Misogyny in Taming of the Shrew

Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is often criticized for its seemingly misogynistic themes: namely, the idea of breaking a woman’s spirit and making her subservient to her husband. This is apparent through the “taming” of the play’s lead female character, Katherine Minola. Katherine, better known as Kate, is hard-headed, stubborn, and prone to speaking her mind. In the patriarchal society of Shakespeare’s day, which valued weak and submissive woman, her behavior does not go over well with her male counterparts. Thus, throughout the play, her groom, Petruccio, uses starvation, humiliation, and sleep deprivation to “break” her and turn her into what was then viewed as a proper bride — the total antithesis of the character to which the audience is first introduced. That destruction of a strong and powerful woman into one suited for the Stepford Wives is controversial: should the play be viewed in a tongue-in-cheek manner, one criticizing the society in which it takes place, or should it be taken literally and blasted as a work of anti-woman propaganda? Though it seems unusual for Shakespeare’s work, The Taming of the Shrew is ultimately riddled with misogyny and suggests the necessity of a subservient bride and the stifling of a woman’s voice. Kate’s sharp tongue becomes apparent in the play’s first scenes. After Horatio criticizes her, claiming that she will not find a mate unless she becomes kinder and gentler, Kate quickly delivers a scathing retort:

I’ faith, sir, you shall never need to fear, / Iwis it not halfway to her heart; / But if it were to be, doubt not her care should be / To comb your noddle with a three-legg’d stool, / And paint your face, and use you like a fool. (1.1.61-65)
As Horatio, Gremio, and Tranio witness Kate’s fiery spirit in action, they comment on the possibility of marrying such a strong-willed woman:
Horatio: From all such devils, good Lord deliver us!
Gremio: And me too, good Lord!
Tranio: Husht, master, here’s some good pastime toward; / That wench is stark mad or wonderful forward!(1.1.66-69)
Simultaneously, the men notice Bianca’s silence and seeming meekness, and judge her as quickly as they did Kate: while Kate is far too ardent to be a suitable bride, Bianca is ideal, with “mild behavior and sobriety.” Kate scoffs at the idea, referring to Bianca as a “pretty peat,” a spoiled little pet, and making apparent her contempt for Bianca and for the men’s general desire for a docile woman. Further evidencing Kate’s fierceness is a scene of dialogue between Kate and Petruccio, the man who will eventually tame her. The two seem to have somewhat of a battle of wits, each verbally sniping at the other. It is clear that Kate is intelligent and can hold her own in a verbal sparring match with any man. When Petruccio attempts civility, greeting her with, “Good morrow, Kate, for that’s your name, I hear,” Kate snaps in return, “Well have you heard, but something hard of hearing: They call me Katherine that do talk of me.” Petruccio continues to attempt to win her over with compliments and sweet talk:
Petruccio: You lie, in faith, for you are call’d plain Kate, / And bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst; / But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom, / Kate of Kate-Hall, my super-dainty Kate, / For dainties are all Kates, and therefore, Kate, / Take this of me, Kate my consolation— / Hearing thy mildness prais’d in every town, / They virtues spoke of, and they beauty sounded, / Yet not so deeply as to thee belongs, / Myself am mov’d to woo thee for my wife.(2.1.185-193)
And while many women would have swooned over being called pretty and dainty, the more hard-hearted Kate is not at all moved. “Mov’d! in good time! Let him that mov’d / you hither remove you hence. I knew you at the first / You were a movable.” The two continue to verbally spar, and with each flattery Petruccio utters, Kate responds with an insult.
Petruccio: Why, what’s a moveable?
Kate: A join’d-stool.
Petruccio: Thou hast hit it; come sit on me.
Kate: Asses are made to bear, and so are you.
Petruccio: Women are made to bear, and so are you.
Kate: No such jade as you, if me you mean.
Petruccio: Alas, good Kate, I will not burthen thee, For knowing thee to be young and light.
Kate: Too light for such a swain as you to catch…(2.1.184-204)
Petruccio’s use of the phrase “women are made to bear” demonstrates the play’s idea of women: while Kate means that asses are made to bear workloads, Petruccio insinuates that women are made to bear children, thus supporting the play’s continual suggestion of a woman’s place as a meek, servile being, good for little other than raising children and following the misogynistic overtones of the work as a whole. Comparing Kate’s fire in this scene with her speech in the play’s final scene leads the audience to recognize Kate as a broken woman. Her spirit is totally gone, and she seems to support all of the things about patriarchy that she once despised; she is now subservient to Petruccio and condemns women who act insubordinately to their husbands. To Kate, the husband is the wife’s king, keeper, governor, lord, sovereign, and head — a far cry from the woman who initially spurned all such notions.
Petruccio: Katherine, I charge thee tell these headstrong women / What duty they do owe their lords and husbands. …
Kate: Fie, fie, unknit that threat’ning unkind brow, / And dart not scornful glances from those eyes, to wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor. / …. Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee… / I am asham’d that women are so simple / To offer war where they should kneel for peace, / Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway, / When they are bound to serve, love and obey. / Why are our bodies, soft, and weak, and smooth, / Unapt to toil and trouble in the world… / But now I see our lances are but straws, / Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare…”(5.2.133-174)
So then, how can one account for this final scene, in which Kate delivers this passionate speech about the meekness of women and responds to Petruccio’s beck and call with absolutely no resistance? It is evident that he has destroyed her with his actions toward her during their “courtship.” He humiliates Katherine by purposely dressing distastefully and riding a diseased animal at their wedding, and then by dramatically leaving their wedding dinner with Katherine in tow. He also publicly announces what Kate means to him:
I will be the master of what is mine own. / She is my goods, my chattels, she is my house, / My household stuff, my field, my barn, / My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything…(3.2.229-232)
This kind of public humiliation can be seen as part of Kate’s ultimate collapse as a person. One can only bear so much degradation before it affects his or her persona, weakening the will, and Kate is a clear demonstration of this. Moreover, whisking Kate away from dinner and refusing to allow her to eat is also evidence of the starvation she endured at the hands of Petruccio. Petruccio also savagely beats his servants in front of Kate, assuring that he would never lay a hand on her but nonetheless instilling in her the knowledge that he has the potential to be a violent man. He proclaims that he will tame her by depriving her of her needs, disguising it as love and kindness.
Thus I have politely begun my reign, / And ’tis my hope to end successfully. / My falcon now is sharp and passing empty, / For then she never looks upon her lure. / Another way I have to man my haggard, / To make her come, / And know her keeper’s call, / That is, to watch her… / She eat no meat to-day, nor none shall eat; / Last night she slept not, nor to-night she shall not; / As with the meat, some undeserved fault / I’ll find about the making of the bed… / … This is a way to kill a wife with kindness.”(4.2.188-208)
Thus, through this series of starvation, sleep deprivation, and humiliation, Kate becomes the docile shell of herself that she appears to be at the play’s close. As a whole, the work is anti-woman and shows the cruel and abusive destruction of a human. In the end, Kate’s “taming” is little more than the ruin of her spirit, and the work seems to praise brutality and malice toward women. A stark contrast to the feminist movement, it is no surprise that the work and its popularity are unnerving to many.

