Shakespeare is often accused of being a misogynist for creating female characters who are silly, foolish, and weak, then ultimately controlled by strong, clever, and wise male characters. At first glance, The Taming of the Shrew might seem like an exception, as Katherine is presented at the outset to be extremely cross, always arguing with everyone. Although she is beautiful, she is stubborn and loathsome. She rejects her womanly duties and refuses to take a husband. The people around her believe that she should give in to the social pressures, comply with the societal norms, and obey her father's wishes. However, he wants to choose a husband for her and expects her to live happily ever after, regardless of how content she actually is.
Sharp-tongued, ill-mannered, and foul-tempered, Katherine is known throughout Padua as the shrew of the town. She is constantly demeaning and insulting the people around her. Most people believe she is inherently cold and cruel, but the reality is that her unpleasant behavior masks an inner unhappiness. She feels she is too intelligent to assume the role of the helpless maiden, and resents that society expects that from her. She does not know how to properly gain the attention she craves, so she puts on the hideous persona of the stereotypical bitch. The more people dislike her, the angrier and more violent she becomes, which only serves to make people dislike her more. Katherine longs for the attention that her younger sister Bianca receives, but goes about getting it in the wrong way, by acting out physically and verbally. She is easily upset, becoming verbally and physically violent. In Act 2, Scene 1, Katherine actually goes so far as to hit Hortensio, who is acting as her newly appointed music tutor. She breaks the lute over his head simply because he said the positioning of her fingers was wrong. In the same scene, Katherine proceeds to strike Petruchio, the one man willing to marry her.