Women in ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore and the Taming of the Shrew‘

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Women in ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore and the Taming of the Shrew‘

Using your understanding of critical views on these plays, compare the ways in which ford and Shakespeare represent women in ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore and The Taming of the Shrew. In the 17th century or in early modern England the man was the head of the household. The man was at the top and the husband’s role as governor of his family and household which includes his wife, children, wards and servants. In those days they thought it was instituted by God and nature. The family was seen as the secure foundation of society, with the husband’s role being comparable to that of god within his universe or the king within his country. Women were instructed that their spiritual and social worth resided above all else in their practice of and reputation for chastity. Unmarried virgins and wives were to maintain silence in the public sphere and give unstinting obedience to their fathers and husbands, but widows had some scope for making their own decisions and managing their affairs.

Children and servants were bound to the strictest obedience. Inevitably, however, tension developed when such norms met with common disobedience. In the plays written by Shakespeare and Ford there is a difference in the way women behave and conduct themselves than how women usually do in the 17thcentury. We mainly look at two women in each play; Annabella from ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore’ and ‘Katherine’, the shrew in ‘The Taming of The Shrew’. John’s ‘Tis Pity she’s A Whore was frowned upon and looked down on because it was a play about a relationship between a brother and his sister…

Tis Pity are compared with many plays but it is mostly compared with Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet because both plays feature young lovers and their forbidden love, both plays have a meddling nurse and friar and they both have a tragic ending but Ford is different because of the twist in his play by using incestuous lovers and that was never found in any of William Shakespeare’s plays. Unlike in Romeo and Juliet, inner emotional desire plays only a secondary role in The Taming of the Shrew’s exploration of love. Instead, The Taming of the Shrew emphasizes the economic aspects of marriage—specifically, how economic considerations determine who marries whom. The play tends to explore romantic relationships from a social perspective, addressing the institutions of courtship and marriage rather than the inner passions of lovers.

In William Shakespeare’s taming of The Shrew the play is a comedy which is mainly about a two sisters Katherine ‘The Shrew’ and her sister Bianca. The main plot depicts the courtship of Petruchio, and Katharina, the headstrong, obdurate shrew. Initially, Katharina is an unwilling participant in the relationship, but Petruchio tempers her with various psychological torments—the “taming”—until she becomes a compliant and obedient bride. The subplot features a competition between the suitors of Katharina’s more desirable sister, Bianca. There were four women in Tis Pity play which were Annabella, who had a relationship with her brother. She lost her virginity to him and became pregnant for him. She had a tragic ending when Giovanni stabs her while betraying her with a kiss. Then there was Putana which was Annabella’s tutoress; she accepts the news of her mistress’s affair with her brother agreeably, saying she believes it is acceptable to have affairs with brothers, fathers, or anyone if the mood strikes. Putana was also betrayed and killed. .

Thirdly there was Hippolita which was Richardetto’s unfaithful wife. `She offered sexual favours and wealth to get assistance. In the event, he betrays her and remains loyal to his master Soranzo. Hippolita ends up killed when Vasques hands. Lastly there was Philotis which was Richardetto’s naive, subservient niece, she obeys her uncle in everything. First, he hopes she will marry Soranzo, then, he decides she must enter a convent. Without protest, she agrees. There are only two women in The Taming of the Shrew; Katherine The “shrew” is the daughter of Baptista Minola. She is sharp-tongued, quick-tempered, and prone to violence, particularly against anyone who tries to marry her. Her hostility toward suitors particularly distresses her father. ‘A pretty peat! It is best put finger in the eye and she knew why’ her anger and rudeness disguise her deep-seated sense of insecurity and her jealousy toward her sister, Bianca.

She does not resist her suitor Petruchio forever, though, and she eventually subjugates herself to him, despite her previous repudiation of marriage. ‘I’faith, sir you shall never need to fear. I Wis’ it is not half way to her heart. But if it were doubt not her care should be to comb your noodle with a three-legg’d stool, and paint your face like a fool’ Katherine is foul-tempered and sharp-tongued at the start of the play. She constantly insults and degrades the men around her, and she is prone to wild displays of anger, during which she may physically attack whomever enrages her. ‘To cart her rather. She’s too rough for me.’ Though most of the play’s characters simply believe Katherine to be inherently ill-tempered, it is certainly plausible to think that her unpleasant behaviour stems from unhappiness.

