Seeing Marriage as a Financial Union
In the Taming of the Shrew, we find a recurring theme of nobles and wealthy men pursuing brides that are from wealthy backgrounds and offer substantial dowry. As in many of Shakespeare's plays, this financial criterion seems to be a dominating factor in seeking wives for men of the times, and in the case of Petruccio we find the epitome of this approach. To him, it did not matter whether the bride is to be beautiful nor mild-tempered, only that she is rich. Thus he is willing to put up with Katherine's untamable nature and gambles to tame her, so that he may wed her and win her dowry. Moreover, "Kate"'s father, Baptista, asks for the same qualifications for his son-in-law to-be, at the beginning of the play when he draws the line on who can court his daughters, and later as he asks for lucentio's father and his guarantee of wealth.
The audience may at times be appalled at this ruthless, finance-oriented pursuit of marriage portrayed by the play that differs from the common point of view that sees marriage as a matter of love and devotion. But it must be stressed that as in the past, marriage today is no different in that it is a financial union above all else; in fact, increasingly so. Today, we find both men and women in the workforce, and so when they wed, there are complex financial agreements to be made. There are plenty of financial motives in marriage today, as people seek security and benefits that come from a solid marriage. For example, there are the tax credits, as well as many costs that can be saved from the pooling of savings, ultimately making both spouses wealthier. In a way, it is very much like a corporate merger (or acquisition, one might say?). There are reasons why offspring of the wealthy today most frequently marry offspring of other wealthy people.
When couples divorce, lawyers get involved heavily, as financial assets need to be divided fairly. It becomes almost entirely a matter of money at this stage, as the separating couple battle for more of what was previously shared.
Therefore it is interesting to see marriage in this other perspective from the side of financial incentives, which has been the norm for a long time. I see that it is an interesting observation to be made in the play, other than the more obvious and much debated topic of misogyny and women's rights.