The Comparison of Shakespeare’s Characters Katherine and Julia
The female characters of Shakespeare’s plays are original and unique, symbolizing the diversity of women’s tempers. However, all writer’s heroines embody resolution and readiness to struggle for their happiness and love. Therefore, Shakespeare’s female characters are individual and at the same time similar in their world outlook and selflessness that make them complete personalities, who can sacrifice their values for the sake of love. Katherine from The Taming of the Shrew and Julia from The Two Gentlemen of Verona represent this idea. The analysis of the peculiarities of these characters, their similarity and unlikeness are the object of investigation in this paper.
Katherine is a proud and capricious young woman. She feels that her father offends her pride intending to marry her off so as to get rid of Katherine and her complex character. Katherine does not respect the weak-willed and pretentious young men who dangle after her sister Bianca and considers her own unapproachable manner to be appropriate in the communication with the admirers. On the contrary, Julia is a modest and tender girl who seeks love and is ready to do anything to struggle for her happiness. At the same time, such a distinction is the first impression one gains perceiving the plot and the gist of both plays carefully.
However, both female characters represent the images of women who are ready for love and humbleness, happiness and modesty but demonstrate it and come to such an understanding in different ways. Katherine recognizes this life truth via a personal transformation, and Julia - as a result of Proteus' cunning love and her individual efforts and magnanimous forgiveness of her unfaithful beloved. Katherine becomes more sensible and temperate, and Julia more confident, resolute, and noble. Therefore, the beloved men become the causes of Katherine’s and Julia’s self-perfection.
Shakespeare first presents Katherine as a negative character that spoils the life of others and creates a strained atmosphere in her family because “any man is so very a fool to be married to hell”. This woman gives justifies such an evaluation because she beats her sister, breaks the lute, and meets her admirer Petruchio with the box on the ear. However, the latter becomes the motivation of Katherine’s transformation. In his person, the young woman finds a peer opponent, who imitates her mocking manner and conquers her devotion making Katherine a modest wife, who obeys her husband.
On the contrary, Julia appears in the play as a victim of the unworthy man, who does not keep his word. At the beginning of the play, Proteus argues that “Thou, Julia, thou hast metamorphosed me/Made me neglect my studies, lose my time”, what shows deep affection towards her and Proteus’ passion, which fade away in separation. However, Julia does not want to remain a poor weak victim. In her firm will to fight for love, she resembles recalcitrant Katherine, who does not want to live according to the plan of other people. Therefore, Julia and Katherine are the mirror reflection of each other: Julia may understand Katherine’s willfulness, and the latter comes to the acceptance of the modest and humble role of a woman, who has to be noble, worth, and obedient.
Katherine is a young and beautiful woman with a noble education. Even though all the other characters consider her to be a hell, Petruchio claims that she is “young and light” a gentle woman, whose inner gist he appreciates.
Under the curtain of the inaccessibility and bad manner, she hides the will to escape from the primitive burgher environment that does not let her be happy, realize her personality, and feel her worthiness as an individual, not as a material good. Katherine does not want to stay with her family, flattering the young men, who want to get access to her father’s money in case of the marriage with his daughters. Only Petruchio is intelligent enough to uncover Katherine’s inner beauty, humbleness, and striving to love and support her husband sincerely. Only Petruchio wants to take the responsibility for Katherine and take care of her as well as waken her womanhood, kindness, tenderness, and gentleness. Moreover, only he is worth Katherine because she appreciates her husband and wants to please him.
Julia is also a young and beautiful woman, who is at the same time modest and indecisive. Unlike Katherine, Julia covers her woman’s aspiration for love and family in the guise of indifference, mildness, and shyness. For instance, in the second scene of the first act of the play she acts against her actual will due to the social conventionalities: “Since maids, in modesty, say “no” to that/Which they would have the profferer construe “ay.”/Fie, fie, how wayward is this foolish love”. In such contradictive outbursts, Julia tears the letter of her beloved Proteus, who dreams about her reciprocity calling her “heavenly”.
The character of Julia changes as she loses Proteus, who moves to Milan. She makes up her mind to follow her beloved as “a true-devoted pilgrim”. Such dedication and decision stress Julia's personal transformation as she understands the necessity for resolute actions in particular periods of life. Her will to be happy with the beloved man becomes stronger than the collective prejudices. Such devotedness strengthens her courage to dress up as a page, move to Milan, and become Proteus’ servant. Even in such conditions, humiliating for young noble woman, Julia remains firm and ready for any further blows of fate. At the same time, she wants to become a winner in the struggle for Proteus’s admiration and conquer Silvia, who respects love and does not want to hurt Julia: “Mine shall not do his Julia so much wrong”.
Katherine is also ready for the brave actions. However, she demonstrates courage differently. Whereas Julia becomes more masculine, Katherine tends to become tamed, obedient, and feminine. The last scene of the play (the second scene of act V) illustrates personal transformations of the analyzed character. Katherine proclaims a monologue, which is an ode to women’s resignation: “Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper/Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee”.
In addition to that, Katherine reconsiders her behavior and understands the falsity of her way of searching for love and happiness:
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
Therefore, the whole play is the way to Katherine’s taming and opening as a result of her rejection of aggressive and ignoble behavior. On the contrary, this female character becomes wiser and worthier than the others due to her inner efforts to change her personality and become an exemplary wife.
The crucial scene in the revelation of Julia’s character is also the last one in the play – the 4th scene of act V. In this act, Proteus understands his mistake. Valentine wants to help his friends saying: “Let me be blest to make this happy close;/ Twere pity two such friends should be long. Even though Proteus did not hold his word and forgot his promises, Julia forgives her beloved unfaithful Proteus. This forgiveness reveals the vulnerable and gentle soul of Julia who can be magnanimous, steadfast, and kind. She can step over her offense and humiliation for the sake of love and trust for another person, who can repent his unworthy thoughts and actions.
Therefore, the last scenes of the analyzed plays are crucial for the demonstration of the changes in both female characters. They verbalize the life goals of Katherine and Julia and explain the drastic transformation of their outlook as a result of love experience. Julia desperately fights for her love. On the contrary, Katherine suppresses herself so as to correspond to the expectations of her husband, who with the help of cunning tricks shows his capricious wife the right behavior and attitude towards the family.
To sum up, the analysis of Shakespeare’s female characters Katherine and Julia shows their resemblance and simultaneous uniqueness as all people are original. However, both women embody the extremes of the feminine essence: capriciousness and modesty, indifference and impetuosity, slyness and nobleness. In different situations, Katherine and Julia reveal these facets of their personalities. However, in the end, they both come to the understanding of the necessity for a woman to be the foundation of the strong relationships based on love, respect, obedience, and modesty. Overcoming the obstacles on their way to happiness, Katherine via personal transformation and Julia via active participation in the objective reality, reach their ultimate feminine goals – to be wives and care about their families.