Often in literature, parallels are used to accentuate certain things. William Shakespeare utilizes this tool in both The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Nights Dream. In both of these comedic plays, there is a set of women who are at odds with each other. These relationships can be compared and contrasted in different aspects.
In Shakespeare’s, “The Taming of the Shrew” the relationship between the sisters Katherine and Bianca appears to be strained with rampant jealousy. Both daughters fight for the attentions of their father. In twisted parallel roles, they take turns being demure and hag-like. Father of the two, Baptista Minola, fusses with potential suitors for young Bianca and will not let them come calling until his elder, ill-tempered daughter Katherine is married. The reader is to assume that meek, mild-mannered, delicate Bianca is wasting away while her much older, aging, brutish sister torments the family with her foul tongue. Katherine seems to hold resentment toward Bianca. Her father favors Bianca over Katherine and keeps them away from eachothers’ torment. When gentlemen come calling, Bianca cowers behind her father and Katherine speaks up for herself. “I pray you sir, is it your will to make a stale of me amongst these mates?” (1.1.57-58)
Bianca and Katherine dislike each other feverishly. Katherine torments Bianca with words and physical harm. She binds her hands, pulls her hair then brings her forth to her father and the gentlemen callers. Bianca denies liking any of the visitors and portrays herself an innocent that merely wants to learn and obey her elders. She says, “Sister, content you in my discontent to your pleasure humbly I subscribe. My books and instruments shall be my company, on them to look and practise by myself.” (1.1.80-84) Because Katherine speaks freely and asserts herself she is labeled as “shrewish.” When Hortensio describes her to Petruccio, he spouts that she is “renowned in Padua for her scolding tongue.” ( 1.2.96) He gilds the lily further by explicitly telling of her fair fortune if suitable man comes courting and wins her hand in marriage. Petruccio sees dollar signs and rushes forth in grand dress and eloquent mannerisms to court the gracious “Kate.” When he first begins his ritual of winning the family and Katherine to his love, he is seeking his fortune in her dowry. The mention of her being at all undesirable does not put rocks in his path. He speaks of “One rich enough to be Petruccio’s wife, as wealth is burden of my wooing dance be she as foul as was Florentius’ love, as old as Sibyl, and as curst and shrewd as Socrates’ Xanthippe or a worse, she moves me not or not removes at least affection’s edge in me, were she as rough as are the swelling Adriatic Seas.” (1.2.65-71) Petruccio comes calling for the older sister, and Bianca in turn sneaks about with Lucentio who is dressed in scholars clothing. They pretend to be working on Latin and fool her father with disguises and books while romancing the entire time. Katherine is honest in her words and deeds. She does not wish to be teased or tormented and flees from Petruccio’s twisted words. Kate and Bianca trade roles at this time and the dainty, controlled sister is Kate. The bolder, out-spoken Bianca woos her Lucentio in the courtyard of the Minola home. At the Sunday wedding gathering of Petruccio and Katherine, the groom grabs the reins of control and demands that he and his bride leave the festivities before they have begun. He offers Bianca and Lucentio the bedroom and party that they must leave behind. This symbolizes the transfer of attitude in the two sisters.
Kate has to follow her new husband out of the home and leaves Bianca free roam over the wedding party.
When the sisters are brought together again, it is at the wedding festivities of Bianca and Lucentio as well as the Widow and Hortensio. Katherine is called a “shrew” yet again by the Widow and Bianca flirts openly with Petruccio. The three new brides leave the dining table and make for the sitting room with the other women. The three men are left to discussion and after dinner music.
Petruccio offers a wager against the thought that the wives in turn should come to their husbands when called. The Widow and Bianca are foul and refuse to come seeking their husbands and throw out the servant both times. When Katherine is called to come to her husband she does so with grace and quiet obedience. She is then asked to bring forth the two disobedient wives.
During this entire play the label of “shrew” is misplaced with dear Kate and should be rightfully placed in the lap of Bianca. Kate brings out the two women and scolds them while maintaining her own dignity and elegant grace. She shows them that indeed her husband got the better end of the marriage contract. At this Petruccio kisses his Kate in front of everyone and they leave the gaping mouths of the crowd.
