Family relationships and filial duty

Troubled families

There are many troubled family relationships in The Taming of the Shrew. From the opening quarrel between Katherina and Bianca which takes place in public, to the disrespect shown by Lucentio in presenting his father with a fait acompli in Act 5 Scene 1, family relationships are shown to be fragile and complex. Issues of obedience and rebellion are raised, along with filial obligations and genuine respect.
The respect and attention owed to Baptista by his daughters is both openly flouted (by Katherina) and secretly disregarded (by Bianca) in this play. As in King Lear, Shakespeare dwells on the idea of ungrateful children and wronged fathers, as well as on the detrimental effect of unhelpful parenting. Gremio, for example, points out the apparent laissé faire liberality of Vincentio which has encouraged Lucentio to act as he chooses. Although Baptista seems to care about his daughters, his overt partiality for Bianca leads to worse behaviour from Katherina. She is further hurt by the way in which she is ‘Forc’d / To give my hand, oppos’d against my heart’ because Baptista considers financial arrangements as paramount in the marriages he arranges for his daughters. 

Social order

The Taming of the Shrew highlights the importance of respect and filial duty as part of the domestic order which upholds national order and harmony within the state. Elizabethan society was familiar with the biblical teaching on the subject, such as the following from the New Testament letter to the Ephesians:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ…
Ephesians 6:1-5 KJB     
The established order of society, underpinned by order within marriages and families, was sustained by an understanding of the social order that descended from the monarch to his or her lowliest subjects and, above the human monarch, the divine rule of God. To threaten social order was therefore also an affront to God. When it appears that Tranio has usurped his master and the Pedant assumed the privileges of Vincentio, it is a cause of genuine concern to Lucentio’s true father. Family and filial behaviour was thus regulated by religion as well as by culture. 
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