I wrote this poem to honor my strong, bold, headstrong daughters… now young women.
May the early feminism demonstrated by Xanthippe always guide them on their path as individuals. Never bowing to the will of anyone… especially a man.
In William Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio refers to Kate (the shrew) as “As Socrates’ Xanthippe or a worse.”
This Elizabethan romcom centers around the breaking and domestication of the headstrong Kate to conform to gender-social norms of the time – to find true ironic happiness in compliance and subjugation. 🤮
Rewind 2,000 years from the Renaissance, the explosive relationship between the Greek philosopher, Socrates, and his wife, Xanthippe, was legendary. Both of them are remembered as physically ugly and difficult, with Socrates being reportedly 40 years her elder.
Xanthippe has famously been described as raucous, loud, and ill-tempered. Unwelcome characteristics for a woman in Athenian society. A woman with the audacity to speak (even yell) when men were speaking. The original shrew.
The name Xanthippe translates to “yellow horse.” Socrates made it clear he married her precisely for the reason that she was such a “spirited horse.” If he could successfully ride her (unlike Kate, he would never break her), then he could easily debate the men leading Athens.
That homespun skill ultimately led to Socrates’ death sentence. By questioning and challenging the norms of the time, the father of the Socratic method was charged with impiety and corruption of the youth. Found guilty, he chose to drink poison hemlock according to the account of his greatest student, Plato.
And Xanthippe disappeared into misogynistic anonymity thereafter.