Taming of the Shrew is very good at making a satire of many kinds of people. On of which is the shrew herself, Katharina. "Kate's shrill tongue, anger, and intransigence mark her as the conventional shrew," says Coppélia Kahn, author of The Taming of the Shrew: Shakespeare's Mirror of Marriage. She continues on to explain that perhaps the story is not against women, but instead against the male behavior of the time.
Kahn claims that, at the time, people would claim that Petruchio "is Kate's savior, the wise man who guides her to a better and truer self..." (Kahn 89). The interesting argument that is presented is who is being tamed by whom?
In her argument, Kahn brings up that Petruchio may simply be a slave to his upbringing. This is the only way he has been taught to deal with a woman in the "proper" way at the time. So perhaps he is the puppet, simply trying to force his will upon Kate. Many see the satire on a willful female character, but perhaps they miss the satire of male attitudes towards women at that time.
The ideas towards females were not as lax as they are today. Women like Kate would be viewed the same way they are in the play, while now women are free to do as they will almost the same as men. But our values have changed, which is shown in how different our society is from that shown in the play. It is no longer acceptable for the heavy-handed misogynistic behavior within marriage. Men cannot starve their wives for being defiant with no repercussions.
Our society has been very good about moving away from the patriarchy. The idea that a woman is property is no longer upheld. Now, it is an even partnership, or should be, through today's values. Men and women do not hold the same idea of ownership as was held during that time. Even at the time, Shakespeare was almost making an observation in the way that he wrote Kate's character into the psychology of all kinds of relationships, whether the reader or audience member viewed Kate's and Petruchio's relationship as abusive or not.
Similar to the argument for patriarchy, there is an argument for domestic violence being put in the play, as it is shown. Some would say that it is simply "a mutual game between two 'equal' players," I would beg to differ (Detmer). While there is little real physical violence between the two, there is much more mental abuse of Kate on the part of Petruchio than most people would realize.
Some men would see it as a necessary measure in order to bring obedience. However, starving and mental abuse is not a particularly healthy way in order to achieve such an effect. At the time, it was even considered civilized. However, Emily Detmer, writer for Shakespeare Quarterly, claims that in order to see the irony of the play, one must look at it from the abuser's point of view. The time period suggests that dominion is okay as long as it is not a physical abuse.
Detmer suggests that the original audience would not have viewed Petruchio's actions during the show as any kind of abuse. While modern society would see it as heinous mental abuse, the people during Shakespeare's time would have thought of it as a valid way of "taming" a hard-headed woman like Kate.
Feminists could view this piece in such a terrible light due to its supposed attack on women and their need to be tamed. However, as I see it, there is truly more attack on the male state of mind and society at the time. There is the idea of domestic abuse in the form of mental attack, but there is also still the idea that Kate doesn't actually lose her personality. At the very end of the piece, she gives a speech about how wonderful her husband is, and yet in some versions, she is shown as running away in a way of showing that she has also "tamed" Petruchio. Perhaps she shows that there is true love in there once the pair had past society's expectations.
In my personal opinion, I do believe that Petruchio and Kate did hold a deep love for on another. It is a tested love that does run deeper, and is a constant power struggle between Kate and Petruchio.