Petruchio’s Method of Taming the Shrew

One reading of The Taming of the Shrew may cause women to shake their heads in disbelief of Kate’s changed behavior for the pleasure of her husband. A closer reading and an analyzing of the methods used by Petruchio in taming his wife, however, provide an opposing view. Perhaps Petruchio seems cruel in his treatment of Kate, but does he really have any other choice? In what other ways could he possibly have approached Kate and her temper? His method is unique and is obviously tailored with Kate’s demanding ways in mind. In fact, this uniquely crafted method chosen by Petruchio himself is not only perfect for “taming” Kate, but also proves his love for his wife.Petruchio, from the first mention of Kate, has an obvious desire for a challenge. One of the first things he mentions is that he is determined to find a wealthy wife. Hortensio points out, perhaps recognizing Petruchio’s desire for challenge and playing on that desire for a better chance to win Bianca, that Kate is so shrewd that he would not recommend her to such a good friend (1.2.62-3). If he really did not wish to recommend her, he would not have even mentioned her as a possibility. Petruchio, however, demands, “if thou know / One rich enough to be Petruchio’s wife – / […] / Be she as foul as was Florentius’ love, / As old as Sibyl, and as curst and shrewd / As Socrates’ Xanthippe, or a worse, / She moves me not, or not removes, at least, / Affection’s edge in me” (1.2.64-72). Surely there are other wealthy women in the area that are more like Bianca, but Petruchio wants no other woman besides Kate. Recognizing that taming Kate will be a challenge, he longs for her.The method employed by Petruchio is unique. In his soliloquy, Petruchio explains this method to the reader. He keeps her hungry and unable to sleep well, but in a manner that appears that he is looking out for her best interests. As for the meat they are to eat and the sheets on the bed, he finds “some undeservèd fault” with each (4.1.188). He states that “this is a way to kill a wife with kindness, / And thus […] curb her mad and headstrong humor” (4.1.197-8). By appearing to overprotect her and overindulge her, he will be annoying her to the point of obedience. Because Kate is so headstrong and does not respond well to criticism, this method is well tailored to her specific needs.Kate does not respond well to this method at first. She reacts angrily towards him, which only makes him act more kindly. He refers to her as “pleasant, gamesome, passing courteous, / But slow in speech, yet sweet as springtime flowers” (2.1.246-7). In return, she continuously throws out sarcastic replies. He gives her no option of whether to marry him or not, but simply walks away from her stating that they will marry on Sunday, acting as though she has agreed (2.1.325). When the two are getting married, he shows up in old clothes and even swears at the priest during the ceremony (3.2.155-63). After the wedding, she attempts to defy him by stating that she will remain behind at her father’s house for the marriage celebration while he returns home. He does not allow her to linger, however, and on their way home he even leaves her fallen horse on top of her while cursing at the servant for allowing it to happen rather than helping her. This causes even his servants to question whether he is not shrewder than she (4.1.76). Her defiance and anger, she soon realizes, will get her nowhere. She soon realizes that she simply needs to agree with anything he tells her, even if she knows that he is wrong, in order to find freedom. One may question whether Kate is merely acting the part of a submissive wife in order to get what she wants. This is most likely and almost certainly her plan. After attempting to resist him and by being defiant, she realizes that she will not be able to continue in this manner. Instead, she comes to the realization that it is better for her to agree with him, if only to please him. Her transformation comes on her way to her father’s house. She states, after a short disagreement about whether the sun or moon is out, that if Petruchio says the sun is out then “henceforth I vow it shall be so for me” even if it truly is the moon (4.5.15). She realizes that by simply agreeing with him, or at least pretending to agree with him, he is much nicer and easier to please. Petruchio may appear to be cruel in his treatment of Kate, but it is most likely an act. His servants are surprised to see how he is acting, proving that he does not normally act like this. For example, Nathaniel asks, “Peter, didst ever see the like?” to which Peter replies, “He kills her in her own humor” (4.1.169-70). He tests her new found submissive nature by telling her that the man approaching them on their way to her father’s is a maiden. She humors her husband by praising the man’s feminine features and only apologizes for herself when her husband points out that the traveler is indeed a man.The method itself also appears cruel, but perhaps it is the only choice he has. Kate may have never responded to any other method. First, to be beaten into submission usually only causes the victim to become timid and terrified of the abuser. Had Petruchio beaten Kate, she would have hated him and would have never become the woman he wanted her to and knew that she could become. Second, Kate proved that she cannot be taught like the average person. After trying to teach her music, Hortensio states that she will make a better soldier. When her father asks why this is, Hortensio replies:I did but tell her she mistook her fretsAnd bowed her hand to teach her fingering, When, with a most impatient devilish spirit,“Frets, call you these?” quoth she, “I’ll fume with them.”And with that word she struck me on the head, […]While she did call me rascal, fiddler,And twangling jack, with twenty such vile terms (2.1.150-9)It is obvious through this experience that she does not have the patience of the average person to learn in an average way. Finally, if she had been allowed to continue in her ways – even while others hoped that she would grow out of her shrewdness – she would have never changed. Her father does not know what to do with her or how to handle her because it has gotten so out of hand. He even warns Petruchio to be prepared for “some unhappy words” from his rebellious daughter (2.1.140). By exploring the different methods that could have been used, it becomes clear that Petruchio’s method is the only one that would work with Kate. Some may argue that Petruchio’s goal is to make Kate more like Bianca, but this is not the case. Bianca is conniving in her own way and not the submissive wife that Petruchio is trying to make Kate. Bianca pretends to be absorbed in her studies, as when she tells her father, “My books and instruments shall be my company, / On them to look and practice by myself” (1.1.82-3). Although it is impossible to know for sure whether she has any intentions of studying, one may argue that she only agrees to make her father happy. Later when Lucentio is “teaching” her, he tells her who he really is and that he is not a teacher. Unable to face Hortensio and tell him that she is not interested in him – such as Kate would have done – she allows him to continue his failing attempt to play his instrument. She even reads aloud his notes scale in which he makes each note an acronym proving his desire for her (3.1.72-7). Once again, however, she is unable to tell him that she loves another, but instead simply states that she does not like improved scales and that the old one suits her best (3.1.78-80). By the end of the play, it is obvious that Petruchio has succeeded, yet Kate has won a battle of her own. His plan to make her submissive appears to him to have worked, but Kate finds freedom in being submissive. She encourages Bianca and the widow to also follow suit and “place [their] hands below [their] husband’s boot” in order to show their submissiveness (5.2.183). She degrades her own previous behavior and asks: Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth, Unapt to toil and trouble in the world, But that our soft conditions and our hearts Should well agree with our external parts? […] My mind hath been as big as one of yours, My heart as great, my reason haply more, To bandy word for word and frown for frown (5.2.171-8).She recognizes that she lives in a society that places specific demands on her as a woman, as does Petruchio, and eventually matures to the point that she can accept those demands. She tells the women that although she used to fight the way things are she now realizes that “our lances are but straws, / Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare, / That seeming to be most which we indeed least are” (5.1.179-81). If women would only submit to their husbands, accept their own weaknesses, and allow their husbands to provide for them, then there is freedom. Petruchio is obviously pleased with her speech, that he did not force upon her, and invites her to bed (5.2.190). Apparently, her submissive behavior is a turn-on to her husband and impresses her father to the point that he agrees to give Petruchio a second dowry for a second, or changed, daughter. Through the entire process of taming Kate, however, Petruchio genuinely proves his respect, and ultimately his love, to her. First, if he does not love her he would not bother with changing her behavior. If the only reason he wants to change her is to please society, he could simply lock her up in the house and rarely allow her in the public view. Second, as mentioned before, he does not resort to beating her into submission, but still respects her as a person. He asks her to kiss him in the streets, but does not force her to (5.2.134-7). Once again, he invites her to bed. He also refers to his and Kate’s relationship as a marriage and the other two – Bianca and Lucentio and the widow and Hortensio – as failing marriages since there is no submission from the women (5.2.191). In return, Kate also respects him, and as her last speech proves, loves him. Although Petruchio may seem cruel throughout his “taming” of Kate, he really has her best interests in mind. He sees her potential and helps her fulfill that. Kate puts up a struggle for quite a while until she realizes she cannot change her situation. If she just accepts her position as the submissive wife, however, she will be respected by her husband and provided for. Her speech at the end reveals to the reader a completely transformed Kate that appreciates her husband and respects him properly. The fact that the plan was so clearly and precisely devised with Kate’s temperamental ways in mind proves that Petruchio really does love Kate.Works CitedShakespeare, William. “The Taming of the Shrew.” The Complete Pelican Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Orgel and A.R. Braunmuller. New York: The Penguin Group, 2002. 147-180.

The Language of Petruchio

Petruchio’s multifaceted role in The Taming of the Shrew illustrates various themes of the play, such as the concept of domestication, the economy of marriage, gender roles, and the nature of language. Through his experiences at Padua, interactions and marriage with Katherina, and the conclusion of her domestication, Petruchio presents the symbolism and meaning behind these themes. While these themes are not applicable to Petruchio alone, Petruchio’s language is of particular interest because it is the primary domesticating tool of the titular theme. Petruchio does not purchase Kate or win a tournament for her, but rather he uses language to attain her favor. He is defined by his excessive materialism, bluntness, and possessiveness, to the point of transcending social norms. Petruchio’s language immediately indicates his materialism and craftiness. Early on, he squarely states an intention to marry for wealth: “One rich enough to be Petruchio’s wife- / As wealth is burthen of my wooing dance-” (1.2.66-67) Here, Petruchio immediately corrects Hortensio, who would “not wish thee to her.” (1.2.63) Petruchio demonstrates himself to be avaricious beyond what is acceptable for his time. The financial aspects of marriage are acknowledged to be an important factor in late 16th century London, but Petruchio’s stark greed surpasses this norm. He refers to himself in third person, putting on an air of conceit and also framing his identity. He is seeking a wife as if it were a chore, a basic business operation. Also, the use of “burthen” is unusual. Burden usually has a negative connotation and the phrasing makes it seem as if the wealth is a burden, both in the sense of an onerous concern, and in the sense of a physical load. Petruchio facetiously puts forth the notion that he is relieving his future fiancée of a burdensome load. In this case, Petruchio’s language has defined him as greedy, but not without wit and a sense of sarcasm. Petruchio is so greedy that he asks Baptista directly about his dowry, before he has even won Katherina’s love. “Then tell me, if I get your daughter’s love / What dowry shall I have with her to wife?” (2.1.119-120) In this case Petruchio demonstrates his frankness along with his greed. Petruchio continues to define himself through his use of words, demonstrating himself as blunt yet masterful. He does not mince words; he does not sugarcoat his aims. Unequivocally he states “Be she as foul as was Florentius’ love / … / She moves me not, or not removes, at least / Affection’s edge in me, were she as rough / As are the swelling Adriatic seas. / I come to wive it wealthily in Padua. / If wealthily then happily in Padua.” (1.2.68-75) After explaining that he doesn’t care how shrewish, foul, or old his bride is, Petruchio repeats his intention to wed for wealth. The use of the word “affection” is of importance here. Petruchio explains that after all the bad things she could possibly be, it does not “move” him. It does not alter his position. He then adds, “or not removes, at least/ Affection’s edge in me.” Affection usually suggests human love, but Petruchio’s affection is more for material wealth. His unreasonable greed is coupled with his blunt statement of intentions; most people would not phrase their emotional indifferent in such harsh, direct words. Petruchio’s blunt language is noted by others as well. Upon first meeting Baptista, Petruchio asks “And you, good sir. Pray, have you not a daughter?” (2.1.42-43) This is Petruchio’s first line to Baptista, indicating his direct and unequivocal method of acting. Gremio responds in an aside, “You are too blunt; go to it orderly.” (2.1.45) The notion of orders comes into play here. Gremio suggests that Petruchio ought to go at things gradually, but also implies the concept of levels. Petruchio does not care for intermediate steps towards his goal; rather, he goes directly to the final stage upon meeting Baptista. The idea of orders also implies something of social stratification, and by analogy, Petruchio is considered high class, just as he considers himself able to skip to the final stage with Baptista. This language illustrates not only Petruchio’s blunt nature, but also his arrogance. The final and most prominent attribute that Petruchio’s language bestows upon him is his overbearing and socially unacceptable possessiveness. Petruchio states: “Thus in plain terms: your father hath consented / That you shall be my wife, your dowry ‘greed on, / And will you, nill you, I will marry you.” (2.1.263-265) Petruchio is commanding here; he has no qualms about Kate’s disagreement. Beginning the statement with “In plain terms” is condescending towards Kate, as though she cannot understand what he will say. Petruchio’s “I will marry you” is also patronizing. He takes Kate’s silence as agreement, and makes a final pronouncement before Baptista enters: “Here comes your father. Never make denial; / I must and will have Katherine to my wife.” (2.1.272-273) Normally unruly and relcacitrant, Kate has finally submitted to Petruchio.Petruchio continues to express his possessive nature at his marriage to Kate: “But for my bonny Kate, she must with me / … / I will be master of what is mine own. She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house / my household stuff, my field, my barn, / My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything.” (3.2.227-232.) The notion of a husband owning his wife was common, but Petruchio’s extreme in this case is outrageous. He begins by comparing Kate to “goods” and “chattels,” which simply signify that she is his physical property, but goes on to say she is “anything” – barn, field, ox – basically proclaiming that he has power even over Kate’s nature and function. He even extends his comparison to the sun and the moon. Language, in any play and in the real world, is an individual’s primary tool of cognitive conveyance; as such, it is the primary way through which we can define a character or person. Through Petruchio’s words we learn of his greed, arrogance, and possessiveness. Kate’s reaction to his language – gradual domestication – shows that for all Petruchio’s deplorable qualities, the words he uses do ultimately “tame the shrew.”

