Literary criticism has traditionally found little of religious or biblical import in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, a play in which the abusive treatment of Katherine—and, by extension, all independent-minded women—has puzzled, troubled, or outraged audiences over the centuries. Indeed, George Bernard Shaw declared that “no man with any decency of feeling can sit it out in the company of women without being extremely ashamed of its lord-of-creation moral.” This lecture calls for a reassessment of the comedy by arguing that it is informed throughout by one of the best known of biblical parables, the story of the Good Samaritan. Medieval and Renaissance interpretations of the parable in fact suggest that, rather than condoning the right of its male characters to cruelly lord it over others, the play puts sharply into question the self-serving and domineering actions of the Lord toward Sly and of Petruchio toward Katherine.
Barry Nass is Associate Professor in the Department of English at Hofstra University.
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