Forced marriage isn’t funny.
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Applying the requirements for tragedy laid forth in Aristotle’s Poetics, I can show that the Shrew meets all of them. It’s time to stop pretending that The Taming of the Shrew is a lame romantic comedy. It’s time to take Katherina the Shrew at her word and believe her when she says, “I must forsooth be forced to give my hand, opposed against my heart.”
The issue of forced marriage is inherently tragic. Forced marriage is not an antiquated, foreign problem that no longer exists in contemporary society.
Can we stop trying to force humor and hilarity onto the issue of forced marriage and the breaking of a human spirit? Why do so many productions tie themselves in knots trying to justify Petruchio’s actions to “tame” his wife? Because it makes you uncomfortable? How about we lean into the discomfort the play provokes rather than trying to soften and cover it up? For some, this may seem obvious, but I’ve discovered that there are many out there who will refuse to consider The Shrew as anything but a slapsticky love story. For those resistant to change, I’m here to do my best to convince you that the Taming of the Shrew is indeed a tragedy.