Changing Roles

Shakespeare’s comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, focuses a great deal on the character of Kate, the “shrew” of the story, and her transition from an unlovable, temperamental harridan into the picture of a perfect wife. Surrounding this tale of Petruchio and Kate are the comic antics of Hortensio and Lucentio as they scheme to win Bianca. Beyond this, one follows Tranio’s efforts to pass himself off as a noble and continue furthering Lucentio’s plots by engaging the help of a wandering merchant. Even further than this, outside of the plot entirely, is the rather odd introduction to the play in which a lord plays a prank on Sly, a worthless beggar, and makes him think he is a nobleman. All of these stories have one very strong, common theme underlying them. Almost all of the main characters engage in the changing of roles, whether by their own will or because of the actions of others. However, when all is accomplished, there is one character who has well and truly changed into a new person. All the switching of roles for schemes or jests simply emphasizes the genuine change of character in Kate. The first change of roles, which gives a taste of what is to come in the main story, is the odd introduction of Christopher Sly. An unnamed lord finds him asleep and happens upon the brilliant idea of making Sly believe that he has only been imagining he was a beggar. The lord changes roles and becomes a servant and the beggar is transformed into a lord. This jest is indicative of the very first changing of roles found in the actual story in which Lucentio becomes a humble schoolmaster and his servant, Tranio, takes on Lucentio’s position. However, the unnamed lord’s changing of roles, while temporary like Lucentio’s and Tranio’s, is simply a jest for his own enjoyment. Sly is willing to step right into his new role as lord and assume it permanently: “Upon my life, I am a lord indeed, / And not a tinker nor Chistophero Sly” (Taming of the Shrew Ind 2.70-71), but he is the object of ridicule, not part of the scheme. The story of Kate, Petruchio, Lucentio, Bianca, and the others is enacted for Sly. This is possibly yet another jest on the part of the lord, attempting to show Sly a play about switching roles to give him a hint of what has happened to him. Whether or not Sly picks up on the joke is never discovered. The beginning of the main story introduces Lucentio and Tranio, the first characters in the play within the play to change roles. Lucentio does so, however, as a plot to gain the love of fair Bianca: “Let me be a slave, t’achieve that maid” (1.1.216). His servant Tranio is not at all against it and does, in fact, admit to having the same idea: “Master, for my hand, / Both our inventions meet and jump in one” (1.1.186-187). However, the hindrance remains in the form of Kate, who must be wed before Bianca may be. Kate is portrayed very much in her true form at the beginning the play. She is overbearing and nothing short of terrifying. Her transformation will not be sudden, like the role changing around her, but takes time and effort on the part of Petruchio. Shakespeare makes it very clear that any change in her is nothing short of miraculous: “Think’st thou, Hortensio, though / her father be very rich, any man is so very a fool to be / married to hell?” (1.1.122-124) She, rather like Sly, will never be part of the schemes or jests, but unlike Sly, her change will be permanent and for the better.Hortensio and Lucentio appear in their altered roles as tutors for Bianca at the same time that Petruchio is to be introduced to Kate. Ironically, while Hortensio and Lucentio are both pretending to be tutors in order to woo Bianca for themselves, Petruchio becomes rather like a real tutor to Kate in the ways of gentle womanly virtue. Hortensio’s change in role does not end successfully. While he attempts to write poetry as Litio the tutor and plead the case of Hortensio the suitor, Lucentio has exposed himself to Bianca as not Cambio, but Lucentio. Hortensio recognizes that Bianca is growing more fond of his rival Cambio/Lucentio, and makes plans: “If once I find thee ranging, / Hortensio will be quite with thee by changing” (3.1.89-90). If Bianca does not seem favorable to his suit, he plans to simply move on to another woman, a widow who wants his favor Thus, Hortensio prepares to change roles once more, leaving his position as tutor behind him.Lucentio and Tranio realize that in order to complete their scheme, they need a character to play the role of Lucentio’s father Vincentio. Tranio, through humorous trickery, convinces a willing merchant, known in the play as a pedant, to take on that role. The pedant does not mind since he is moving up in the world from simple pedant to wealthy, prestigious merchant: “In all these circumstances I’ll instruct you. / Go with me to clothe you as becomes you” (4.2.120-121). Thus, the next role is assumed. The entire scheme must end when Vincentio himself appears. However, rather like Sly’s situation with the lord, everyone except Vincentio himself insists upon an alternate truth from what Vincentio knows is true. No matter how much he insists that he is Vincentio, the characters of Tranio, the pedant, Gremio, Baptista, and Biondello are against him: “Deny him, / forswear him, or else we are all undone” (5.1.98-99). However, Lucentio and Bianca emerge and settle the matter by confessing all.Petruchio and Kate, deserving of more study, are left for last. Much of their drama is paralleled by the actions of the other characters, specifically in the roles taken on by the other characters. When Petruchio enters the scene, he is immediately marked as a good match for the troublesome Kate. Petruchio is confrontational, demonstrative, and headstrong. He sees Kate in the beginning as a means to obtain wealth: “I come to wive it wealthily in Padua – / If wealthily, then happily in Padua” (1.2.73-74), but in the end obviously has discovered her better qualities and comes to truly love her. This is not so much a change in his character as it is in hers, however. Petruchio’s change in roles comes upon meeting and understanding Kate’s disposition and what is needed to deal with her. He does, in fact, take on two different characters before he finally reverts to his true self. Similarly, Kate must change from her original shrewish self, to a harrassed, embittered woman, to a contented, gentle wife. Petruchio’s disposition toward Kate upon meeting her is entirely different than it is when he first marries her, as it is different once more when he has tamed her. When he first meets her, he refuses to be baited and treats every harsh word of hers as beautiful: “Thy virtues spoke of, and thy beauty sounded, / Yet not so deeply as to thee belongs, / Myself am moved to woo thee for my wife” (2.1.192-194). Perhaps attempting to unbalance her, he certainly succeeds in discombobulating her to the point that she cannot fight with him any longer. She is betrothed despite her attempts to protest. This is a humorous parallel to the saccharine wooing of Lucentio and Bianca: “I read that I profess, the Art of Love” (4.2.8). However, Lucentio is not role playing when he speaks to Bianco in this manner. Petruchio certainly is. His mockery sends Kate into rages, but also confuses her. She has met her match and does not know how to proceed.Having successfully won his wife, Petruchio begins the next part of his plan at the wedding. His appearance at the wedding is utterly ridiculous and confusing. He is dressed irreverantly and uncaring of traditions. His new role is one of tempestuous, impatient demeanor. He begins domineering Kate immediately, all under the guise of love: “This is a way to kill a wife with kindness, / And thus I’ll curb her mad and headstrong humor” (4.1.195-196). He does not allow her to eat or sleep. He yells at his servants about little things. All of this is his role, one which is meant to show her how she herself behaves. He tells her that: “ourselves are choleric” (4.1.161), implying that he is like she is. She does not appreciate the comparison.Kate’s transformation comes in several steps. At first, she is baffled and infuriated by Petruchio’s actions. Her change is not instantanteous. She first becomes bitter and angered by his treatment of her: “The more my wrong, the more his spite appears / What, did he marry me to famish me?” (4.3.2-3). She reverts to beating servants out of despair at her circumstances. But, slowly she begins to react against his temper in a different manner. She shows good sense and forebearance. When he rails against a servant for dropping water, she entreats him: “Patience, I pray you, ‘twas a fault unwilling” (4.1.140). She thanks him when he finally allows her to eat. He all but dangles new clothes in front of her and, in desperation, she begs for them. But he is very clear: “When you are gentle you shall have one too, / And not till then” (4.3.70-71), letting her know that she must behave properly. All the while, she is allowed to see him acting the role of the tempestuous, impossible to please character and sees herself in his actions. She begins to understand his desire and finds the humor in the situation. Petruchio lightens his angry outbursts and contrary arguments as he senses her character changing truly for the better. He argues about whether the sun or the moon is shining. At first Kate argues what she knows to be true: “I know it is the sun that shines so bright” (4.5.5). He complains that he is “Evermore crossed and crossed, nothing but crossed” (4.5.10). She finally gives in: “And be it moon or sun or what you please / An if you please to call it a rush-candle, / Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me” (4.5.13-15). Kate has come to the point where she willingly submits to him even in the silly things and Petruchio sees that “the field is won” (4.5.23).He begins to play with her more, testing this new Kate. He plays a trick on her, making her think that an older gentleman, Lucentio’s father no less, is a young lady. Kate’s reaction, rather than anger at how foolish she has been made to look, is simply a good humored reply. Petruchio has succeeded. Thenceforth, he reverts to himself and Kate takes on her new and permanent role as a gentle and obedient wife with no regrets. They have even come to love each other, kissing one another in the middle of the street with words of sincere affection: “Nay, I will give thee a kiss. Now pray thee, love, stay” (5.1.136). Petruchio’s wager with Lucentio and Hortensio demonstrates just how changed Kate is. She has, in a sense, switched places with Bianca as the fair, admirable wife. Her father, Baptista, is awed: “For she is changed as she had never been” (5.2.120). At the end of the play, all the roles the various characters have been playing are given up and the characters return to their true selves. The only person who maintains her new state is Kate. She has changed roles permanently.Works CitedShakespeare, William. “The Taming of the Shrew.” William Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Ed. Alfred Harbage. New York: Viking Press. 1969.

