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The Taming Of The Shrew
The Taming of Katherine
In Shakespeare\'s time, the ideal wife was subservient to her husband, and it was the husband\'s inherent duty to take care of his wife\'s money, property, and person, including both physical and moral welfare. If a man\'s spouse proved rebellious, he had the right to physically brutalize her into submission. This social phenomenon of domesticating an unruly woman as one might an animal was the inspiration for The Taming of the Shrew. Kate fits the stereotype of the shrewish woman at the play\'s outset and the Renaissance ideal of the subservient, adoring wife by the play\'s close, but her last speech as the final monologue of the play-rightly interpreted-undercuts her stereotype.
Even before his initial encounter with Katherine, Petruchio knows exactly how to handle her resistance. In a short monologue, Petruchio proclaims in great detail just how his unorthodox approach will work. He plans not to use violence, but psychological warfare. For every evil Katherine displays, Petruchio will praise the opposing virtue in her character-even if it does not exist:
"Say that she rail, why then I\'ll tell her plain
She sings as sweetly as a nightingale.
Say that she frown, I\'ll say she looks as clear
As morning roses newly wash\'d with dew
...If she deny to be wed, I\'ll crave the day
When I shall ask the banns and when be married" (II, i).
Petruchio plans to win this woman over by simply confronting her temper with flattery. Of course, the infamous Kate lives up to her reputation and is every bit as cold and difficult as Petruchio has been told to expect. After observing arguments, base insults, and even a blow inflicted upon Petruchio, the audience begins to lose faith in Petruchio\'s unusual methods. This extremely clever gentleman, however, will not easily give up such a dowry.
Still, he does not wish to waste a vast amount of time and energy on a woman that could just as soon walk away and leave him looking foolish despite his best efforts. He knows that, in order to tame her, he must first obtain her. Though little ground has been gained in the fight against her inflexibility, Petruchio, upon Baptista\'s return, tells him the outcome of his meeting with Kate. He speaks of a bond so natural and strong that they have agreed to marry on the following Sunday. Instantly, Kate recognizes the lies in his assertions and tries to convince her father of the true nature of their meeting, calling Petruchio, "...one half lunatic, a madcap ruffian and a swearing Jack, that thinks with oaths to face the matter out" (II, i). Though one might expect Kate\'s complaints sway her father\'s opinion of Petruchio, Petruchio adheres to his original statements. He discards her complaints as nothing more than silly falsehoods in a playful game: "\'Tis bargain\'d \'twixt us twain, being alone, that she shall still be curst in company" (II, i, 297). Even more incredible, Petruchio enthusiastically convinces all present of Katherine\'s sincere love and affection saying:
"I tell you \'tis incredible to believe
How much she loves me. O, the kindest Kate!
She hung about my neck, and kiss on kiss
She vied so fast, protesting oath on oath,
That in a twink she won me over to her love" (II, i).
To the delight of all present-except for Kate, that is-Baptista immediately gives her hand to Petruchio.
Soon, their wedding day approaches, and, as part of his campaign to make Kate realize the error of her current disposition, Petruchio makes a point of embarrassing her. Biondello\'s detailed description of the groom\'s appearance portrays Petruchio coming in ridiculous dress to the formal occasion. Through his outrageous clothing and extremely harsh ways, Petruchio blatantly mocks Kate. In the same way that Kate\'s loud and irritating disposition caused her family so much embarrassment, Kate suffers embarrassment at her future husband\'s inexcusable conduct. The way that Petruchio strikes the priest reminds all of Kate\'s violence toward Bianca and countless others. Though Kate never shows knowledge of Petruchio\'s intentions of taming her, she receives her first sample of just how difficult married life will be.
Now, under the laws of marriage, Petruchio has legal and societal approval to quit all previous games and, once and for all, put Katherine in her place. He does not
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The Taming of the Shrew, Love stories, Operas, Petruchio, Catharine and Petruchio, The Taming of the Shrew in performance
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