Performativity and Hierarchies in the Taming of the Shrew

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Erica Bailey Performativity and Hierarchies in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew The language William Shakespeare uses in The Taming of the Shrew during Kate’s final speech suggests that it is performed. After Kate’s speech in Act 5, Scene 2, Lucentio says “’Tis a wonder, by your leave, she will be tamed so” (5.2.194). By definition, to be tamed means to become docile, or submissive, as a person or in disposition. One’s spirit must break in order to be tamed, and Kate displays that she is still very much spirited when not in the company of Petruccio. Given the fact that the entirety of the play challenges stereotypes and performativity, Kate’s final speech is called into question. Shakespeare’s language in this passage (4.3.31-35), along with the stage direction of “beats him” (4.3.35) shows that Kate has retained her spirited nature. She calls Grumio a “false, deluding slave.” (4.3.31) A slave is a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them. A docile and submissive person, or one who has been tamed, does not speak to others as though they have authority, hence their submissive nature. During Shakespeare’s time, a woman especially did not speak to a man like that because of the gender hierarchies of the time period. In the same act, mere lines away from her disrespect toward Grumio, Kate’s tone changes. When speaking to Petruccio, Kate says, “Thank you, sir” (4.3.47). Using the title of sir is showing recognition of the hierarchy between men and women, and it is a term of respect. The language switch and change in demeanor from Kate is indicative of her performativity when Petruccio is in her company. During her speech in act five, scene two, Kate says, “Thy husband is they lord, thy life, they keeper, they head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee” (5.2.150-151), again utilizing authoritative titles as a way to address

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