The True Shrews to Be Tamed

A shrew, a scold, was in fundamental nature any woman that verbally defied authority in public and obstinately challenged the “axiom” of male rule. The late sixteenth century was harsh to deviants of social role and standing, and the penalty of having an association with the stigma of shrew meant ritual humiliation and public ridicule. “A Merry Jest of a Shrewde and Curste Wyfe, Lapped in Morrelles Skin, for Her Good Behavyour” and other ballads of the period show an image of the shrew being that of a poor, old, nagging wife. The archetype, however, would be altered by The Shrew’s Katherine Minola, yet reinforced by the Old Widow and blurred by Bianca Minola. Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew brought forth a transformed quixotic shrew that is wealthy, beautiful, and, most important, spirited. In The Shrew, Katharina is viewed as the classic, traditional scold, her crime against the social order being her almost absolute refusal to accept the male domineering hierarchy. She displays a quick temper that makes slow witted men quiver in fear. In Act I scene i, she responds to Hortensio’s remark of “No mates for you, / Unless you were of gentler milder mold” (1.1.59-60) with a threat that they are of no us unless “To comb your noodle with a three legged stool” (1.1.64). With such brutal tactics, the question then arises, how much of this behavior is a direct result of her environment and her treatment?Katharina refuses to be objectified by those she feels are beneath her, and will not simply be sold to the highest bidder. Baptista comes across as a business man, keeping his prize possession, Bianca, for the suitor of highest bid, and trying to get the lesser “product”, Katharina, off his hands as soon as possible. Katharina pleads with her father in Act I scene i, “I pray you, sir, is it your will/To make a stale of me against these mates?” (1.1.57-8). She views her father as a single minded tyrant, and herself as a prisoner to the discontent and misery her surroundings provide. Katharina will not lose her individuality, and therefore simply began to reject her social role. Her rejection of accepted womanhood gave her the stigma of shrew, and her only defense against hurtful indirect remarks was wit and sharp tongue. However, Katharina’s vulnerability comes across in her interactions with Bianca, and certain realizations occur. In Act II scene i, Katharina binds Bianca’s hands and in a jealous fury commands to know which suitor she places above all others. Bianca’s many suitors remind Katharina that she is being placed in the demeaning role of the single maid in a culture of marriage, to “dance barefoot on her (Bianca’s) wedding day” and “lead apes in hell” (2.1.33-34)Petruchio is many things to Katharina, among them being her husband, her intellectual equal, and, in many ways, her liberator. When Katharina is taken to the country manor, an interesting relationship begins to occur between herself and her supposed tamer. One of the methods of taming is the deprivation of food, and oddly Petruchio joins in the deprivation. Katharina not a completely defeated individual, and Petruchio steps back from the notion of tyrant. He feels perhaps his behavior is just as hot-blooded as Katharina’s and needs to be softened. Petruchio states that “And better ’twere that both of us did fast, / Since of ourselves, ourselves are choleric, / Than feed it with such over roasted flesh” (4.1.161-3). The country manor leaves a strange balance of dominance and a level of equality. What of Katharina’s free spirit?Though Petruchio reinforces that his word shall be placed above all others, she finds a certain level of freedom and possibly happiness in their games and exchanges as there begins a compromise between obedience and intellectual freedom. On the road to Padua, her spirit is shown not to be broken but better suited, creating joy instead of misery, as Vincentio observes her as “a merry mistress” (4.5.52). Her shrewdness was not her true self, but rather a phase of temperament under ill suited conditions. It is better to be content under a king or lord than to be in despair and wretchedness under a tyrant. Act V scene ii is a revelation and makes the audience aware of the true shrews. In a bet over a sense of manhood, the men call for their wives to come to them. To be made seen in the worst light, Bianca and the Old Widow refuse to come to their husband’s call. Bianca’s refusal to come is a shock, as the innocent, meek, and mild maid vanishes. She cost Lucentio his money and manhood, and leads him to be seen as a fool. When made known what her refusal had done, she states “The more fool you, for laying on my duty” (5.2.133). The Old Widow’s refusal can be seen as a reflection of society’s conventional shrew, and Bianca’s shrewd behavior may act as a warning to marriage without a sense of balance between dominance and equality. Katharina beckoned to Petruchio and gave a speech to the other women on being obedient, displaying her new found happiness and intellectual freedom. The surface of an individual’s behavior should never be held to judgments.Works CitedShakespeare, William. “The Taming of the Shrew”. Shakespeare: Script, Stage, Screen. Ed. Bevington, David, Anne M. Welsh, and Michael L. Greenwald. New York: Pearson Longman, 2006. 83-119

