How does Katherina in ‘The Taming Of The Shrew’ change and develop as the play progresses? In this essay I am going to be studying the character of Katherina from William Shakespeare’s play ‘The Taming Of The Shrew’. Katherina is a fiery, bad-tempered, violent ‘shrew’ that nobody likes. Men are petrified of her! Her sister Bianca has a great number of suitors and all the male attention. This includes her father who clearly favours Bianca.
We first meet Kate in Act one, Scene one, L.50-54. Her father states that no one shall marry his youngest daughter (Bianca) until he finds a husband for Kate. ‘To cart her rather! She’s too rough for me.’ Says Gremio, L.55, in response to Baptista’s suggestion about finding a suitor for Kate, L.48-54. This obviously shows he doesn’t like her much if he feels she should be treated like a prostitute, Hortensio then says, L.59-60, ‘No mates for you unless you were of a gentler milder mould.’ Obviously Gremio isn’t the only one who believes she is too ‘rough’.
Katherina then speaks and we begin to understand why these men aren’t too fond of her temper. ‘…to comb your noddle with a three-legg’d stool and paint your face and use you like a fool.’ (L.64-65) She says she is going to hit him on the head with a stool and paint his face with blood. She is living up to her reputation! It seems first impressions aren’t in Kate’s favour as Tranio, who has only known Kate a few minutes, comments, ‘That wrench is stark mad, or wonderful forward.’ (L.69) He is saying she is bad-tempered.
Maybe another reason for Kate’s bad temper is because of her jealousy over her sister’she has all the suitors, she is beautiful and it would appear that Baptista favours her. ‘…and let it not displease thee, good Bianca, for I will love thee ne’er the less, my girl.’ Says Baptista, L.76-77. Kate is quite aware of his favouritism and refers to her sister as ‘A pretty peat!’, L.78. Baptista then says, L.91-101, ‘Go in, Bianca, for I know she taketh most delight in music, instruments, and poetry…’ ‘…Katherina, you may stay, for I have more to commune with Bianca.’ Once again his favouritism is evident. He doesn’t invite Kate to go inside, just Bianca.
‘Why, and I trust I may go too, may I not?’ Asks Kate, L.102. Kate is obviously envious of her sister and would have liked to be invited inside too. It’s no wonder she is so bad tempered! She has nobody on her side, her father favours her sister and everyone appears to dislike her. Act two, scene one begins with Bianca and Kate arguing. Kate has tied her sister’s hands together and they are discussing Bianca’s suitors. ‘Of all thy suitors here I charge thee tell whom thou lov’st best.” Demands Kate in Lines 8-9 showing her authority over her sister. Bianca responds by telling her sister she is still looking for someone she likes.
Kate obviously doesn’t believe her sister as she replies, L.13, ‘Minion, thou liest!’ She refers to her sister as a minion, which is a term of abuse for the spoilt favourite child. This proves she does feel Bianca is favoured! Baptista then enters and shows his partiality for his youngest daughter yet again. ‘Why, how now, dame! Whence grows this insolence? Bianca, stand aside. Poor girl, she weeps.’ (L.23-24) Baptista calls Katherina a dame (madam) which is a term of rebuke. He then unties her hands and says, L.25-28, ‘Go ply thy needle; meddle not with her. For shame, thou hilding of a devilish spirit! Why dost thou wrong her that did ne’er wrong thee?’ It is starting to seem Baptista doesn’t care about Kate at all; he’s always too busy defending Bianca to even have time for her.
Kate then speaks what she is feeling, L.31-34, ‘What, will you not suffer me? Nay, now I see she is your treasure, she must have a husband, I must dance barefoot on her wedding day and, for your love to her, lead apes in hell.’ Kate’s jealousy is shown here, and it seems she is also jealous of all the suitors Bianca has as well as their father’s attention. When she talks about dancing alone on her sisters wedding day she is talking about the behaviour traditionally expected of an older, unmarried sister. The mention of leading apes in hell is referring to the lot of women who die old unmarried maids. Katherina then exits the scene.
This is when Petruchio enters. He introduces himself to Baptista firstly and then checks what he will get for marrying Katherina. ‘…if I get your daughter’s love, what dowry shall I have with her to wife?’ (L.118-199) He’s making sure marrying this bad-tempered shrew he has heard about is worth his while. Hortensio, disguised as Litio, then enters the scene with his head bleeding. He explains Kate hit him with his instrument!
‘I love her ten times more than e’er I did.’ Says Petruchio, L.160. ‘O how I long to have some chat with her.’ Kate’s fiery temper has made him more fired up! Baptista then exits and goes to fetch Kate. When she enters, the two argue and exchange witty insults. Petruchio flirts with Kate but all it does is make her more annoyed and fiery. He twists everything she says and is full of quick-witted, sexual and sarcastic replies. Kate probably feels quite intimidated which may be another reason why she dislikes him. She is also, most likely, quite shocked to have some male attention for once, despite the fact she is being her usual self and insulting him, which usually the men are frightened of and end up disliking her.