The Taming of the Shrew and Pygmalion Character Analysis Essay Example
Have you ever found yourself reading something and know that you have seen this before. If you have read Pygmalion or The Taming of the Shrew you would likely have had this sense of deja vu. Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw is the tale of a street dweller, Eliza Doolittle, who aims to better her speaking ability. She gains the help of Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics, to help her reach her goal. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare is about the happenings of several rich, Italian families. One of these families is Baptista Minola’s, who is troubled with his daughter Katherine.
She has decided that she will not submit to anyone, including her father. She has also decided that she will not marry until she wants to marry. In an attempt to regain control her father creates a rule that doesn’t allow for his younger daughter, who is highly valued, to get married until Katherine is married. Which causes the suitors of the younger daughter to find someone to marry Katherine. On the surface, these stories do not appear to be similar. However, after some digging these plays share similar characters, plots, themes and settings. Pygmalion could be described as a more modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew.
The first of many similarities is the characters. Throughout these plays many characters share similar beliefs and personalities. For example, both plays share a male lead that have no respect for women in the forms of Petruchio from Taming of the Shrew and Higgins from Pygmalion. Petruchio is often found showing off his shrew taming abilities. Showing dominance over a woman was seen as a masculine act. So, when the other two male leads show their fear of Katherine he insults them. “And do you tell me of a woman's tongue, That gives not half so great a blow to hear As will a chestnut in a farmer's fire? Tush, tush, fear boys with bugs” (Shakespeare 37)! He is showing his dominance over these men by basically calling them little girls. This is not unlike Higgins from Pygmalion. Higgins shows his dominance by giving no respect to other women, specifically Eliza. “I find that the moment I let a woman make friends with me, she becomes jealous, exacting, suspicious, and a damned nuisance” (Shaw ). He has no respect for women and at the time no one had a problem with this.
Likewise, the female leads of both plays, Katherine from The Taming of the Shrew and Eliza from Pygmalion respectively, are very comparable; they are both independent, strong women. For example, Katherine is known for making her own decisions, notably, her choice to not marry. At the time young women were often married at a young age, without their consent. Katherine doesn’t submit to the status quo and makes the decision to not marry; not because she did not want to marry, just to feel she was in control (Shakespeare). Similarly, Eliza is found to be a strong character able to care for herself. Even though she is a member of the lowest class in London, she is able to provide for herself while also doing what she loves, selling flowers. “I want to be a lady in a flower shop…”(Shaw 26). “...to her lodging: a small room with very old wall paper hanging loose in the damp places… Rent: four shillings a week”(Shaw 21). The ability to take care of herself, along with her want to better her situation was a sign of her independence. Even though she could probably make higher wages taking a working class job, she was contempt with taking lower wages doing what she loves.
Finally, the clashing of these two character types, overconfident lead male and independent female lead, led to the main conflict of the plays; the taming of the female leads. In Taming of the Shrew Petruchio, in order to gain a large sum of money, takes Katherine for his wife. To keep Katherine under control he attempts to tame her wild spirit. Likewise, in Pygmalion Mr. Higgins has agreed to teach Eliza how to speak properly. However, this leads to a bet with Colonel Pickering; if he is able to pass her off as a duchess at the garden party, Colonel Pickering will pay all of the expenses of her training. “What about the ambassador’s garden party? I’ll say your the greatest teacher alive if you make it that good” (Shaw 29). The bet between Higgins and Pickering leads to the “taming” of Eliza’s wild nature, teaching her proper English and etiquette. Both female leads are being “tamed” of unladylike characteristics and mannerisms. These unladylike characteristics were deemed improper by their culture.
In conclusion, both plays have similar aspects. Some important ones are the characters and plots. However, there are some equally important aspects such as the setting and themes. These plays showed the normal behavior of old English culture. Women were often expected to act respectable. When they didn’t they were often cast away in society. Women were not allowed to have feelings or thoughts.