The Paradox of Reality

One of William Shakespeare’s earliest romantic comedies, The Taming of the Shrew, focuses on the courtship and marriage of two sisters, Katharina and Bianca. While the play provides a somewhat lighthearted commentary on matrimony and the supposed roles of husbands and wives, the lightheartedness of the work masks the underlying thematic development of the deception of reality. The Taming of the Shrew “adroitly manipulates the device of mistaken identity…inverting appearance and reality, dreaming and waking, and the master-servant relationship in order to create a transformed Saturnalian world” in which social order and class distinction are merely the result of one’s surroundings (Bevington 108). Illusion is used throughout the work, from various character disguises to the physical framework of the play itself, and not only is the motif used to violate social order, but also to illustrate the danger of replacing reality with delusion. Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew employs illusion both to break down the hierarchy of social roles and to assert the pitfalls inherent in doing so, particularly in association with the characters Christopher Sly and Lucentio. Shakespeare first displays the theme of illusion during the induction, and his use of this motif in relation to Christopher Sly challenges the social constructs of class during the sixteenth century. By simply changing Sly’s environment, the Lord of the house uses illusion to convert the mere tinker into nobility, thereby questioning the validity of the acquisition of social status during that time period. The Lord asks his servants, “What think you, if he were conveyed to bed, /Wrapped in sweet clothes, rings put upon his fingers, /A most delicious banquet by his bed, /And brave attendants near him when he wakes, /Would the beggar then forget himself” (Induction.1.36-40). Here, the nobleman himself ponders the importance of circumstances in connection with social hierarchy, and defies the norms of social order by asking, “If Sly can become a lord by wearing the right clothes and speaking blank verse, might audience members similarly raise their status?” (Bevington 109). Indeed, the Lord and his servants dress and surround Sly accordingly, and after some mild persuasion, Sly himself believes in the very illusion he represents. By presenting Sly as aristocracy only as a result of perception, Shakespeare disturbs the idea of a regimented social order and proposes the notion that a simple change of clothes may alter class structure within sixteenth-century society. The mere introduction and story line of Christopher Sly within The Taming of the Shrew provides an outer framework for the play in which illusion constantly tampers with reality. The backdrop of Sly’s story depicts Shakespeare’s use of illusion and illustrates not only a play within a play, but an illusion within an illusion. Shakespeare “multiplies his devices of illusion by combining two entirely distinct plots, each concerned, at least in part, with the comic inversion of appearance and reality” (Bevington 109). In the induction, the Lord of the house commands his page, Bartholomew, to disguise himself as Sly’s wife. He relays that he wants his page “dressed in all suits like a lady…Tell him from me…He bear himself with honorable action/ Such as he hath observed in noble ladies…And then with kind embracements, tempting kisses, /And with declining head into his bosom, /Bid him shed tears, as being overjoyed/ To see her noble lord restored to health” (Induction.1.105-120). By changing his clothes and demeanor, Bartholomew not only transforms himself from man to woman, but from page to nobleman, and this deception aids Sly’s ability to replace reality with illusion. In fact, Sly’s “function…is that of the naïve observer who inverts illusion and reality in his mind,” and his purpose in the play is to relay the power of delusion (Bevington 108). The audience is “comically aware that Sly’s ‘wife’ is an imposter, a young page in disguise,” and “this counterfeiting of roles is no more unreal than the employment of Elizabethan boy-actors for the parts of Katharina and Bianca in the ‘real’ play” (Bevington 108). In essence, Sly must accept this transgender “wife” as a real woman much like audiences must accept “boy-actors” as real women, suggesting that reality simply exists as a delusion one chooses to believe in. Shakespeare toys with illusion both inside and outside the constructs of his play to reiterate that social order is only a matter of perception. The character of Lucentio also represents the power of deception and perception in The Taming of the Shrew, both as a means to manipulate class structure and to allegorize the consequences of said illusion. Lucentio alters both his societal role and that of his servant Tranio’s in order to win Bianca’s heart. He commands, “Thou shalt be master, Tranio, in my stead, /Keep house, and port, and servants, as I should. /I will some other be…Tranio, at once /Uncase thee. Tale my colored hat and cloak” (I.i.203-08). Tranio consents and asserts to Biondello, “When I am alone, why, then I am Tranio, /But in all places else your master Lucentio” (I.i.243-4). Here Lucentio not only tampers with his own social rank by means of perception, but commands his servants to do so as well. Through a simple change of clothes, Lucentio is transformed from a relatively high-class merchant into a plain schoolteacher and renames himself Cambio, a term meaning “change” or “exchange.” Likewise, Tranio slips into his master’s robes and instantly gains a higher status, again forcing the audience to question the validity of the obtainment of social standing. Through the deception of Lucentio and his servant, Shakespeare proposes that “we [are] to understand that social distinctions are mere arbitrary constructions”(Bevington 109). Lucentio, similar to the Lord who deceives Sly, contravenes societal norms by presenting an illusion in order to attain his goal. In contrast to Sly’s fate, which the reader never truly determines, Lucentio’s own deception, coupled with his delusional love for Bianca, ultimately results in his downfall. In the final scene, Lucentio calls for Bianca during the wager, yet she “is busy and cannot come” (5.2.85). Petruchio remarks to Lucentio and Hortensio, “We three are married, but you two are sped.” He then tells Lucentio, “‘Twas I won the wager, though you hit the white” (5.2.189). Here, Shakespeare depicts the consequences of disguise and illusion that Lucentio, and Hortensio, used to facilitate the love of Bianca. Though Lucentio won the hand of the love he persued, he loses in the end because he cannot control his wife. Whereas Petruchio’s marriage is acquired through reality, and therefore considered “successful”, Bianca’s refusal to join her husband when he calls suggests that the marriage will be hard on Lucentio, alluding to the idea that this is Lucentio’s punishment for his deception. The relationship between Petruchio and Katharina is procured at first through economic and social means, and Petruchio proclaims that “wealth is burden of [his] wooing dance” (I.2.67). Through this pragmatic outlook on love, Petruchio uncovers the true nature of Kate, as does she with him. In Shakespeare’s world, Petruchio’s realistic viewpoint of marriage results in his success as a husband, contrasting with Lucentio’s marital destiny. Lucentio, disillusioned with Bianca’s beauty, relays, “I burn, I pine, I perish, Tranio, /If I achieve not this young modest girl” (I.1.156-7). Lucentio essentially falls in love with an illusion, and not with the real Bianca, and “because the relationship between these lovers is superficial, they are appropriately destined to suffer through a superficial marriage, as well. The passive Bianca becomes the proud and defiant wife” (Bevington 109). The manipulation of illusion used by both Lucentio and Bianca only succeeds in ushering in the downfall of their marriage. When she fails to come to him, Lucentio scolds her, “The wisdom of your duty, fair Bianca, /Hath cost me a hundred crowns since suppertime.” She tartly replies, “The more fool you, for laying on my duty” (5.2.131-3). By altering his own place in the social hierarchy, Lucentio gains Bianca’s illusory love, and in turn must face the consequences of both of their deceptions. Instead of the demure and unresisting woman he courted, Lucentio is left with an unruly shrew for a wife. While on the surface The Taming of the Shrew seems to be a jovial glimpse into sixteenth-century matrimony, the play’s thematic development of illusion and the consequences that follow challenges societal hierarchy and examines the weakness of class barriers. Through both Sly and Lucentio, Shakespeare illustrates the ease with which one can assume a more elevated role in society. In concluding The Taming of the Shrew with Lucentio’s supposed punishment for employing and believing in illusion, Shakespeare ultimately answers the question of whether or not the clothes make the man. While the illusion of apparel works temporarily, eventually each character involved in illusionary perceptions must revert back to his or her original social class. Shakespeare’s final scene depicting the wager suggests that illusion comes with a price, and that altering one’s appearance in order to achieve social standing will inevitably lead to negative consequences.Works CitedBevington, David, ed. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2004.Shakespeare, William. “The Taming of the Shrew.” The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Ed. David Bevington. New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2004.

Who is the shrew?

Hunting birds like hawks are not meant to be tamed. They are just starved enough to make them listen and come back to their master for food. Women during the time of Shakespeare had to be silent, obedient, and pleasant to their husband- it was their role as a woman. Women who spoke up or stood up for themselves would be considered an outcast, “wild”, or a “shrew” that needed to be tamed. In The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, Katherine rejects society’s expectations of her as a woman through her “shrewish”, outspoken behavior. Petruchio agrees to marry Katherine despite her shrewish behavior for the dowry that will follow. Regarding himself as the ultimate shrew-tamer, he plans on “taming” Katherine. All the characters in the play have the potential to be considered a shrew because they are all cunning with their disguises and masks. However, when considering the title, The Taming of the Shrew,Katherine and Petruchio are the only shrews that are in a taming relationship.

Katherine takes the title role as the shrew of the play. When she is first introduced in the play, she is yelling in public, cursing at Bianca’s (her sister) suitors, “to comb your noddle with a three-legged stool and paint your face and use you like a fool.” (A.1, s.1, l. 65-66). Her words are filled with insults and she cannot help but speak up for herself. When Baptista, her father, asked her to stay out alone while he talks to Bianca inside, Katherine stands up for herself and speaks her mind; “Why, and I trust I may go too, may I not?” (A.1, s.1, l. 104). As a woman she couldn’t stay alone in public and when her father tried to leave her there, she tells him that she can go with them too. Her choleric behavior is portrayed in various ways throughout the play. She tied her sister up, dragging her to ask her questions about the suitors. She beat Hortensio with an instrument when he disguised himself as a musical tutor to approach Bianca. Her outspoken, hot-tempered behavior can be seen during Petruchio’s “proposal” scene as well. Rather than a proposal, it was more like an insult battle. Katherine would try to insult Petruchio, “If I be waspish, best beware my sting.” (A.2, s.1, l. 223) and then he turned her insult into a dirty insult back at her, “Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail… What, with my tongue in your tail?” (A.2, s.1, l. 226-231). She showed even more shrewish behavior by slapping him when she became frustrated at his dirty comebacks. She was set as a “shrew” character and her actions and words showed it.

Petruchio became a shrew to tame Katherine. He was mirroring what society saw in Katherine right back at her to help her see their perspective. He showed up to his own wedding late with ridiculous clothes, “Why Petruchio is coming in a new hat and an old jerkin, pair of old breeches thrice turned, a pair of boots that have been candle-cases, one buckled, another laced…” (A.3, s.2, l. 42-45). He also smacked the priest, and left on his own accord without Katherine’s consent. When he arrived back home, the first thing he did was yell at the servants, ‘“Here, sir! Here, sir! Here, sir! Here, sir!’ You loggerheaded an unpolished grooms. What? No attendance? No regard? No duty?” (A.4, s.1, l. 116-119). His words and actions were filled with curses, insults and abuses, “Go, rascals, go, and fetch my supper in!” (A.3, s.1, l.132). He realized that Katherine can’t be tamed with words during his proposal, so he planed a shrew-taming mission: “taming” her like a hunting bird, “My falcon now is sharp and passing empty, and till she stoop, she must not be full-gorged, for then she never kooks upon her lure. Another way I have to man my haggard, to make her come and know her keeper’s call…” (A.4, s.1, l. 190-194). He starved her using excuses like “oh the food is burnt and I want you to have the best food because you’re my wife”. He deprived her of her sleep as well using different excuses. He tried to starve and exhaust her to make her understand who her “master” is and who to listen to. His method seemed to work for a while because he got her to say “I thank you, sir” (A.4, s.3, l.49) for the food but as soon as she got to fill her stomach up she began to speak up for herself again.

