The feminist issues can be answered with the simplest argument that there is no knowing Shakespeare’s intentions. The best of his characters are always doing most villainous things – Shylock Othello, Caliban, Brutus, Iago etc. The fact that they come to a bad end might only show Shakespeare’s realism. But amid all prejudice that other characters show to them, the dislikable things they do and bad end they meet; they are still the ones that one feels most attracted towards. Kate is no different in that when she says “I see a woman may be made a fool, If she had not a spirit to resist.” she forecasts her tragedy. I don’t think anyone will claim to like Petruchio – and yet he is the most liked character in the play. I think one can thus argue that Shakespeare was questioning the very prejudice that he is accused of having.
My problem is different – Kate seemly badly characterized. One doesn’t expect complex characters in a comedy but this one just didn’t make sense to me. She is unnecessarily arrogant in the beginning – she might be saying something powerfully feminist when she says, “My tongue will tell the anger of my heart, or else my heart concealing it will break.” – it might show that her shrewdness is nothing more than a free spirit if she was angry for a reason, But then again for what exactly is she angry about?
And then again, marries Petruchio for a silly reason and, despite knowing the very nature of tricks that her husband is playing on her, doesn’t show resistance. She had enough money and independent spirit in her to simply walk out on him and yet.
The prank played on beggar in frame story is taken from Arabian Nights. And tricks of play within a play or making a submissive person saying stupid and contradictory things are used by Shakespeare in Hamlet too. And so, there is not much to recommend the play except a few witticism. And witticisms, not being wisdom, cannot claim more than one additional star from me.
On a side note, Kate’s speech on why wives should be submissive is added in Goodreads quotes and I am deeply interested in 67 people who have liked it.