The play “The Taming of the Shrew”

The Taming of the Shrew: Exploring Exchange in Shakespeare's Play

The drama "The Taming of the Shrew" embodies various topics from William Shakespeare's social and cultural eras. Shakespeare used a variety of literary methods to convey his desired ideas in the play. Symbolism has primarily been employed to advance the play's humor and themes (Baker, 305). The play's many existing dialogues are reflected in Lucentio's adopted name of Cambio. In "The Taming of the Shrew," a network of various forms of exchanges has been used favorably to nurture the play's current themes.

The Network of Exchanges and Identity Changes

The network of exchanges has been effectively employed to elicit laughter and support Shakespeare's central ideas in the play. One of the dominant forms of exchanges that exist is that of status. The play begins with the identity change of Christopher Sly, a tinker of low birth, into a lord. He vividly declares his low birth by demanding "call me not 'honor' nor 'lordship'" (Shakespeare, Scene 1). The initial change was a preparation for the other identity exchanges that exist in the play. In essence, the main form of identity exchanges is that of people of low births turning to people of high status and the noble turning to low birth identities.

Lucentio changes his noble identity with that of his servant Tranio. Lucentio embraces this identity change since Baptista will not permit anyone to court Bianca before Katharina is married. The status change for Lucentio enables him to win Bianca's affection. On the other hand, Tranio embarrassing, Lucentio’s status in the society helps Lucentio manage his agenda with no interference. It is clear that Christopher’s status change helps that playwright introduce a play within a play. In Lucentio’s status change, Shakespeare ensures that the romantic tale persists.

In the play, the identity change is repeatedly used. Lucentio changes his identity to Cambio to try and court Bianca. At the same time, Hortensio changes into the identity of Licio, a musician to try and win Bianca’s affection. This network of change shows the adaptability of Bianca’s suitors to try and circumvent the rules set by her father. It is Gremio, another of Bianca's suitors, that introduces Cambio to Baptista as a tutor. Ironically instead of Cambio representing the needs of Gremio, he ends up courting Bianca. These network of exchanges help portray the rivalry that existed for the hand of the young Bianca. Another identity change is that of the Pedant who took the place of Vincentio, Lucentio’s father. The Pedant was used by the author as a continuity to the Lucentio’s identity change. It was necessary for the Pedant to represent Lucentio’s father so that the marriage agreement with Baptista could stand. The pedant’s identity change was also useful in facilitating the revelation of Lucentio’s true identity. It is clear that the identity exchanges were used by the author to propagate the theme of love and rivalry in the play. The identity changes were networked to show the intense rivalry as well as expose the true identities of the participants in the society.

The Exchange of Favors and Wealth

Shakespeare uses the exchange of favors to facilitate the flow of the play. In the play, one of the main hurdles that exist to Bianca’s suitors is her shrewd sister Katharina. Too many suitors in Padua, the shrewd nature of Katharina is a deterrent. Most of them have a preference for Bianca who cannot be courted till her sister is married. With this obstacle, the romantic tale between Lucentio and Bianca cannot prevail. Petruchio, on the other hand, is seeking a wife. It is Hortensio that exchanges the favor with Petruchio. By providing Petruchio with a wife, Hortensio gets the favor of being allowed to court Bianca in the open. This exchange of favors allows the hurdle to Bianca’s courtship to be eliminated and facilitates the play's continuity.

The other exchange of favors is between Tranio and the Pedant. The Pedant is from Mantua which has no good relations with the people of Padua. It is impossible for him to redeem his bills of exchanges in an enemy’s territory. Tranio agrees to carry out the exchange as long as the pedant agrees to take up Vincentino’s identity. The reason that the Pedant was to represent Vincentino is so that Baptista would allow Bianca’s and Lucentio’s marriage. Furthermore, it was a grand scheme since the playwright used the Pedant to unravel the true identities of Tranio and Lucentio.