The taming relationship can be seen both ways: Petruchio trying to tame Katherine or Katherine taming Petruchio. Petruchio is introduced in the play, just like how Katherine was introduced. He was publically humiliating himself by making a scene of knocking on Hortensio’s door, “Villain, I say, knock me here soundly…Villain, I say, knock me at this gate and rap me well, or I’ll knock your knave’s pate.” (A.1, s.2, l. 8-12). When he learns that there is a wealthy girl named Katherine, desperate for a husband, he doesn’t let go of his chance. Even when Hortensio warned him that “she is intolerable curst and shrewd” (A.1, s.2, l. 90-91) all he cared about was the money. He wanted the money and if money followed, her shrewish behaviors didn’t matter to him; “Hortensio, peace. Thou know’st not gold’s effect. Tell me her father’s name, and ‘tis enough; for I will board her; though she chide as loud as thunder…” (A.1, s.2, l. 94-96). When he shows up at Baptista’s house to ask for his daughter, Katherine, he doesn’t even introduce himself until Baptista asked, “Whence are you, sir? What may I call your name?” (A.2, s.1, l. 70). He acted mighty and demanded for his daughter, knowing that he’ll marry her no matter what. He used cunning words and arranged the marriage without Katherine’s consent, “and to conclude, we have ‘greed so well together that upon Sunday is the wedding day.” (A.2, s.1, l. 314-315). On top of his already cunning behavior, he became more of a shrew to “tame” Katherine. However, when Petruchio believes that he is taming Katherine, he is being tamed as well. When Katherine was starved of physical things like food and beds, he was starved of Katherine’s good, womanly behavior.

Their taming relationship wasn’t smooth in the beginning. They were two independent characters with strong, assertive personalities that didn’t want to give in to each other. During the proposal neither one of them wanted to step down, they continued with insult after insult. When Katherine was starved and desperate for food, she gave in by saying a simple “thank you” and even though her response and action wasn’t completely what Petruchio wanted, he gives in to her response. However, when Petruchio tried to get a hat and clothing for her, she began to speak her mind again. She wanted the hat and dress that he didn’t want, thus she spoke up and told him that she wanted the specific one that he didn’t like, “I like the cap, and it I will have, or I will have none.” (A.4, s.3, l. 89). In this “taming” round, neither of them got what they wanted; even Hortensio saw that Katherine wouldn’t get what she wanted, “I see she’s like to have neither cap nor gown.” (A.4, s.3, l. 98). Neither of them wanted to give in to the other party and so Katherine didn’t get the clothes she wanted and Petruchio didn’t get the “tamed” behavior he wanted. While they were getting ready to go to Bianca’s wedding, when Katherine argued against Petuchio, he wouldn’t leave to get to the wedding on time but when she finally gave in to whatever he said even though it might not be necessarily true, “What you will have it named, even that it is, and so it shall be so for Katherine.” (A.4, s.5, l.24-25), she got to leave for her sister’s wedding, “Well, forward, forward.” (A.4, s.5, l. 27). In the last scene of the play when the male characters make a bet on their wives, all the other wives fail to please their husband but Katherine. Katherine showed up when Petruchio called her and because she gave in she got to be considered as no longer a “shrew” or a social outcast and got to give a speech on how a wife is supposed to act. Petruchio got what he wanted, winning the bet and receiving her obedient behavior, “Nay, I will win my wager better yet, and show more sign of her obedience, her new built virtue and obedience.” (A.5, s.2, l. 129-131). When Petruchio got what he wanted, he spoke politely with manners: his shrewish behaviors were tamed as well. They learned how to act as a partner to get what each other want.

Both Katherine and Petruchio are considered “different” in the eyes of public. They are both honest characters that speak up their minds compared to the rest of the characters that are hidden under disguises and masks. They are criticized by the public for being different, “Why, he’s a devil, a devil a very fiend…Why, she’s a devil, a devil, the Devil’s dam.” (A.3, s.2, l. 157-158). When Petruchio sees Katherine’s artwork on Hortensio with the instrument, it grabs his interest, “I love her ten times more than ere I did. O, how I long to have some chat with her!” (A.2, s.1, l. 169-170). Rather than regarding her as a monster like many others, he takes interest in her instead. Katherine warns Petruchio that she is someone that has to speak up or else she cannot take it, “Why, sir, I trust I may have to leave to speak, and speak I will. I am no child, no babe. Your betters have endured me say my mind, and if you cannot, best you stop your ears. My tongue will tell the anger of my heart.” (A.4, s.3, l. 78-81). However, Petruchio likes this attribute of her, not just when it’s directed towards him. Thus, they figured out how to work together. Katherine finds a place to fit when she’s with Petruchio, she gets a sense of voice that she can’t live without. In the last scene, Petruchio allows her to speak up her mind, which is the longest speech she gets to say throughout the whole play. Petruchio is the only man that can give this sense of comfort and belonging to Katherine because he is like her: outspoken and regarded as different in the eyes of public. Even knowing all these “shrewish” attributes of her, he is the only person that regards her as “womanly” (A.5, s.2, l. 134). When they’re together they’re no longer considered as the weird but as a normal couple. They find a sense of belonging and comfort looking at other couples that has their true faces hidden under masks. They can trust each other because they both speak up their mind and are honest.

When Katherine gave Petruchio a portion of the behavior he wanted, he gave her a reward but he was also rewarded with her good behavior. When he didn’t give Katherine with what she wanted all that returned was her bad, shrewish behavior. They are both strong characters with their own self-assertion therefore it is hard for them to 100% give up how they are for each other. Therefore, they give in a little to each other just enough to get what they want. They learned how to work as a partner to get what they want. Katherine will say things that he wants to hear in public to get what she wants and he gives her what she wants physically and socially to get her good behavior to continue. Neither of them are tamed to submit to each other completely but are tamed in the sense that they can work things out with each other as a partner. They learned how to work it out because found comfort and a sense of belonging in society when they were together.

Theme of love in The Taming of the Shrew

Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ is a comedy focusing on the taming of the aggressive and verbose Katherine by Petruchio, and through this taming process, as well other elements of the play, the theme of love resonates. We see romantic love, as David Daniell states that is it a “fast moving play about various kinds of romances and fulfillment in marriage”, and also parental, filial and platonic love.

Perhaps the most recognizable form of love in the novel is romantic love, as the play forms almost a deep analysis on the nature of romantic love and the different variations of such love. We are first exposed to the typical Elizabethan courtly love and Lucentio is struck by love for Bianca at first sight, a desperate, overwhelming passion as communicated through the triple structure as he states “I burn, I pine, I perish”, capturing how instantly enthralled he is by Bianca. He continues on with such courtly love imagery as he uses the mythical allusion stating her beauty humbled Jove and he uses the metaphor as he speaks of her “coral lips”. Lucentio uses every cliché love poetry offers and falls in love with the picture of Bianca as he wants to see her, disregarding what she must be like as an individual, and so we see this form of romantic love to be superficial and unsubstantial. This courtly love is also seen in Hortensio and Gremio in their attempts to woo Bianca as they are equally poetic as they call her “the jewel of my life”, “sweeter than perfume”, metaphors focusing merely on her outward beauty and glorifying that only. The superficiality of such love is evident as we see men in the play want a woman whose external nature is solely characterized by her beauty, not by a sense of her personality, and this is clear through the suitors’ reaction to Katherine’s wildness, making evident that “they prefer the compliant woman to the defiant woman who seeks to preserve her individuality”, as contended by Irene G. This captures the absolute lack of depth in relationships founded on courtly love and this idea of shallowness is introduced in the induction scene itself as the Sly represents the socially less accepted concept of love as he desires a certain level of intimacy as he wants to know what to call his supposed wife, the page, and doesn’t understand that he is supposed to call her “madam”, but asks if its “Alice madam or Joan madam”. The Lord then states its “Madam, and nothing else”, a phrase encapsulating the fact that true intimacy was not desired and partners treat each other with reserved politeness rather than affection.

Furthermore, as contended by critic, Irene G, “in the courting of Bianca deception dominates”, and this is clear as in order to woo Bianca numerous false identities are employed: Lucentio becomes Cambio, Tranio becomes Lucentio, Hortensio becomes Litio. In addition, Hortensio uses music to mask his wooing and Lucentio uses Latin. They try to initiate love on the basis of lies and deceit and this presents how neither want to reveal their true nature, while the superficiality of their love for her presents the fact that they do not want to know her true nature either, so their love remains unsteady with no real intimacy.

