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Taming of the Shrew'. Then I will conclude with whether I see Katherina
as bad-tempered or whether I see her as being imprisoned by society.
Interpretation of 'The Taming of The Shrew depends on whether you see
Katherina as bad-tempered and wild, or imprisoned by society
In this essay I will be focusing on Katherina, a character from 'The
Taming of the Shrew'. Then I will conclude with whether I see
Katherina as bad-tempered or whether I see her as being imprisoned by
Katherina is just like any normal Elizabethan woman as she feels that
marriage as well as being a wife is the proper role in life as did
other Elizabethan girls of her time. This has brought out a bitterness
in Katherina because of the feeling that her father Baptista has
failed her, as he has not yet succeeded in finding Katherina a
husband, she therefore voices her anger when she says;
'What, will you not suffer me? Nay, now I see she is your treasure,
she must have a husband. I must dance bare-foot on her wedding-day,
and for your love to her lead apes in hell.'(Act 2, scene 1, lines 31
This shows that Katherina would feel it to be a deep personal insult
if Baptista were to allow Bianca her younger sister to marry before
The first thing we notice about Katherina is that she is very
quick-witted as she insults Bianca's wooers. At the start of 'The
Taming of the Shrew' we also see that Katherina uses a very low
register of language, which are almost slang words:
'To comb your noddle with a three-legged stool, And paint your face,
and use you like a fool.' (Act 1, scene 1, lines 63 to 65).
This shows that Katherina can defend herself and that she often does,
which was unusual for a woman of that time because women saw men as
potential husbands and they would not answer back. Also men expected
obedience and submission of power from their inferiors, as they would
perceive their wives, unlike Bianca who is the ideal Elizabethan woman
as she is obedient to her father and is curious of her suitors.
Rhyme makes this speech humorous and encourages the audience to
sympathise with Katherina, which brings out and shows Katherina's
skill with language. This also shows that Katherina despises Bianca's
wooers as they say:
'She's too rough for me.' (Act 1, scene 1, line 54).
Even the men in the town think she is too much to handle.
We see that Katherina is envious of her sister Bianca as she goes as
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her love falls on the most:
'Of all thy suitors here I charge thee tell whom thou lov'st best. See
thou dissemble not'. (Act 2, scene 1, lines 8 to 9).
This suggests that Katherina is jealous of all the attention that
Bianca gets from her suitors and her father Baptista, as Katherina
wants this attention for herself. This shows that Katherina just wants
to be loved.
This brings out an envy in Katherina as Bianca has her choice of
suitors and will most certainly be married soon or later, Katherina on
the other hand, only wishes she was to be married as she does not have
a suitor who would be willing to take up the challenge and pursue her.
This shows that Katherina just wants what Bianca has and this is the
cause of her frustration.
'Enter Hortensio with his head broke'
BAPTISTA: How now, my friend, why dost thou look so pale?
HORTENSIO: For fear, I promise you, if I look pale'. ( Act 2, scene 1,
lines 142 to 143).
Katherina breaking the lute over Hortensio's head encourages the
audience to sympathise with her because of the humour derived from how
This reverses the traditional punishment for a scold as they used to
use the stocks or a scold's bridle to punish disobedient or nagging
women, and the lute over Hortensio's head looks as though he is in the
' And through the instrument my pate made way, and there I stood
amazed for a while, as on a pillary, looking through the lute'. ( Act
2, scene 1, lines 154 to 159.)
This shows that Katherina is independent and stubborn, as she wants to
do things for herself. The audience would see that she would not
appreciate a man trying to teach her how to play an instrument, which
is what Hortensio is trying to do.
When Petruchio first meets Katherina the audience see that she is very
KATHERINA: ' well have you heard, but something hard of hearing;
They call me Katherina that do talk of me'. (Act 2, scene 1, lines 183
This suggests that Katherina is not used to a man's attention as her
father Baptista does not acknowledge her and Bianca's suitors
criticise her every time they see her. As they get further into the
chat Katherina realises that this is a wooing and this shocks her, as
she has never been led to believe that anybody would marry her, but
Katherina does not show her disbelief as she starts to banter with
KATHERINA: 'A joint-stool.
PETRUCHIO: Thou hast hit it. Come, sit on me.
KATHERINA: Asses are made to bear, and so are you.
PETRUCHIO: Women are made to bear, and so are you'. (Act 2, scene 1,
lines 199 to 202.)
This shows that Katherina is starting to enjoy the conversation as she
plays off Petruchio's words, this also shows Katherina is very skilled
with language as she compares him to an 'ass' which is a donkey, this
brings humour to the play and the situation that Katherina and
Petruchio are in. This scene makes the audience identify with
Katherina and Petruchio as they may know people like this or they may
themselves be like them so they can relate to them.
The bantering continues but then Petruchio takes it too far as he
makes a sexual innuendo towards her that is referring to oral sex:
'What, with my tongue in your tail? Nay, come again'. (Act 2, scene 1,
This appalled Katherina as she can take most rude comments but
Petruchio's was one step too far and she strikes him. This is the
first clue that Katherina's behaviour is ironically a plea for
dignity, as she does not have that much dignity left because everybody
constantly puts her down.
This also shows that Katherina is trying to see how much of a
gentleman Petruchio is, as she is not used to the attention so she is
automatically pushing Petruchio as far as she can:
'So may you loose your arms.
