The Taming of The Shrew
Petruchio also represents authority when he attends his wedding in the most outrageous outfit, “… with a linen stock on one leg, and a kearsey boot-hose on the other,” He even arrives late, and this is his way of illustrating to Katherina that he is in control and not a single person can influence him. He defends his peculiar appearance, “To me she’s married, not unto my clothes,” this portrays Petruchio’s quality of being able to look beyond appearances.
His attire also serves another purpose; he is mocking Katherina by going against the conventional way of dressing. Katherina is appalled that she has been made a fool of by a man who, “never means to wed where he have woo’d”, even though he does wed where he has wooed. Petruchio has ignored social conventions just like he did when wooing Katherina. Some critics suggest that Petruchio in this scene is actually demonstrating to Katherina that she is the one at fault.
The words and actions Petruchio uses in this scene foreshadow his taming methods of Katherina, “I will be master of what is mine own”. The audience sympathises with Katherina at this point as she is forced to wait for Petruchio and then after they are married she has to plead with him to stay for the reception, “Now if you love me, stay”.
However, Germaine Greer remarks, “Kate has the uncommon good fortune to find a husband who is man enough to know what she wants how to get it”, Greer is saying that they are well-matched, which I agree with, however I feel Katherina got herself into a marriage which she now regrets due to Petruchio’s taming methods. However, she has not yet experienced Petruchio’s tenderness so her opinion may change. In the wedding scene, Shakespeare has set up a visual comedy with Petruchio’s appearance, which will gain many laughs from the audience and makes us eager to observe how the couple will interact after Petruchio’s bad behaviour.
The final scene of the play demonstrates Katherina as a completely ‘tamed’ woman, this is emphasised when Biondello calls in the Widow and Bianca and they both refuse to come, “That she is busy and she cannot come”, in contrast Katherina obeys her husband and comes immediately. She recognizes at last what she has failed to see at first-that Petruchio’s extraordinary capers mirrored her very own behaviour. Some critics have argued Katherina’s speech at the end of the play should be delivered in an ironic tone and is not intended to be serious.
Other critics suggest that she is simply playing along with her husband’s game, as it has helped her to find love and a place in society. In her final speech, Katherina suggests that women are physically weaker and dependent on men and the result of this is that they should be ruled by men, “To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor”. She also says, “Thy head, thy sovereign… “, suggesting that the husband is the ‘head’ of the household just like the monarch was ‘head’ and sovereign of his country.
She also makes reference to, “Such duty as the subject owes the prince”, which helps to reinforce the idea that she is his subject and he is her lord who will rule her. The impression she creates here is that she has now submitted herself to her ‘prince’ and has a lot of respect for him and is basically there as his ‘subject’ to do as she is told. Throughout this speech she is declaring her own and every woman’s weaknesses, “Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare”. My personal response to this quote is at Shakespeare’s time this may be quite true to some extent, however there are some aspects where the woman will have a little power over her husband and she can then use that in her favour.
I feel that Katherina has full knowledge of this as well ,but she has said it to convince Petruchio that she will not rebel against him and also to play along with his game. However it is not certain if Katherina has truly been ‘tamed’ or is just playing along with Petruchio’s game, I believe Shakespeare intended this, so the audience will have doubts about her future conduct and this becomes evident in her final speech. I feel she is just playing along with Petruchio’s game as to end his harsh taming methods.
The idea that men possess all power over women is also represented through bird imagery, which runs throughout the play. It is established when the two first meet and Petruchio asks, “… shall a buzzard take thee? ” it seems that this quote establishes the idea that he is her tamer who wishes to, “… curb her mad and headstrong humour”, the methods in which he uses are very similar to a man training a hawk or falcon. For instance, Kate, the falcon, has gone without food for over two days, “She ate no meat today, nor none shall eat;” and will not be fed until she flies to the decoy.
In addition to using starvation as a training technique, Petruchio also employs another method of obedience training, which is to deprive Katherina of sleep, “Last night she slept not, nor tonight she shall not”. Young falcons that continually resist their masters are kept awake and forced to comply until their exhausation causes their acceptance. One important thing about the art of falconry is that the bird must come to depend on it’s master, which is just what Petruchio hopes Katherina will do, however, a hawk is at it’s best when it is left to be wild and this also applies to Katherina.
The idea of disguise is portrayed through the changing roles of Tranio, Lucentio and Hortensio, these situations help to enrich the theme and also create dramatic irony. In the Induction the theme of deception is introduced through Sly. The presence of Sly encourages the audience to understand that Petruchio’s taming of his wife is merely a temporary ‘wonder’ just like Sly’s changed circumstances. However, there is no final framing scene, which involves Sly and so by the end of the play the audience have probably forgotten the theatrical induction and so when Katherina has her final speech, it is surrounded by the illusion of reality.
Lucentio disguises himself as a schoolmaster, so that he can gain admittance to Baptista’s home and woo Bianca, “And offer me disguis’d in sober robes”. Meanwhile Tranio pretends to be Lucentio and also attempts to woo Bianca. Hortensio also becomes a tutor for Bianca but is rejected by her it is at this point the importance of disguise is established. The most effective way Shakespeare demonstrates disguise is through Bianca and Katherina. Katherina appears as a shrew, “The one as famous for a scolding tongue”.
Yet as the relationship with Petruchio evolves, what is considered as her true identity emerges and she begins to become a more sympathetic character. Bianca’s situation is quite different, she is perceived as a sweet and gentle person, “As is the other for beauteous modesty”, a false precept, devoting herself to her studies and never wanting marriage out of life. However, once she achieves her goal, to be married, her true self appears. She becomes quarrelsome and apathetic, “…. she is busy and she cannot come”.
Katherina and Bianca are quite the opposite and in comparison, so are Petruchio and Lucentio. Lucentio, unlike the self-sufficient protagonist, Petruchio, has to rely on others to organise his wooing and wedding, “Assist me, Tranio, for I know thou canst. ” In the end, he is no match for the duplicitous Bianca he is united with, in spite of the fact he has acted the role of a deceiver. In contrast with this, Petruchio did not deceive a single character and still ends with a wife he is more than satisfied with, “Why, theres a wrench! Come on, and kiss me Kate!
” The protagonist, Petruchio is consistently honest about his motives and does not deceive anybody about his intentions. It is quite ironic that the one character whose behaviour is considered unconventional is proved to have been telling the truth all along and seems to be far more successful than the other characters. “The Taming of the Shrew“, is a significant piece of social comedy that has something to say about marriage in Elizabethan times and it does this through the contrast of characters and action in a very dramatic manner.
Shakespeare presents the idea that men are superior to women through the main relationship of Petruchio and Katherina. I feel Shakespeare illuminates the wrong done to women of his time. He does this by creating some overwhelming and contrasting characters, and some modern critics would say he was a feminist. However I am inclined to agree with this as Shakespeare wrote for ‘male entertainment’ and it is historically incorrect to regard him as a feminist. “The Taming of The Shrew” is his way of presenting to the men the errors of their ways and then shaming them into showing women more respect.