In Shakespeares A Midsummer Nights Dream, Hermia and Helenas relationship changes greatly after the intervention of Puck with the love potion. Once best friends, they have become each others enemies, and all for the love of Lysander and Demetrius. Hermia and Helena were best friends when they were at school. All school-days friendship, childhood innocence? (3. 2. 201) They had complete trust in each other, telling each other their deepest secrets. Is all the counsel that we two have shared, The sisters vows, the hours that we have spent, (3. 2. 198 199) They worked together on everything they did including sewing and singing. Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion, Both warbling of one song, both in one key, (3. 2. 205 206) To some people, Helena and Hermia became the same person, saying the same things, thinking the same thoughts and having the same morals and principles. As if our hands, our sides, voices, and minds Had been incorporate. So we grew together, (3. 2. 207-208) Behaving in the same way, they spent as much time as possible together. This time passed quickly, whilst the time spent apart was slow and seemed pointless. When we have chid the hasty-footed time For parting usO, is all forgot? (3. 2. 200 201, Helena) Although Helena and Hermia were two separate people, they were, a union in partition, compared to a double cherry. Two lovely berries moulded on one stem. (3. 2. 211) Their friendship was so strong that they seemed to be connected, the same person in two different bodies. So with two seeming bodies, but one heart, (3. 2. 212) This had lasted all their lives until the intervention of Lysander and Demetrius. The strong friendship between Helena and Hermia quickly disintegrated when they became involved with the two men. The love potion was meant to help, but Pucks mistake managed to completely reverse the relationship. When both Demetrius and Lysander were under the influence of the love-in-idleness flower, Helena believed that both were mocking her. You both are rivals and love Hermia And now both rivals, to mock Helena. (3. 2.155 -156) When Hermia seems to take the same attitude, even though she doesnt know whats going on, Helena accuses her of betraying all women by entering into it. Our sex, as well as I, may chide you for it, (3. 2. 218) Helena and Hermia quickly enter into a massive argument, accusing each other of stealing their love. You thief of love. What, have you come by nightAnd stolen my loves heart from him? (3. 2. 283 284) Their childhood friendship is forgotten in an instant, completely torn apart by the two men. It is not the love potion, which has had this effect on the women directly; it is the performance of the two men, arguing over Helena who have caused the break up. This exhibition of feelings upsets and confuses both Helena and Hermia. Hermia feels cheated, and Helena is the first person she can find to blame. O me, you juggler, you canker-blossom, (3.2.282) Helena, however, thinks everything is some kind of cruel trick against her, and remains slightly calmer than Hermia. Lo, she is one of this confederacy. Now I perceive they have conjoined all three To fashion this false sport in spite of me. (3.2.192 194) As she is taller than Hermia, she calls her a puppet. Fie, fie, you counterfeit, you puppet, you! (3. 2. 288) Hermia takes this insult as though it is the reason that Lysander doesnt love her anymore. Her height, forsooth, she hath prevailed with him. (3.2.293) She goes on to call Helena a painted maypole and is obviously very worked up and angry. And with her personage, her tall personage, (3 2. 292) Helena is afraid of what Hermia might do to her, and Hermia is not short of threats in her vicious mood. How low am I? I am not yet so low, But that my nails can reach unto thine eyes. (3. 2. 297 298) Helena does not want to fall out and does not understand why their past was so quickly forgotten. Good Hermia, do not be so bitter with me. I evermore did love you Hermia, Did ever keep your counsels, never wronged you (3. 2. 306 308) Hermia, however, feels hard done by. She feels that Helena has caused her true love to turn against her, and if Helena disappeared, everything would be fine. Why, get you gone. Who ist that hinders you? (3. 2. 317) Helena also has the solution of running away, but cant as she foolishly still loves Demetrius. Helena and Hermias relationship has changed completely, entirely because of the effect of the love potion on Lysander and Demetrius. The friendship shown before the argument contrasts greatly to the hostility afterwards. The change has been for the worse, completely destroying the womens trust in each other, and all because of a fight between two men, caused by a mischievous spirit.