Study Guide

The Taming of the Shrew Gender

By William Shakespeare


Gender, of course, is a huge theme in the play, especially as it relates to power. The Taming of the Shrew examines the way 16th-century ideas about gender and hierarchy are tested and reinforced in turbulent heterosexual relationships. While patriarchy appears to prevail at the play's end, it's important to consider all the ways the play works to undermine sexist assumptions about a woman's proper place in marriage and society. The play seems to recognize that gender is a social construction and can be "performed" by men and women. Aside from the obvious look at women's roles, Shrew seems interested in exploring ideal forms of masculinity and, to some extent, male bonding.

Questions About Gender

  1. How are relationships between men and women portrayed?
  2. How do men interact with each other in the play?
  3. Why aren't there any significant female friendships? What does this suggest about relationships between women?
  4. How is masculinity portrayed in the play? What makes a "manly" man? Who fits into this category and who doesn't?
  5. Can a man be a shrew? Why or why not?
  6. What kinds of social roles are available to women in the text?

Chew on This

The Taming of the Shrew brings to our attention the limited number of social roles available to women.

In the play, a husband's masculinity is dependent upon his ability to control and dominate his wife.