Analyzing Shakespeare Through Psychological and Historical Criticism

For this response, I decided to return to an article I found earlier, entitled “Kate’s Froward Humor: Historicizing Affect in The Taming of the Shrew,” by Melinda Spencer Kingsbury. At first, I wasn’t sure if this article engaged with historical criticism or psychological criticism, but after our class discussion on Thursday, I think it engages with both theories.

Historical criticism involves background research about the “life and times of an author” (Gardner & Diaz 176), which Kingsbury incorporates in her article. She discussed how the biological and psychological relationship between mind and body was understood during Shakespeare’s time, along with how gender roles were perceived because of biological differences. This research about biological understanding during Shakespeare’s time clearly engages with historical criticism, as this research is applied to the motives of the characters in The Taming of the Shrew.

Going right along with that point, the historical criticism moves into psychological criticism. Psychological literary criticism can focus on the “unstated motives and unconscious states of mind of characters, authors, or readers” (178). In Kingsbury’s article, she explains how Petruchio’s motives would have been influenced by his understanding of gender roles based on his society’s understand of the body’s biological and psychological state. We never find out why Petruchio wants to “tame” Kate, so Kingsbury engages in psychological criticism to try to understand his motives.

Although I think you could make a case for this article mostly being based in psychological criticism, I definitely think that psychological criticism stems from and is influence by historical criticism as well.

Source: Article (TBA)

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