Who is the shrew?

May 27, 2019 by Essay Writer

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.

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