College of Arts and Sciences



Faculty Mentor

Allison Meyer

Faculty Editor

Sean McDowell

Student Editor

Leah Dooley


Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of the Shrew, has a long and contentious history due to the discontinuities regarding its portrayal of naturalized gender hierarchies. This paper seeks to complicate a prescriptive reading of the play’s gender politics by unpacking the role of metatheatrics and gender performance within its narrative. This paper draws on historicist and Shakespearean scholars to highlight how its metatheatrical Induction and the role of gender performativity call attention to the instability and artifice of early-modern patriarchy. The play’s Induction establishes a framework of performance that undermines the misogyny of the events in Padua, for it forces the audience to question the stability of gender as a fixed marker of identity. Thus, the narratives of the play, which depend upon the double-layered performance of gender, effectively denaturalize gendered roles and behaviors. By revealing the performative nature of gender and marriage, The Taming of the Shrew disrupts, but does not overthrow, the very norms that drive its plot. The paper ultimately argues that The Taming of the Shrew neither condemns nor supports its inherent sexisms; rather, it utilizes a complex depiction of gender to challenge patriarchal constructions of gender and converse with the various tensions that threatened the social world of the early modern period.