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Sealy, R.C. (1994). The Psychology of the Shrew and Shrew Taming: An Object Relations Perspective. Am. J. Psychoanal., 54(4):323-338.

(1994). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 54(4):323-338

The Psychology of the Shrew and Shrew Taming: An Object Relations Perspective

Roger C. Sealy

The Taming of the Shrew has proved to be one of the most popular and controversial of Shakespeare's plays. However, despite this interest, it has been all but ignored from a psychological point of view. Thus, a major review of analytically oriented articles dealing with Shakespeare's works (Holland, 1966) cites just three publications that briefly mention The Shrew, while more recent bibliographies (Willbern, 1978, 1980) report a total of eight articles on The Shrew from 1964 to 1978, compared with 100 for Hamlet during the same time period.

One reason for this neglect is not hard to find. Within the mainstream of psychoanalysis there was, until recent years, a strong emphasis on interpretation based on oedipal conflicts. The paucity of articles on The Shrew and, more generally, on the comedies and romances relative to the tragedies (Lindauer, 1969), may well be related to their having themes that are less easily fitted within an oedipal framework.

The Shrew's central theme certainly is not the typical oedipal triangle. It instead concerns Petruchio's attempt to deal with Kate, a woman who holds a reputation as a shrew due to her angry and unruly behavior. Kate's younger, more compliant sister, Bianca, has several suitors, but Baptista, their father, refuses to allow Bianca to marry until a husband is found for Kate. Petruchio, a newcomer who claims to have no fear of any woman, agrees to woo Kate and achieves success in a novel manner; whereas earlier examples of the shrew theme involved taming through severe physical beatings or “high theological argument” (Bradbrook, 1982), Petruchio employs an approach in which psychological tactics are prominent.

Very likely because of the aforementioned emphasis on oedipal concerns, the few analytically oriented writers who have explored The Shrew have avoided the central theme involving Kate and Petruchio.

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