The exchange of dowry and wealth were used to show the existing culture in Shakespeare's time. The society had established rules for the passage of wealth across generations. One particular exchange is that between Petruchio and his father. The death of Petruchio's father resulted in the ownership of wealth being changed from father to son. It is evident that in that era, wealth was mainly passed from father to son. In trying to entice Baptista, Tranio assures that all of Vincentio’s wealth will be passed to Lucentio who was the only son. However, wealth could also be passed from the husband to the widower. In his dowry negotiations, Petruchio assures Baptista that all the wealth inherited from his father will be Katharina’s were he to die early (Newman, 93). Another change that is displayed is that of dowry. There was a need for a dowry guarantee before marriage was considered. In this case, marriage was mainly paid to the husband. Petruchio was promised a dowry after his marriage to Katharina. For the bride’s father, it was only a guarantee of wealth to the bride that was considered dowry. The suitor that could provide more to the bride was considered best. Baptista accepted Lucentio’s offer to marry Bianca over Gremio’s offer since Lucentio could offer more wealth to the daughter. The exchange that existed in the aspects of wealth and dowry was a reflection of the cultures that persisted at the time the play was written.

The Change in Personality

The change of personality is a core change in the play. The play’s title 'Taming of the Shrew' is an indication of the desired change in character. Sly is introduced as a rough and uncultured character at the beginning of the play. As the play within a play is introduced, Sly has changed into a cultured individual. He gives orders and tries to morph into his newly found riches. In the play, personality change is seen in Katharina and Bianca. At the start of the play, Katharina is rude and less submissive while Bianca is deemed gentle. At the end of the play, Petruchio has managed to tame the shrew in Katharina. As the men wager on the most submissive wife, Petruchio emerges as the winner since his wife Katharina is the only one that comes when called. As it turns out, the gentle Bianca refused to heed her husband's call for no reason (Seronsy, 17). She was doing nothing of importance and considered her husband's calling to be a disturbance. The personality change at the end of the play justifies the book's agenda of taming the shrew.

Approval and Disapproval of Acts of Exchange

The play can be considered to approve and disapprove the acts of exchange depending on the attitude. In the case of approval, the play seems to reward the characters. For Lucentio, his decision to change status and identity is rewarded as he ends up winning Bianca’s affection. Petruchio also ends up gaining by accepting Hortensio’s offer to court Katharina. There are also instances of loss in which Hortensio fails in his identity change to Licio the music tutor. He fails to win Bianca’s approval, but he later wins ones he changes his courtship to the rich widow. Tranio is seen to lose in the status change since his master, Vincentio, vows to punish him for his involvement in the scheme. In the personality change, Lucentio is the biggest loser since his wife Bianca emerges to be a shrew while Petruchio is rewarded since Katharina is the most submissive (Maguire, 101). It is apparent that the acts of exchanges are approved and disapproved depending on the play’s attitude towards the character's role.

The Network of Exchanges and Themes

The network of exchanges has assisted in portraying the essential themes in the play. The exchanges have frequently interacted to support or disrupt each other across the play. In the play, the status change and the personality change of Sly facilitate the introduction of a play within a play. The further exchanges of identity interact to facilitate the changes in the status and those of favors in the play. Essentially the play’s network of exchanges through their interaction ensure that continued flow of the play as well as ensure the exploration of essential themes. The play tends to approve of the acts of exchange depending on the attitude towards a character and the role played by the exchange. Those exchanges that are approved by the playwright get rewarded while those that get disapproved get punished. Ultimately, Shakespeare did employ an excellent use of the act of exchange in exhibiting comedy and developing the themes in the play.

Works Cited

Baker, Susan. "Personating persons: rethinking Shakespearean disguises." Shakespeare Quarterly 43.3 (1992): 303-316.

Maguire, Laurie E. "Cultural Control in" The Taming of the Shrew"." Renaissance Drama 26 (1995): 83-104.

Newman, Karen. "Renaissance Family Politics and Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew." English Literary Renaissance 16.1 (1986): 86-100.

Shakespeare, William. The taming of the shrew. Vol. 31. Macmillan, 1900.

Seronsy, Cecil C. "" Supposes" as the Unifying Theme in The Taming of the Shrew." Shakespeare Quarterly 14.1 (1963

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