- 3. Final paper topics
- 4. Is Heart of Darkness a racist text or is it a text that depicts racism?
- 5. Comparison of two of the texts we've read since the midterm
- 6. Tagore or Chekhov compared to the New York Times article of your choice
- 7. Notes from Underground linked to an article in the New York Times
- 8. Nicholas Kristof's "Not Quite a Teen, Yet Sold for Sex," compared to Harriet Jacobs's Incidents
- Citations from Oroonoko that connect to our themes
- Midterm paper topics
- Shrew and Oroonoko
- Shrew, Act 1
- Shrew, MRS and Ph.D.
Category Archives: Shrew and Oroonoko
The Taming of The Shrew by Shakespeare and Oroonoko by Aphra Behn show similarities of the use of power. In The Taming of The Shrew we see how Baptista uses his power to wed his daughters and have wealthy men bid for the opportunity to marry into the family while in Oroonoko we see how the prince Oroonoko along with others who have power mistreat those without.
We learn how Katherine is left with the choice of marrying or staying at home under her father’s control while in Oroonoko, although not in full detail, we learn about the abuse of slaves. Oroonoko who fights to prevent his child from becoming a slave takes part in the slave trade market himself.
The use and the misuse of power allows for individuals to be corrupt in order to get what they want.
In William Shakespeare comedy, “The taming of the Shrew, Act 1, we are introduced to Katherine and Bianca, the two unwed daughters of Baptista Minola. Here we are immediately reminded of the limited and obligated roles that women had to play in the 16th century in order to be accepted by society. Bianca, the younger of the two, is favored by her father as well as her numerous suitors because of her silent and obedient manner as opposed to her sister, Kate, who is labeled the shrew because she is opinionated and refuses to submit and obey her father, or her suitors. Kate’s actions make it extremely difficult for Baptista to find her a husband. This indicates that an opinionated woman was not, for the most part desirable whereas Bianca’s portrayal of a submissive and tamed woman was considered attractive and essential to the men of this era.
Over half a century later, in Surinam, Aphra Behn’s, tells the story of “Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave”. Imoinda, “the beautiful black venus” of the prince, much like Lucentio’s Bianca is described as modest, sweet in her behavior, and delicate. The little power that she does have over her suitors comes not only from her physical beauty but more importantly from her disposition. Like Bianca she doesn’t have much of a choice. Women in these days as depicted in both readings had little to no say in their futures. They were treated more like property and were expected to adhere to the demands of a society dominated by males.
Would Oroonoko would have felt the same way about Imoinda had she been more like Kate in The Taming of the Shrew?
In reading Oroonoko by Aphra Behn in comparison to Taming of the Shrew there are some immediate and apparent resemblances. To begin, people are intentionally punished physically. Oroonoko is an African prince who himself trades slaves (Behn 304). Petruchio punished Kate in the way in which someone would an animal when he professed his plans to train her as he would a falcon: “my falcon now is sharp and passing empty and till she stoop, she must not be full-gorged” (Act 4 Scene 1). This type of behavior seems like something a master would do to his animals, not his wife. While Behn does not go into descriptive details initially regarding the torture of slaves, we know that slavery is a horrific and demeaning way to treat people. Both Oroonoko (primarily) and The Taming of the Shrew show human punishment as if there is nothing wrong with it.
Another critical point is that the simple, fair, peaceful women are who are most desired or at least deemed that way by the majority of the societies in which they lived in. Statements such as “Sweet Bianca! Happy man be his dole!” by Hortensio is the typical male reaction to Bianca as opposed to Kate (Shrew Act 1, Scene 1). Imoinda is referred to as a beautiful treasure: “She is adorned with the most graceful modesty that ever beautified youth..” (Behn 323). Neither strong will nor intelligence is discussed as being personality traits of these women, but yet they appear to be the most desirable to men in their societies. What does this say about what the ideal woman?
Furthermore, there are instances in both the Shrew and Oroonoko where characters move down the hierarchy. In the Shrew, Lucentio (who is a master) decides to dress as his own servant, Tranio, in order to act as a teacher of Bianca. Oroonoko allows himself to be taken as a slave even though he is really a prince and insists upon being dressed like one. Is anyone who they really appear to be?
In both Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, the theme of ‘superiority’ is absolutely undeniable, subtle as it may be in The Taming of the Shrew, it is present non the less.
Both works of literature begin by setting the tone of social hierarchy, in The Taming of the Shrew, the play within the play, the play starts off with a Lord playing a trick on Christopher Sly, a drunken beggar, by having his servants work together to make him believe he is not a low class beggar but rather a Lord. In the Induction, after noticing Sly, the Lord tells the Huntsmen “…Sirs, I will practice on this drunken man. What think of you if he were conveyed to bed, wrapped in sweet cloths, rings put upon his fingers…would not the beggar then forget himself?…then take him up, and manage well the jest.” (Inductions Section1 Lines 37-47) It is very apparent that the Lord believes playing this decietful trick on Sly will be humerous and entertaining for himself. This is somewhat similar to Oroonoko being held against his will on the ship, then being promised a freedom by the captain. A freedom he never received despite the Captians own words of assurance, “he assured him he would revoke his resolution his resolution, and set both him and his friends ashore on the next land they should touch at; and of this the messenger gave him his oath, provided he would resolve to live.”(page 318 lines 37-39). Just as Sly was made to believe he is actually a Lord and not the beggar he is, Oroonoko is made to believe he will gain freedom, and he yet the Captain never grants him his freedom and Orookono realizes he was actually somewhat decieved.
Another instance in The Taming of the Shrew that further puts on display the signifcant of social heirarchy occurs when Hortensio(as Litio) witnesses Bianca kissing Lucentio(as Cambio). Hortensio becomes so insulted that Bianca, a lady of high class, would entertain the effections of Lucention(as Cambio),her tudor, that he decides to cease pursing her. He tells Tranio(as Lucention) “See how they kiss and court! Signior Lucentio, here is my hand, and here I firmly vow never to woo her more, but do forswear her as one unworthy all the former favors that I fondly flattered (her) withal.”(Act4 Scene2 Lines27-32) Hortensio is perfectcly okay with competing for Bianca’s hand when he bleieves all the other men courting her are noble Lords, the second he believes she is allow a working class man to court her, he instantly givse up and even goes so far as to say she is not worthy of everthing he did in the past to gain her effections. It is evident that he believes himself to be too superior to take a wife who would kiss a man that is beneath him. Just as Hortensio believes to be better than Cambio, Aphra Behn’s description of Oroonoko clearly shines light on the fact that black people were thought of be inferior in absolutely everything, and everyway including physical appearance. Aphra Behn narrates: “…His nose was rising and Roman, instead of African and flat; his mouth, the finest shaped that could be seen, far from those great turned lips which arew so natural to the rest of the Negroes….” Her description is dripping…no more so drenched and soaking wet with implication that most black people are not considered to be atrractive, making Oroonoko’s good looks even more striking being as his features are more Romanesque, and not African. It is as if a black person has to be extra attractive to be considered pleasing to the eye.
Although in The Taming of the Shrew the superiority is more in the form of social heirarchy with no regard to race and in Oroonoko it is all about race, it is still very undeniable in both works of literature the presence of one group of people believeing themselfs to somehow be better than another group…what gives any one or group of people the right to self pronounce themselfs…superior?