Control of Women Versus Time (The Wolf of Wall Street and Taming of the Shrew)

Romantic relationships have existed for centuries.  In these relationships each partner is hoping to gain from the relationship. In popular entertainment, such as, plays and movies, relationships are often portrayed as a war between the sexes.  In Taming of the Shrew, a comedy written by William Shakespeare, Petruchio’s main objective in the relationship is to exercise control.  The same relationship dynamics can be seen in The Wolf of Wall Street.  While it is not Jordan and Naomi’s initial goal, their relationship becomes about control as well.  Naomi seeks to control Jordan’s habits using sex, while Jordan wants to control Naomi with their shared child.  These two narratives reflect that relationships are always about control.  The only difference is that now women also try  to control men, and have the added weapon of divorce, which makes marital conflict more complex because it gives each side more autonomy.

Throughout the play Petruchio tries to control Katherine.  One of his favorite techniques to manipulate her is withholding what she wants, until she agrees with him.  In ACT IV of the play, Katherine is excited to return home to see her father for first time since marrying Petruchio.  Petruchio sees this as an opportunity to further dominate Katherine.  Petruchio decides that before they begin their journey to comment on the brightness of the moon. However, it is day time as Katherine points out.  They argue back and forth until Katherine gives in and states,

Then God be blessed, it is the blessèd sun.

But sun it is not, when you say it is not,

And the moon changes even as your mind.

What you will have it named, even that it is,

And so it shall be so for Katherine.”

(Act IV, Scene v, 21-25)

Katherine gives in to Petruchio because she has no other option. Without the ability to divorce in this era she must agree with him to get what she wants, which is to visit her father.  Women had no leverage in this era, without the threat of leaving with half of the marital property.  This has led to male tyranny over women as men control the money and are above in the social hierarchy.  

However, over the past 400 years a great deal has changed to make the power balance more equitable. In the scene pictured above, Naomi is arguing with Jordan about his activities from the night before.  She accuses him of sleeping with other women and yells at him for waking the baby with his helicopter when he returned home at three in the morning.  She yelled, “Do you really think that I don’t know what you're up to?  You're a father now. You’re a father now!  And you're still acting like an infant!”  During Shakespeare's era women would never challenge their husbands as they were powerless.  However, since Naomi has the threat of divorce and the freedom to withhold sex, the power dynamic has changed greatly.  Now both parties in the marriage have the ability to attempt to control one another.   The power dynamic has changed enough that in the next scene of the movie Jordan apologizes to her, an act a man would have never performed 400 years ago.  

In ACT IV, scene 3, the reader continues to see Katherine controlled by Petruchio and his servants.  Petruchio and his servants have not given Katharine food for many days in an attempt to tame her into becoming the ideal wife, one who is obedient to her husband.   Katherine complains about this experience to Petruchio's servant, Grumio, attempting to persuade him to give her food.  

Am starved for meat, giddy for lack of sleep,

With oaths kept waking and with brawling fed.

And that which spites me more than all these wants,

He does it under name of perfect love,”

(Act IV, Scene iii, 9-12)

Katherine is confused at this point in the play.  She does not understand how being, “starved for a lack of meat, giddy for sleep,” is going to achieve “perfect love.”  Petruchio believes that starving and depriving Katherine of sleep will calm her down by not giving her the energy to fight.  Without ability to walk away from her abusive husband, Petruchio’s strategy works and she eventually submits to his rule at the end of the play.  Total control is Petruchio’s vision of “perfect love.”   

In the modern world men still win some arguments.  In The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan commits many illegal acts in order to hide his money from the government.  One of his illegal acts is hiding his money in other’s names.  When Aunt Emma dies in England, both Jordan and Naomi are devastated, but for different reasons.  Naomi is upset because Aunt Emma is one of her closest family members.  Jordan is devastated because Aunt Emma is one of the people illegally hiding his money and she never signed the document to pass the money to him upon her death.  Naomi desperately wants to go to her aunt’s funeral but Jordan wants to go to Switzerland to forge documentation to have the money passed on to him.  They get into a dispute until Jordan ends it by saying, “But I have business in Switzerland.  I need to go to Switzerland right now. Bottom Line. Sorry.”  At this point in the movie Naomi would be inclined to divorce Jordan because he is unsympathetic, selfish, and unfaithful. However, she is stuck in the relationship because he is the father of her child.  Also, despite any progress society has made, the primary earner in a family still has more power. Jordan is the one paying the captain of the ship to sail it to Monaco (he will then drive to his business in Switzerland) and even if Naomi tells the captain to take it to England he would obey Jordan.

Taming of the Shrew and The Wolf of Wall Street teach their observers a great deal about relationship dynamics, especially how they have changed overtime. Naomi had options with her relationship that Katherine could not even imagine during her time period.  Women now have the option of divorce and to have their own income. Men still hold power over women but the gap in control is closing.  Society still has to make progress before there is truly equal distribution of power in relationships.  In order to get this power, women will need to first be seen as economic equals.  They need to be paid an equal amount for the same work.  This will allow them to no longer have money control them.  Since the beginning of time, romantic relationships have been about control.  The distribution of control between the two genders has changed over the past 400 years, mainly due to divorce, but men still have more power.   

The Wolf of Wall Street. Dir. Martin Scorsese. Perf. Leonardo Dicaprio. 01 Distribution, 2014. DVD.

Shakespeare, William. The Taming of the Shrew. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York: Washington Square Press, 1992. Print.

Comments (2)

Haisha Hahsy (Student 2017)
Haisha Hahsy

I love how you put in how whoever brings in more money today has more control. Showing how Naomi is stuck in this situation and cannot do anything about it. Yet you should have taken that concept with how money then vs today is used. Meaning you showed how Jordan uses his money; you should show how having the income brought in by a man back then was different.

Arianna Haven (Student 2017)
Arianna Haven

I liked how it shows the progression of female power over time, and how the dynamics in a relationship have changed. I also found it interesting that the argument Naomi used on Jordan (about how he has to stay because they have a child together) ends up being a reason that she can't leave as well. It kind of backfired.