Shrew You! (Week 4)

This week we finished taming of the shrew, presented our Milestone 2 decades of women presentations, and examined many new ideas and areas of our topic.

This week something interesting that was brought up was the idea of looking at times in history and what the expectations were, and seeing what kindness, or social expectations would look like in that time. Historical perspective is very important when trying to judge actions made in the past, because they are often influenced, and accepted by the social norms of the time and the question is, should we still be mad? These actions made in the past, in their time were often seen as respectable but now later, as social norms have changed, those actions don’t fit was we see as acceptable. An example of this would be Petruchio’s treatment towards Kate. At the time, being a shrew was seen as a low thing to be, very socially unacceptable, so in the Elizabethan times Petruchio’s actions from the audience’s perspective could likely have been seen as noble and kind as he is saving her from herself and from a life of anger and rebellion. Even Petruchio’s own motive could be out of kindness, because in the time it was known that shrews wouldn’t have good lives, and he truly wanted to help her. Now, of course, we see this is sexist and demeaning, and his actions crushing her into submission completely unacceptable in our social landscape, but at the time it was made, it wasn’t seen that way.

Media is primarily made to influence the public, in the 50s the advertising helped to push that women were the ones taking care of the home, and the television helped push the idea of the classic, nuclear family and the American dream that was so important in the time. A good example of this would be the hit TV show ‘Leave it to Beaver’, premiered in 1957, centred around a perfect 50s family, the wife staying at home and the husband working, two kids and a dog. Now in 2020, the media pushes content that is in-line with what we feel is right, but there are still social norms today that, even if we don’t see them now, in 20 years when we look back at the things that have changed, we’ll be able to see. We can’t know what things we do everyday, that one day will be completely unacceptable, because that’s how time works, things change, and people adjust. An interesting addition to this idea that was brought up in class, was the idea of women not being allowed to remove their shirts in public. In a public place, if a woman completely removed her shirt for everyone to see, everyone around would be completely uncomfortable and shocked, whereas is a man removed his shirt it wouldn’t be seen as anything out of the ordinary. If this is accepted someday in the future, does us feeling uncomfortable when a woman removes her shirt in public mean that we are all sexists, or we are just accustomed to the social expectations of our time? At a time so rigid in the customs of marriage and the woman’s role, it’s likely true that Shakespeare’s play was to push an idea that was very important in their time, meaning that Kate really was tamed in the end.