The Taming of Katherine

1324 Words6 Pages
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... ... middle of paper ... ...etermination. The final scene of the play depicts Petruchio's final test of obedience. Confident in Katherine's level of devotion, he wagers against the two other newlywed husbands, Hortensio and Lucentio. The bet-testing the obedience of their wives-holds very high monetary stakes and important bragging rights. The clear winner turns out to be Kate. Not only is she the only wife to report when beckoned, but she also delivers a lengthy speech outlining the virtue of an obedient wife and the importance of the husband's role as lord and protector when she says: "...Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee, And for thy maintenance; commits his body To painful labour both by sea and land To watch the night in storms, the day in cold, Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe; And craves no other tribute at thy hands But love, fair looks, and true obedience..." (V, ii). Of course, everyone observing this incredible change in Kate's character is astounded, as she has demonstrated, most convincingly, just how effective Petruchio's work has been. And thus Petruchio's unconventional methods have tamed the cursed shrew.
Open Document