If you strike me, you are no gentleman, and if no gentleman, why then
no arms'. (Act 2, scene 1, lines 219 to 221.)
Katherina's shrewishness is a role she has adopted in self-defence,
this shows when she is talking to Petruchio as she constantly insults
KATHERINA: Where did you study all this goodly speech?
PETRUCHIO: It is extempore, from my mother-wit.
KATHERINA: A witty mother, witless else her son.
PETRUCHIO: Am I not wise?
KATHERINA: Yes, keep you warm'. (Act 2, scene 1, lines 256 to 260.)
The reason why Katherina does this is because she is trying to protect
herself from the pain and the insults she has become used to from the
society she lives in.
But the audience see the first signs of Katherina being realigned with
the community when on Katherina's wedding day Petruchio does not turn
up. This humiliation causes the people of Padua to sympathize with
her, even her father Baptista pays attention and feels sorry for her:
'Go, girl, I cannot blame thee now to weep, for such an injury would
vex a saint.'(Act 3, scene 2, lines 27 to 28.)
This causes the audience to see that Katherina does have a feminine
nature and compassion for others as she leaves 'weeping' because she
is enraged and upset as she thinks she is finally going to get married
and her wish is ruined because Petruchio doesn't even show up.
The taming of Katherina starts when Petruchio doesn't even allow her
to stay for her own wedding feast:
'Gentlemen and friends, I thank you for your pains.
I know you think to dine with me today,
And have prepared great store of wedding cheer,
But so it is, my haste doth call me hence,
And therefore here I mean to take my leave'. (Act 3, scene 2, lines
183 to 187.)
This shows that Petruchio wants to isolate Katherina from the rest of
society by taking her to his home were the taming could continue, but
Katherina rebels from this as she wants to stay this is another
indication that Katherina is not a typical Elizabethan woman as they
do what they are told to do and not ask questions.
More indication of Katherina rebelling is when Petruchio is talking
'She is my goods, my chattels, she is my house
My household stuff, field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my any thing,
And here she stands.' (Act 3, scene 2, lines 229 to 231.)
Here he is referring to Katherina as an object that is his to keep,
but Katherina does not want to be his object she wants to be his equal
and be loved by him.
When Petruchio and Katherina return to Petruchio's home the audience
see that Katherina sticks up for a servant when Petruchio strikes him:
' Patience, I pray you, 'twas a fault unwilling.' (Act 4, scene 1,
This suggests that Katherina feels guilty as the reason why the
servant is hit is because of her. This is also another indication that
Katherina does have compassion and feelings for others.
The audience see that the taming continues when Petruchio deprives
Katherina of food by pretending it is not good enough for her:
'I tell tee, Kate, 'twas burnt and dried away,
And I expressly am forbid to touch it'. (Act 4, scene 1, lines 156 to
Petruchio here is trying to make Katherina appreciate the little
things in life that she takes for granted, he is also showing
Katherina that he is in control and he has power over her life.
Further on in the play the audience see a development in Katherina's
character as when she's talking to Grumio she shows her confusion, as
she does not know what she has done to deserve the kind of treatment
she is receiving from Petruchio:
'Am starved for meat, giddy for lack of sleep,
With oaths kept waking, and with brawling fed.' (Act 4, scene 3, lines
9 to 10.)
This also shows that Katherina is a lot calmer than she once was and
she now thinks things through before she acts and does not lash out.
This makes the audience sympathise with Katherina as they can see the
distress she is in about her situation.
Later on in the play the audience see how much Katherina has grown as
a person, as her language in this speech, which is almost like a poem,
is very elevated:
'Fie, fie, unknit that threatening unkind brow,
And dart not scornful glances from those eyes
To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor.' (Act 5, scene 2, lines 135
Compared with that of Katherina's speeches at the beginning of the
play which were short and sharp, also most of her speeches were
arguments with other people:
'A pretty peat! It is best
Put finger in the eye, an she knew why.'(Act 1, scene 1, lines 78 to
These short speeches show Katherina's anger at the start of the play.
In this end speech Katherina even used the rule of three and also
'Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.'(Act 5, scene 2, lines
162 to 163.)
The rhyme and rule of three in this speech makes it flow and makes it
stick in the audiences minds, this shows Katherina's intelligence as
she uses literary devices to make every body remember her speech.
This speech is also very disappointing as it shows Katherina has been
tamed and has given up the fight at being her own person, which now
shows that she is no longer unique and therefore does not stand out.
Katherina used to be a feminist believer but now she's just like any
other Elizabethan woman, she has also accepted the ways of the
Elizabethan times as she is now preaching about how a woman should
But in the end Katherina does still rebel, as she does not live up to
Padua's expectation because at the beginning of the play she is
expected to be obedient and not answer back but she does the complete
she is very shrewish, by the end of the play the people of Padua
expect Katherina to be the shrew that she once was but are all taken
back by the transformation that has taken place, as Katherina is now a
In conclusion I would say that Katherina was bad-tempered and wild
because she was imprisoned by society all through the play, in the
beginning she is imprisoned by her father in the sense that he does
not allow Katherina out of the house, then Petruchio imprisons her at
his home and restricts her of food and drink.
But she was also imprisoned by society as they either ignored
Katherina or insulted her every time they saw her, which made her feel
isolated, which also angered her.