Another form of romantic love is seen through Petruchio and Katherine as their love goes beyond the typical courtly love. Initially, we see one of Petruchio’s main motivations for pursuing Katherine is to increase his monetary worth through their marriage, this is captured through the phrase, emphasized by the internal rhyme, as he states he came to Padua to “wive and thrive”, conveying his true intentions and reflecting the common contemporary notion that marriage was an investment and a highly lucrative deal for the husband. Additionally, Hillegrass L contends that Petruchio pursues Katherine for the “challenge of capturing her”, as she is continuously described as violent and difficult, as portrayed through the triple structure “rough and coy and sullen”, qualities completely antithetical to the ideal Elizabethan woman who was expected to be obedient, soft spoken and submissive, thus luring Petruchio in as he is presented to be a greatly adventurous man and he finds that in Katherine lies another adventure. Therefore, the play presents the idea that romantic love is often founded on selfish intentions.

However, we see that despite Petruchio’s ill intentions they share a love that goes beyond what was typical in Elizabethan times, a love more intimate and genuine than all others in the play. Petruchio’s means of wooing Katherine is very different; he uses plainer language and is very frank and through the use of stichomythia between the two we see a real intellectual attraction. Petruchio does humiliate her in their wedding, he starves her, denies her of sleep, however, in his soliloquy he states it’s out of “reverend care”, so we see he “plays a part like an actor until Katherine is subdued”, as stated by David Daniell. Through his actions the historical censorship and control of woman in contemporary England is evoked, yet, we see his intentions are not to hurt or harm her but to transform her into a pleasant woman who is no longer shunned by society. Also, through Katherine’s final speech we see Katherine’s true feelings of affection to Petruchio as she uses language of governance, calling him her “lord” and “king”, and she kisses him on the street disregarding what anyone else may think. Through the course of the play we see a real intimacy and love develop between the two and in the end we see real potential of them having a happy future, thus presenting another side to romantic love in the play.

The play also presents parental love through Baptista and his daughters. His character reflects contemporary views that a daughter was the possession of her father who would gain wealth out of her and this is evident as Baptista objectifies his daughters as something to be bartered, thus presenting a certain shallowness to parental love. Further, through Baptista, parental love is presented as conditional as he favors Bianca. As a commodity on the marriage market, Katherine is considered unvendible as her scolding tongue is a threat to patriarchal discourse and so Baptista is careless in his treatment of her, which juxtaposes with his treatment of Bianca, as Bianca is praised due to her silence and is therefore characterized as a precious commodity, and so she is loved which is evident through his references to her; “my child”, “poor child”, as opposed to Katherine whom he calls “devilish spirit”. Therefore, parental love is seen as conditional as Bianca, who fits into the expectations of an Elizabethan woman, is given love and care, while Katherine, who does not meet those expectations, is not.

Moreover, as in King Lear, Shakespeare dwells on the idea of ungrateful children and wronged fathers. In contemporary times a man’s honor greatly lay in his daughters and in him being able to marry them off to respected families, but Katherine’s aggressive behavior means she is unwanted and this prevents Baptista from not only marrying Katherine off, but also from marrying Bianca off, due to Elizabethan customs that state that the oldest must marry first. This causes Baptista clear distress captured through the rhetorical question, “was ever a gentleman as grieved as I?” which evokes the great pressure he feels as a result of Katherine, making us question whether it is a lack of filial love on Katherine’s part that is the problem. The play thus highlights the importance of respect and filial duty in Elizabethan times to maintain order.

Platonic love is also seen in the play through Lucentio and Tranio, master and servant. Despite Tranio being lower in the societal hierarchy, as Lucentio’s servant, they have mutual respect and we see them as friends, which distorts the conventional master servant relationship. Their friendship transcends societal expectations and goes against a certain order that was typically so rigidly followed, and this is highlighted as they switch identities, with Tranio taking on the role of Lucentio- a visual representation of their transcendence. This presents their strong platonic love, a love that is genuine and makes social positions and labels irrelevant.

In conclusion, the play is almost governed by love in its many forms, as we see it is love that defines the plot, and subplots, as we see all characters to be part of some form of love in the play, and so the play brings into question and analyzes the different forms of it.

Baptista’s Lack of Authority: A Character Analysis of a Faltering Father

The wealthy Baptista Minola of Padua, Italy is one of the most prideful characters in William Shakespeare’s comedy The Taming of Shrew. Baptista’s pride stems from his large estate and untaken daughters who will inherit his capital, assets of which he misuses in attempt to become a more influential and powerful character. Baptista attempts to gain power by using his position of fatherhood and wealthy landownership by telling Bianca’s two suitors “not to bestow [his] youngest daughter before [he had] a husband for the elder” (1.1.50-54) to obtain control over others and their actions. By dictating the actions of others, Baptista is encouraged to believe that he is a multifaceted figure of authority. Conversely, many characters deceive Baptista out of his authority by admittedly “Bend[ing] thoughts and wits to achieve [Baptista’s daughters]” (1.1.181), thus belittling his actual power and influence. Therefore, while Baptista Minola may assert himself to be the most powerful figure in his society, he is unveiled to be less powerful than he deems himself to be.

Lucentio’s success in deceiving Baptista demonstrates Baptista to be less powerful than he believes. Upon overhearing Baptista’s rules regarding his daughters, Lucentio and Tranio immediately disregard Baptista’s orders by organizing a plan to pursue the exact opposite of what he commands. Lucenio’s manipulation increases Baptista’s self-esteem by encouraging him to still believe that he has much control over his daughters’ actions. Nevertheless, the two clever men create a plan to peruse Bianca before Katherine by transforming Lucentio into a “schoolmaster [to] undertake the teaching of the maid” (1.1.196-97) while Tranio disguises himself as Lucentio. With this plan in hand, Lucentio hopes to win Baina’a love before anyone else while Tranio acts as Lucentio since no one knows their identities yet. The two men further deceive Baptista by giving the pedant “[Sir Vincentio’s] name and credit [to] undertake” (4.2.109-10) to fool Baptista into believing that Lucentio’s father approves of the marriage, proving Baptista to be gullible, hence ineffective in his supremacy. While both Lucentio and Tranio are well aware of Baptista’s apprehensions, both still decide to neglect his control by disguising themselves and the pedant to mislead Baptista into the approval of Lucentio and Bianca’s marriage, which prove the extent to which characters consider Baptisa’s power to be very questionable. Bianca’s rebellious relations with Lucentio further reveal Baptista to be less powerful than he considers. Once Lucentio had professed his scheme to Bianca, she continues to flirt with him in mentioning “And may you prove, sir, master of your heart” (4.2.8-9) as well as many other flirtatious remarks throughout their private tutoring sessions while knowing that it is against Baptista’s rules. While Bianca is well aware that her father does not want her flirting with anyone until Katherine is married, Bianca fails to dutifully notify Baptista of her private budding involvement with Lucentio. Moreover, Bianca later proves Baptista to lack power and control in not providing an obedient daughter who obeys her husband. When Lucentio later orders Biondello to “bid your mistress come to me”(5.2.82), Bianca directly refuses by sending Biondello to tell her husband “That she is busy, and she cannot come” (5.2.88-89). To all the characters’ shock, Baptista ultimately lacked control over Bianca by raising a woman who is noncompliant to her husband. If Baptista were as powerful as he deemed to be, he would have easily trained Bianca to be the complete dutiful, obedient, and respectful young lady that early centuries expected women to be.

Horetenio’s betrayal in plotting against Baptisa’s guidelines further proves Baptista to lack ultimate power. A powerful and influential character should neither be spoken-back-to nor questioned. Nonetheless, upon hearing Baptisa’s request, Hortensio criticizes, “To cart [Katherine], rather. She’s too rough for me…Mates, maid? How mean you that? No mates for [Katherine] (1.1.55-61). In his words, Hortensio perceives Baptista’s power as questionable by rudely criticizing both Baptista’s shrewish daughter and his outlandish demands, two assets that significantly define him and therefore is a direct insult to Baptsta. Though Hortensio eventually obey Baptista in finding a man to wed Katherine, he only does so that “Petruchio [could] do [him] grace and offer [him] disguised in sober robes to old Baptista as a schoolmaster well seen in music, to instruct Bianca, that so [he] may, by this device at least, have leave and leisure to make love to [Bianca] and unsuspected court her by herself”(2.2.131-38). Not only does Hortensio criticize Baptista, but also pursues actions against Baptista’s orders by creating a plan to woo Bianca in secrecy. This pursuit against Baptista’s controls is considerably worse than Lucentio’s neglect of Baptista’s guidelines because Hortentio is a suitor of Bianca’s who is profoundly trusted by the Minola family. While Baptista thinks that his guidelines make him more powerful, it actually instigates characters to belittle his actual influence demonstrated by Hortensio’s indifference toward Baptista Minola and his control.

