Tranio easily slips into the role of a traditional master and upper class gentleman. Tranio’s speech about how he intends to woo Bianca impresses even the intellectual, Gremio, who remarks: “What, this gentleman will out-talk us all! ” Unlike Grumio, Tranio is able to gain his own power and respect. He slips easily into the role and is able to wield the power and status freely. Although Tranio appears to enjoy his position, he always remains loyal to his master. When he plans with Baptista, how to win Bianca, he says: “Tis in my head to do my master good.
I see no reason but suppos’d Lucentio Must get a father called suppos’d Vincentio. ” Here Tranio assures the audience that he is still away that he is the “suppos’d” master. When Lucentio has secured his love with Bianca, he goes to share the news with Tranio: “‘Twere good methinks to steal our marriage. ” Encouraging him, Tranio replies: “That by degrees we mean to look into, and watch our vantage in this business. We’ll overreach the greybeard Gremio… All for my master’s sake, Lucentio. ” Tranio, like Lucentio speaks in the plural when referring to his master which shows that he also views himself, almost, as an equal.
As the play goes on, Tranio becomes more convincing as a master, and even those who know that he is not, start to believe in him. Biondello, his fellow servant, refers to Tranio as “O master, master,” even when Lucentio is present. Tranio gives orders to “his servant” Biondello, saying: “Sirrah Biondello, Now do your duty thoroughly, I advise you. ” Although he is still not completely confident in his role, ” I advise you”, he uses the title “Sirrah”, which him a note of authority. He does all this despite that fact that they are in private. Biondello also says to Lucentio, his real master:
“You saw my master wink and laugh upon you? ” Here he is referring to his fellow servant Tranio. Later in the play, Tranio becomes more outgoing and daring in his role as master. He says to Vincentio, his master’s father: “Why sir, what ‘cerns it you if I wear pearl and gold? ” In Tranio’s last moments as the ‘master’, he admits that he was: “Like his greyhound, Which runs himself, and catches for his master. ” This sums up Tranio’s position and the ideological servant idea that Shakespeare used. He has freedom, yet he serves his master out of love and respect.
Shakespeare also uses the idea of a servant-master relationship between men and their wives or lovers. He particularly uses this with Petruchio and Katherina, and Lucentio and Bianca. However, Shakespeare also shows a struggle against the traditional misogynist views of much of 16th Century England. He does this using Katherine at the beginning of the play and Bianca and the widow at the end. However he also puts men in a position of power over the women. In the induction, Sly asserts authority over his supposed ‘wife’. “Are you my wife, and will not call me husband? My men should call me ‘lord’, I am your goodman. ”
Bartholomew, his ‘wife’ replies: “My husband and my lord, my lord and husband; I am your wife in all obedience. ” ‘She’ knows the position that she is supposed to play and that ‘she’ should be totally obedient to her ‘husband’. It would be comical to the audience to see a man dressed as a woman swearing loyalty to a tramp. Katherina enters the play in an almost identical way to Petruchio. She physically and verbally abuses Bianca in the same way that Petruchio does to, his servant, Grumio. Katherine gives orders to Bianca, calling her “minion” and striking her. Bianca, like Grumio seems to encourage the abuse, saying:
“Is it for him you do envy me so? ” Katherina gives the impression of being a powerful figure and a ‘shrew’ in these early scenes and not a ‘traditional’ obedient woman. However, although Bianca appears submissive, she, through this, wields power and gets what she wants. “You do me double wrong to strive for that which resteth in my choice. I am no breeching scholar in the schools, I’ll not be tied to hours nor ‘pointed times. ” Here she hints that she will not be tamed. Lucentio admits that she has power over him. “While you, sweet dear, prove mistress of my heart. ”
Bianca is clearly full of self-control and she, at the end of the play, refuses to come when her ‘master’ calls her. She also scorns Katherina when she removes her hat at Petruchio’s will. “Fie, what a foolish duty call you this? ” Shakespeare uses Bianca as another threat to the ‘traditional’ ideology of male dominance. However, again Shakespeare fails to completely adopt this viewpoint of slaves breaking free and gaining their own power and respect. At the beginning of the play it appears that Katherine will remain independent, but by the end, she is obedient to Petruchio and does his bidding without it.
Katherine is treated just like a servant. She is denied food and nice clothes and she is not allowed to sleep when she pleases. She is kept waiting for Petruchio, much like his servants. The sun and moon scenes show Katherina stripped of her self-confidence and is forced to submit to what her husband calls her wifely and womanly duty. Her sister and the widow do not respond to their husband’s calls and Katherine is forced to “fetch them”. Katherine’s final speech shows her complete submission to the patriarchal system. She says that husbands, like masters are to be “thy governor” and “thy king”.
She also claims “Such duty… a woman oweth to her husband. ” She admits that she is willing to perform what her husband calls her ‘duty’. At the end of the play, it seems that Shakespeare has submitted to the traditional orthodox beliefs of his society. However, the ‘Sly’ scene does not come to a close and this loose end still questions the seemingly definitive conclusion, which was Katherine’s speech. At the end of the play, Tranio, the servant, still remains in an almost equal position to the other men and takes part in the wagering of the husbands.
The very last lines of the play are oddly inconclusive and possibly suggest a doubt as to whether Kate’s transformation is genuine. Lucentio in utter amazement, says “‘Tis a wonder, by your leave, she will be tamed so”. He almost seems to doubt that she could possibly change so completely. Throughout ‘the Taming of the Shrew’, Shakespeare makes clear that the “old” system functions, if with glitches, and that it is easy to fit into, but he also suggests that there is an alternative to the traditional roles of masters and servants, and even wives and husbands.