imagery, Shakepeare demonstrates that the Elizabethan era was not a particularly good time to be a woman.
I will be master of what is mine own. She is my goods my chattels; she is my house, my household stuff, my field, my barn, my horse, my ox, my ass, my anything, Petruchio said about his wife Katherine. In this quote Shakespeare clearly expresses that women are mens chattel (property). In this era, women were not thought of being any better than an ox or a cow. Women were the last on the Gods social scale — politics, and family (house, children, cow, wife). In addition to women being property, women were bonded into forced marriages.
In the Renaissance era, marriage was not about love, but about dowry and dower. The dowry was the wealth or possessions given from the brides father to the groom, when married. The dower was the wealth or possession provided to the bride when married. Baptista comments, I must confess your offer is the best, and let your father make her the assurance, she is your own; else you must pardon me Shakespeare stresses that marriage is between the fathers of the bride and the bridegroom. It also
depicts that women do not have a choice who they marry, but is offered to whichever suitor has the highest bid for her.
Lastly, in the Elizabethan era men used animal imagery to portray womens characteristics. In the title of the novel, a cute cuddly shrew with a horrible temper represents Katherine, a pretty girl ready to explode like a time bomb. Shakespeare uses animal imagery to add comedy to the play, for instance in Katherines line, What is your crest? A coxcomb? Then Petruchio plays on her words by using animal imagery and puns, A combless cock, so Kate will be my hen. These quotes clearly express Kate being described as a shrew and Petruchios hen. This technique of writing adds comedy, and offers a great comparison of human and animal characteristics, even though the comparisons are insulting to the female gender.
The Taming of The Shrew clearly expresses the proper role of an Elizabethan woman, the concept of marriage as a business agreement, and the use of animal imagery to describe womens characteristics. In spite of the hardships that women have endured through the centuries to become independent, one must agree that there are still limitations placed upon women today. While modern women would hardly put up with what Katherine endured, men still call women chicks, so is there much truth in the modern adage, Youve come a long way baby? Shakespeare might be laughing in his grave at the thought.