The method in which Petruchio takes advantage of Baptsita’s daughter and fortune prove Baptista to be a weak character. Petruchio only visits Padua “to wive it wealthily in Padua”(1.2.76-77) hence marrying Katherine for the opportunity to inherit fortune. Nevertheless, Baptista accepts the first and only man willing to win Katherine’s love, an indication of Baptista’s desperation and hopelessness as a father. With this, Baptista may believe that he has struck power by getting a man to marry Kathrine, however he is proved wrong when Petrchio disrespects the Minolas by showing up late when Baptista “want[ed] the bridegroom when the priest attends” (3.2.4-6). Not only does Baptista have zero control of Pertruchio’s lateness, but also his wardrobe. When Petruchio arrives late to his wedding in an outlandish costume, Baptsita states to Petrcuhio, “[we are sad] that you come so unprovided. Fie, off this habit, shame to your estate, an eyesore to our solemn festival” (3.2.99-102), and directs Petruchio to change his wardrobe immediately. Instead of respecting Baptista’s directions, Petruchio remarks back to Baptista, “To me she’s married, not unto my clothes…But what a fool am I to chat with you when I should bid good marrow to my bride and seal the title with a lovely kiss!”(3.2.119-25). By talking back to Baptista, Petruchio straightforwardly neglects his power and acts as though he has more authority than him. Baptista was most concerned about being publically embarrassed by his son in law’s wild behavior and foolish wardrobe instead of having any concern of Petrichio’s intentions and motivations for marrying Katherine. In return, Petruchio resents his authority and finds Baptista to be no more than a token for his best interests similar to how Baptista only pursues things for selfish reasons. Therefore, Petruchio demonstrates authority over Baptista by not respecting Baptista’s authority.

Lastly, Baptista’s difficulty controlling Katherine validates his lack of control and influence. Under Baptista’s control, Katherine acts out of rage in swearing frequently, smashing Hortensio over the head with his own lute, and physically abusing the people who make her angry. When Baptista does attempt to control Katherine by commanding Katherine to stay where she is while he talks to Bianca in private, Katherine resents his control by replying back to him, “Why, and I trust I may go too, may I not? What, shall I be appointed hours as though, belike, I knew not what to take and what to leave, ha?” (1.1.105-07). While Katherine is evidently wild and noncompliant under Baptista’s control, Petruchio later gains complete control over her in a short amount of time. For example, when Petruchio commands Katherine to come to him accompanied with all the other wives , Katherine fulfills his request and further informs the other ladies that they should all do the same because “Such duty as the subject owes the prince, Even such a woman oweth to her husband”(5.2. 164-165). This speech of Katherine’s displays that she is unltimately controllable, but Baptista was just not influential enough to control her. Baptista never gained the authority over Katherine that Petruchio did because Baptista was too consumed in himself to care for his children properly. Katherine is obedient to her husband because he ”love[s] thee well in that thou lik’st it not” (4.3.88) and she is unable to be livid with someone who loves her. Baptista never told Katherine how much her loved her, which is why he could never gain complete control over her. Baptista’s ongoing treatment of his daughters’ love as a business disables him from gaining respect and control of Katherine. Since Baptista is unable to gain control of Katherine, she acts in a shrewish manner that men of Padua consider to be “too rough for them” (1.1.55), a factor that makes characters feel inclined to disguise themselves out of adhering to Baptista’s power.

Baptista believes that everyone highly respects him because of his wealth and position of being a father of two large inheritors. In reality, his power is considered uncertain by many characters that continually challenge and disregard his power in attempts to pursue their own ambitions. For illustration, Baptista’s daughters ultimately disregard his authority by instances of Bianca pursuing an affair with Lucetio when she was not supposed to, and Katherine not letting Baptsita control her by acting shrewishly. Baptista is further shown to be less powerful than he deems when Hortensio plans a scheme to pursue actions against Baptista’s commands and Lucentio disguises himself and others to trick Baptista into approving their marriage. If Baptista were of supreme power, he would have not been disrespected or deceived out of his power by other characters.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. “The Taming of the Shrew.” Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. (n.d.): 31-69. The Taming of the Shrew. Folger Shakespeare Library. Web. .

The Untamed Shrew

William Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew is set in Padua, where Katherine, the stubborn “shrew” the title refers to, is pursued by a bachelor named Petruchio who is in search of a wealthy wife. Katherine is known as the most ill-tempered woman in all of Padua, but Petruchio is not unnerved by this and makes it his aim to tame Katherine and turn her into the perfect submissive wife. At the end of the play, Katherine gives a speech that seemingly supports Petruchio’s idealistic values on women which may lead some readers to believe she has successfully been tamed. However, Katherine is not truly tamed, instead she has become a smarter version of herself and recognizes when and where she needs to pretend to conform to society’s standards in order to get what she wants, whereas before she would blurt out whatever came into her mind and often got in trouble for it. In addition, The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy and during her speech, Katherine uses irony to support her arguments, hinting that Shakespeare intended for it to be taken comically.

At the start of the play, Katherine’s bold personality and unwillingness to back down is distinct, but as the story progresses she learns to control herself and choose her battles wisely, which some may mistake as her mindset being completely changed. Throughout the play, she is constantly switching between acting obedient and being her usual witty self, alluding that her actual character is not changed by the influence of Petruchio at all, she has simply learned how to deal under circumstances. An example of this is when Petruchio starves and deprives Katherine of sleep for days as a method for taming her. As time goes by, Katherine begins to pick up on his plan and instead of encouraging Petruchio’s temper to rise by fighting back as she would have before, she uses phrases like “I pray you, husband” (IV. i. 168), showing her grown maturity to situations like these. This scene takes place in front of Grumio and the servants, so Katherine decides to play the role of the desirable wife in their eyes in order to make herself look better. By begging Petruchio and calling him “husband”, she makes herself seem like she is finally submitting to him and gives Petruchio the twisted belief that he has authority over her. This gives Petruchio less reason to lash out and Katherine recognizes that in the future she will gain from these actions, which ultimately does happen when Petruchio no longer prevents Katherine from eating and sleeping. There are also other instances where Katherine rejects Petruchio’s values, knowing that it will not hurt her significantly in the long run. Not long after Katherine pleads with Petruchio, she stands up for herself when she wants a cap that he refuses to get for her. Petruchio tells her that she is not deserving enough to have the cap, to which she responds “Why, sir, I trust I may have leave to speak, / And speak I will. I am no child, no babe” (IV. iii. 78-79). After Petruchio ignores her, she firmly announces “Love me, or love me not, I like the cap, / And it I will have, or I will have none” (IV. iii. 89-90), reflecting her beliefs that women should not be restricted by men. Katherine and Petruchio are alone with only the haberdasher, who is not of great importance in their society, as a witness to this harsh conversation. When in an almost private setting, Katherine is free to express what is really on her mind and does not need to act like she is submissive to Petruchio. She knows that at this very moment, fighting back with Petruchio will not do her much harm, and therefore uses the opportunity to voice her opinions. Although at first Katherine could not restrict herself vocally, her growing maturity and undeniable intelligence shines throughout the play when she manages to deceive people into thinking she truly has changed.

This intelligence is seen time and time again when Katherine uses her docile act to keep her reputation with the public in place and to gain some power in society. When Petruchio announces he is going to leave the wedding reception, Katherine fights back in front of all the guests saying “Do what thou canst, I will not go today, no, nor tomorrow, not till I please myself. The door is open, sir. There lies your way” (III.ii.214-216). In Shakespearean times, this exchange is seen as public humiliation for both Petruchio and Katherine. Katherine’s sharp tongue and Petruchio’s unableness to tame her shows the public what a disastrous couple they are. As their bond strengthens, Katherine and Petruchio come to realize that while they might never completely agree on anything, they are in an unspoken partnership together against the public. In a way, they are the outcasts in their community because of the one thing they share in common- their headstrong and stubborn personalities. They understand the importance of their presentation to their families, and therefore know how to manipulate people into thinking that they are a stable couple. All of a sudden, Petruchio is so confident that Katherine will obey him when he calls for her that when Lucentio proposes twenty crowns for whoever’s wife comes, he replies “Twenty crowns? / I’ll venture so much of a hawk or hound, / But twenty times so much upon my wife (V. ii. 74-76). This unexpected change of attitude towards Katherine displays how much the couple’s private and public life differs. In the safety of their own home, Katherine would never follow Petruchio’s lead, but in this scene Petruchio knows Katherine will assume her submissive wife identity because they are surrounded by other people and need to uphold a good reputation in front of them. By being the only woman who went to her husband when called for, she is given a position of power over the other women, something which she never would have had at the beginning of the play. She then uses this power to give a speech on the importance of women pleasing their husbands and includes many ironic references in it, suggesting that she does not believe there is any truth behind her words.

Katherine’s ironic wording of her speech indicates that Shakespeare aimed for it to be a mockery of the idealistic marriage at that time because she uses phrases and terms that are exaggerated and do not reflect her encounter with marriage. She states “And for thy maintenance commits his body / To painful labor both sea and land, / To watch the night in storms, the day in cold, / Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe” (V. ii. 164-167). Here, she describes how husbands work endlessly in pain for the benefit of their wives while their wives are safe at home, their only requirement being to obey their husbands. Katherine’s own experience is much different from this since Petruchio lives off Katherine’s money and does not do any work. At one point, her home wasn’t safe or secure either because Petruchio starved her and deprived her of sleep. Both these points she makes completely oppose her experience and add some comedic value to the speech, proving she is not being literal with her speech.

As Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew progresses, Katherine’s character develops from an uncontrollable shrew to a clever woman. She is deceptive in her ways and chooses when to fight and when to back down as it suits her. Her speech at the end does not reveal that she is tamed, it demonstrates her newfound maturity as she has the ability to handle compromising situations that go against her beliefs calmly. Furthermore, The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy and many of the themes in it such as Katherine’s speech are meant to be taken humorously instead of literally. This is another indication that by the end of the play, Katherine is not tamed, she is simply wiser.