She may act like a shrew because she is miserable and desperate. We think Katherine behaves this way because she is jealous about her father’s treatment of her sister but her anxiety may also stem from feelings about her own undesirability, the fear that she may never win a husband, her loathing of the way men treat her, and so on. In short, Katherine feels out of place in her society. Due to her intelligence and independence, she is unwilling to play the role of the maiden daughter. She clearly abhors society’s expectations that she obey her father and show grace and courtesy toward her suitors. At the same time, however, Katherine must see that given the rigidity of her social situation, her only hope to find a secure and happy place in the world lies in finding a husband.

These inherently conflicting impulses may lead to her misery and poor temper. A vicious circle ensues: the angrier she becomes, the less likely it seems she will be able to adapt to her prescribed social role; the more alienated she becomes socially, the more her anger grows. Then last women in the play is Bianca who is the youngest daughter of Baptista Minola, she is seen to be his favourite daughter. Bianca plays a lovely, soft-spoken, sweet and unassuming person. Many men prefer her from her sister Katherine and they all want to marry Bianca, but Baptista Minola will not let her marry until Katherine is married.

We see that Katherine is the complete opposite from her sister Bianca, however as the play continues we start to see the true colours of the two sister and their roles totally turn around. From the beginning we see that Katherine is always placed second in her father’s affections, and hated by others where as Bianca is the favourite and playing a long suffering angel which makes her father love her more. Katherine can see right through her sister and figures out her sisters reaction she is hurt and wants revenge “I will go sit and weep till I can find occasion of revenge”. But at the of the play we find out that her negative attitude becomes a positive attitude.

John ford theory to this play involves Annabella’s sexual drive. She is being pursued by many men, but still she loses her virginity to her brother “I marvel why the chaster of your sex should think this pretty toy called maidenhead/ so strange a loss, when being lost, ‘tis nothing’ her brother proclaims. Ford has transformed a proper lady who conducted herself as a typical 17th century woman into a woman who is pursued by multiple men into a whore, especially an incestuous whore at that.

We also look at Putana who is a tutress to Annabella, even though she is not seen that much and is not a big character in the play she plays a big role by being a bad influence to Annabella by knowing about the relationship between Giovanni and Annabella and encourages her to continue the relationship “Nay, what a paradise of joy have you passed under! Why, now I comment them charge; fear nothing, sweetheart, what though he be your brother? Your brother’s a man I hope, and I say still, if a young wench feel the fit upon her, let her take anybody, father or brother, all is one” Putana basically tells Annabella that sex is just sex and it doesn’t matter who it is with; and we see that class in not a problem because Putana is a lower class than Annabella but Annabella doesn’t not disagree with Putana.

Ford and Shakespeare have presented women in a derogative manner, as helpless, people who have no status in society unless they were married. They are portrayed as devious, jealous, treacherous, dishonest, and promiscuous. They ought to be obedient to their husband and this is seen as a trophy as can be seen by the scene

In this play the women have very low standards and acted like whores they are not seen as the typical women of the 17th Century. This play shows how being unfaithful can lead to revenge and how creative act of sexual intercourse can lead to death. It also shows how sexual desire affects human relationships especially relationships between the churches which includes marriage and family. ‘Tis Pity she’s a Whore’ shows an evolution of sexual morals into the modern churches of marriages and families.

This shows Friar who was Giovanni’s tutor and confessor. From when the Friar was told about this incestuous relationship he wanted them to stop and to repent because he felt that it was wrong in God’s eyes “Repentance son, and sorrow for this sin; For thou hast moved a majesty above” The Friar makes his case not on similar rational grounds, but by calling incest an affront to God. He says Giovanni should simply accept the social and religious prohibitions on incest rather than try to justify his incestuous desire. There can be no justification. So the Friar does not tell him to use his training in logic to stop this desire, but to go home and pray for God to erase his desire. Only by abasing himself before God can he stop incestuous desire. Giovanni readily agrees to this counsel, but his mentions “vengeance” if he does not.

‘To talk at large of all; but never met yet, Incest and murder have so strangely met. Of one so young, so rich in Nature’s store, who could say,’ Tis pity she’s a Whore? ‘ Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee, and for thy maintenance commits his body to painful labour both by sea and land, to watch the night in storms, the day in cold, whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe, and craves no other tribute at thy hands. But love, fair looks, and true obedience, too little payment for so great a debt’. Even though Ford and Shakespeare twisted up their plays in the beginning but in the end they concluded their plays to show people how women are really supposed to behave.

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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 7 January 2017

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