The method Petruchio uses to tame his shrew, Katherina, to put it simply, is reverse psychology, along with starving her and not allowing her to sleep until she acts like a proper lady. His strategy is basic, but his plan takes time to bring about results. During act two scene one, Petruchio outlines his plan to Baptista. He states that he will say the opposite of what Kate does. “Say that she rail, why then I’ll tell her plain she sings as sweetly as a nightingale.” This is called reverse psychology.
At the beginning of act three scene two, it is Katherina’s appointed wedding day and her father, Baptista, is seen worrying that Petruchio, the groom to be, will not turn up. It is threatening to become very embarrassing for both Katherina and her whole family. Katherine fears she will become a laughing stock. “Now must the world point at poor Katherine.” Much later, after Katherina has already left, Petruchio arrives.
He is dressed in tattered and torn clothes, riding upon a sick horse. He looks more like a poor beggar than a man about to be married. This too is part of Petruchio’s many step plan to tame the shrew. By turning up late, it threatens to embarrass Katherina on her wedding day in front of all that know her. So, Petruchio changes Katherina from a reluctant bride to one who only wishes for her groom to show up. This is a brilliant move. Petruchio refuses to change his clothes. He uses the excuse that there is no time and that he has been away from his bride too long. “But where is Kate? I stay too long from her.”
In the middle of Act three scene two, Tranio starts to work out Petruchio’s plan. “He hath some meaning in his mad attire”. Petruchio makes a mockery of the wedding ceremony, knocking the bible out of the priest’s hand when smacking him in the face. He throws wine at one of the clergy and loudly kisses Katherina on the mouth. As soon as the ceremony, if it could be called that, is over he states that although the guests assumed that he would stay for the party, he has to leave. This too is part of his plan to tame Katherine. She is shocked and upset by the news of him leaving before the party and asks if she can entreat him to stay. “Let me entreat you”.
This is very polite and is not the language that a shrew would use. So, the taming process has obviously started to take effect. When her efforts to entreat Petruchio to stay fail, she relies on his love for her to keep him at the party. When this too fails, she returns to her shrewish ways and affirms that she will not leave until she pleases herself. “Nay then, do what thou canst, I will not go today, no, nor tomorrow, not till I please myself.” Kate goes onto say that the guest shall go forward to the bridal dinner. By this she means that she will join them, but Petruchio takes this very literally and acts as if he is only doing what Katherine wishes.
“They shall go forward, Kate, at thy command.” He assumes that she will be joining him and not their guests. He takes Kate away as if he is protecting her from the guests that may force her to attend her party, even though it is at the party that Kate wishes to be and not with Petruchio. Kate is dumbfounded and cannot say anything, because Petruchio, it seems, is doing this all for her. This too is part of Petruchio’s plan to tame Katherina. He is reacting and acting in the opposite way to which Katherina would expect him to act.
When speaking to the guests, Petruchio refers to Kate as his possession. “She is my goods, my chattels, she is my house, my household stuff…” “…my any thing.” This gives the idea that Katherina is not a person and cannot think for herself. She is just one of Petruchio’s possessions. In the beginning of Act four scene one, Grumio tells Curtis of how Kate’s horse fell and she fell underneath the horse and was covered in mud. Petruchio, who was there at the time, did nothing to help poor Katherina, but instead beat up Grumio because the horse had stumbled. Katherine went to pull her husband off Grumio. Petruchio swore and Katherine prayed. Perhaps this might also be part of Petruchio’s plan. Curtis states that according to what Grumio just told him, Petruchio is more of a shrew than Katherina. “By this reckoning he is more shrew than she.”
Of the pair, one has to be responsible and sensible and since Petruchio is acting so shrewish, Katherina feels that she has to be the responsible and sensible one. This is part of Petruchio’s taming process. At the beginning of Act four scene three, Katherina is complaining to Grumio about the way Petruchio is treating her. “The more my wrong, the more his spite appears. What, did he marry me to famish me?” “I am starved for meat, giddy for lack of sleep.” To this, Grumio replies with an offer of meat and when she accepts he decides she should not have it because it is too choleric. Grumio obviously knows Petruchio’s plan. Katherina becomes fed up with Grumio and his nonsense and sends him away, just as Petruchio and Hortensio enter.
Petruchio brings meat for Katherina and she quickly eats it with Hortensio. When they have finished, Petruchio tells Katherine that they should leave to her father’s house and dress in fine clothes. When the tailor comes, he brings with him a cap for Katherina, which she likes but Petruchio does not. “Fie, fie, ’tis lewd and filthy.’ He asks for a bigger cap but Katherina refuses to have it any bigger saying that it is fashionable. “This doth fit the time, and gentlewomen wear such caps as these.” She is using proper language and referring to herself as a gentlewoman. Therefore Petruchio’s plan is working. Yet Petruchio does not believe she is gentle yet. “When you are gentle, you shall have one too, and not till then.” This is too much for Katherine and she finally speaks her mind, telling Petruchio that she is not a child and that she is angry and if she doesn’t anything her heart will break.
It goes on and Petruchio pretends he has selective hearing to what Katherine says. She is obviously angry with him yet he pretends to think that she is angry with the tailor and when the tailor corrects him, he scolds at him and calls him names. “Thou liest, thou thread, thou thimble, thou flea, thou nit, thou winter-cricket thou!” Petruchio tells Kate that they should go to her father’s house first by horse and when they arrive at a certain point, they shall go on by foot and arrive at the destination by dinner time. Katherina does not want to do as Petruchio asks and Petruchio becomes mad and orders that she do what he says.
During Act four scene five, Katherine and Petruchio bicker about whether it is the moon or the sun that shines brightly. “I say it is the moon that shines so bright.” Hortensio advises Katherina to agree with Petruchio or else they will never leave. So Katherina agrees with Petruchio that it is the moon that shines brightly and Petruchio changes his mind and says that it is the sun that shines brightly, so Katherine agrees to this as well. She does not put up a fight and argue any further with Petruchio and she does not become angry or frustrated with him when he changes his opinion, so perhaps she is tamed, or at least she is showing all the signs of being tamed.
During Act Five Scene One, Katherina asks her husbands permission to follow the others and he allows her to on the condition that she kisses him. When she refuses, he asks if she is ashamed of him. “What, in the midst of the street?” “What, art thou ashamed of me?” Katherine of course answers ‘no’ and states that Got forbids it and that she is only ashamed to kiss. So, Petruchio proclaims that they shall return home, so Katherina gives in and agrees to kiss Petruchio. He replies with a combination of two proverbs, ‘Better late than never’ and ‘ It is never too late to mend.’ “Better once than never, for never too late.” At some point near the end of Act Five Scene Two, Katherina gives her final speech which is addressed to the audience as well as the husbands, but is mainly directed towards the wives of the husbands.