Bianca is the youngest daughter of Baptista. At the beginning of the play, all the action centres on the wooing of Bianca, however this is not the case as Petruchio soon becomes the dramatic focus when he appears. There are many faces to the character of Bianca, as on the surface she is portrayed as being sweet and innocent, however, as her character develops and w learn more about her, we begin to see another side of her character. Although the plot of this play involves the taming of Katherina, the sub-plot of the play involves Bianca and the reversal of roles she has with Katherina.
In Act 3 Scene 1, we see the wooing of Bianca, which is in sharp contrast to the wooing of her sister Katherina. Here Cambio and Litio do not really have the upper hand, although they worked hard to exert themselves. Inspite of the fact that she is idealised by her suitors as a perfect, modest maiden, there are clear signs that Bianca possesses a strong will. For example, in her first 2 lines there is a suggestion that she will make her own decisions: “Why, gentleman, you do me double wrong/ To strive for that which reseth my choice”. she shows a sense of control and command in this scene as she is deciding whom to listen to and how much she will hear and learn, and this mirrors the control which Petruchio exerts over Katherina later in the play
. Also in this scene, we begin to suspect that this ‘goddess’ they see is not the real Bianca. This scene presents us with another example of the deceptiveness of appearances and it is ironic that the disguised wooers fail to look beyond Bianca’s pleasing exterior. They refer to Bianca as “the patroness of heavenly harmony”. A more prosaic reality breaks through in other ways. Bianca is shrewdly cautious about Lucentio’s intwentions as she says, “In time I may believe, yet I mistrust.” And at the end of the scene, Hortensio is decidely unromantic when he announces peevishly that he will ‘be quit with” Bianca if she casts her “wandering eyes on every stale”.
The first impression we get of Bianca is that she represents the typical ideal women of that time: she is the silent, obedient, beautiful, educated maiden who suitors flock to worship. She conforms to the Renaissance ideal of womanhood. Lucentio who says that he is in love with Bianca compares her to classical beauties, and says that like a courtly lover, he will “burn…pine…perish” if he does not achieve. She is however, fortunate as Baptista gives her the opportunity to be more educated than most fellow women; “My books and instruments shall be my company”.
Women had little or no liberation in the sixteenth century in Italy. However, Bianca is also given the choice of many possible suitors, much to the Baptista’s content and Katherina’s remorse. This also shows how liberal Baptista was, as it was very uncommon for women to be allowed to choose their own suitors at this period of time, their parents usually chose their suitors for them. We also get the impression that Biance enjoys getting the attention which she receives from males. She uses her sisters bad temper in order to gain some of this attention as she leads her on and as a result Katherina loses her temper and gets violent, making people feel sympathy for Biance, and hatred for Katherina.
We learn a lot about the character of Bianca through her relationship with other characters in the play. The relationship between Bianca and Katherina is crucial to show her character clearly. Elements of Katherina can be seen in Bianca’s character, for example, it is clear from her actions in Act 3 Scene 1 that she will do as she likes and will not have anyone ordering her around. Katherina is the ‘shrew’ in this play. She is named this for her foul temper, fluctuating moods and short fuse, “reknowned in Padua for her scolding tongue”. She is brought up as best becomes a gentle woman and her only flaw, although it is of a relative size, is “that she is intorable curst”.
This remark about Katherina was made by Hortensio, one of Bianca’s suitors, so the remark may be of a biased view, because of the spiteful contempt that Bianca has to endure from Katherina, results in Bianca’s hatred for her, also people who see Bianca as a good, virtuous maid, “for beauteous modesty” also dislike Katherina. Katherina is merely known as Bianca’s sister, not as a person in her own right. Bianca knows that she feels jealous towards her “is it for him you do envy me so?”
She knows that she has many reasons to feel like this which include the fact that she knows that Bianca has her fathers love, male attention and intelligence which she has a chance to excel. We also get the impression that Bianca acts sweet and innocent as soon as Katherina arrives, which immediately annoys her and makes her look lik the evil one, and by acting innocent and vulnerable, Bianca gins sympathy from others, as well as attention, which is what she likes to have.
Lucentio is one of Bianca’s suitors and is presented as the young Elizabethan gallant , idealistic but rather ridiculous in his romantic aspirations. Hortensio is on of the suitors who claims to be in love with Bianca, however, after many attempts at trying to woo her, he soon changes his view on love and believes that he will now be satisfied by “kindness in women” rather than beauty. He states that he intends to marry a widow. Hortensio sees another side to Bianca which Lucentio cannot see as he is disillusionised by her beauty. He sees that Bianca is using her beauty to her advantage and that she is just playing with him and Lucentio. He decides that he has had enough of Bianca’s games.
The relationship between Bianca and Baptista is a very close and strong one. We learn that Baptista loves Bianca more than Katherina. This is obvious, otherwise he would show her a lot more tenderness and affection. Instead, she says to him “Call me your daughter? I promise, you have showed a tender fatherly regard”. Due to the way in which Baptista treats both of his daughters so differently, to some extent, results in Katherina behaving in the way she does.
He pays so much attention to Bianca and fusses over her continuously, ignoring Katherina, that there is a sense that she behaves the way she does in order to get noticed by her father as she wants him to treat her in the same way but simply gets frustrated when he doesn’t and therefore becomes aggressive. Biance knows that her sister feels this way and uses this to her advantage in order to make her sister jealous.
Bianca’s character develops largely and rapidly through the play. She is involved with the subplot of the play. Shakepeare seems to insist that the scold can be brought into line in the taming plot, the opposite is true in the subplot. To begin with she is the silent, obedient maiden whom suitors flock to worship, however towards the end of the play she is no longer obedient as she does not obey her husband’s orders, which results in shaming him.
She is at first perceived as a sweet and gentle person, a false precept, devoting herself to her studies and never wanting anything else out of life. Yet once she achieves her goal, to be married, her true self appears. She becomes quarrelsome and apathetic, not coming out at the call of Lucention, or accusing him of simply hunting her, not at all caring for her. She becomes almost like her sister was. This is the opposite to what happens to Katherina, as she becomes ‘tamed’ after marrying Petruchio, and obeys his orders.
From early on, the playwright hints that Bianca will please herself, although she initially appears to be a victim. Like Katherina, she is mewed up and thwarted at home; but this female rebels by seeming to conform. By cultivating a silent and demure exterior, Bianca dupes others. It is noticeable that she says more, and speaks more assertively as the play progresses, providing a point of contrast with her sister, who is becoming less vocal.