The taming of the shrew was written by William Shakespeare some time between 1589 and 1595. It has been the source of much controversy due to its apparently sexist nature. As one critic George Bernard Shaw, 1988 describes it as ‘altogether disgusting to modern sensibility’. It is; however, open to interpretation as to the extent of the sexism and whether or not Shakespeare was actually writing from a feminist view point. However it is that you look at the play it is Katrina’s final speech in act 5 scene 2 that is the crucial point where all other events, no matter how you interpret them come to a climax.Order now
All throughout the play Katerina could be seen as being ironic, generally submissive, genuinely in love or driven made by Petrucio. It is at this point that we see the extent of her mental state whichever way you look at it. The first way of interpreting Katerina’s actions is that she is being ironic and despite Petrucio’s efforts is never tamed. In act 1 scene 1 we see her contempt at the idea of being forced to marry as part of a business deal between rich suitors and her father “I pray you, sir, is it your will to make a stale of me amongst these mates? “.
Here we see her referring to herself as being a prostitute in her father’s eyes and get a taste of her disgust at the entire situation. It is therefore inconceivable that a woman so strong minded and so strongly opposed to this form of arranged marriage should really fall for a man proposed by her father as what is really part of a business deal. The exchange between Katerina and Petrucio in act 2 scene 1 could be interpreted as basically Katerina playing with Petrucio. We see a lot of puns and clever insults from Katerina in this section. Maybe she just thinks Petrucio is a fool and decides to make fun of him?
It would certainly fit in with what we have seen of her personality so far. Examples of this could be when she refers to him as a joint stool turd and as a jade sexless man. One interpretation of the play is that Katerina is playing with Petrucio and this could deffinately be seen to back this view up. Lines 209 â€“ 210 in act 3 scene 2 again back up the idea that Katerina, although now married is not happy about the arrangement. “I see a woman may be made a fool if she had not a spirit to resist”. We could interpret this as Katerina refusing to be made to look a fool any further by a man who is in her opinion a fool.
It shows that although she is married she is still the same woman and refuses to be changed by a man and quotes like this are important in making the audience question the true extent of and reasons for Katerinas drastic change. Another example of Katerina still not being willing to brake to Petrucio is when Grumio is telling fellow servant Curtis about the trip back from Padua in act 4 scene 1. He tells him about how Katerina pulled Petrucio from Grumio and how she pleaded with him to stop beating him. She also remains silent for a lot of this scene even when spoken to directly by Petrucio ‘be merry, Kate. Some water here! What ho! is just one example of Petrucio being met with silence when addressing Kate.
One interpretation of this is that she is not at all impressed with Petrucio and doesn’t feel that he is worth giving an answer to. Examples of Katerina remaining silent for extended periods whilst Petrucio is behaving outrageously are again present during act 4 scene 3. From line 50 to lie 60 Petrucio is being blatantly cruel to Katerina by having Hortensio eat all of her food and still she remains mute. It is one interpretation that Katerina is so overcome by rage by this that she just cannot find the words with which to voice her anger at Petrucio.
Act 4 scene 5 can be interpreted as the part of the play that Katerina really starts to bend to Petrucio’s will. It could however be seen that Katerina is in fact just going along with Petrucio when he says that it is night when it is really day ‘I say it is the moon’ ‘I know it is the moon’. to get her own way and not to please Petrucio at all. This is a view point further backed up by the hugely over the top performance she gives when addressing an old man Vincentio as the young maiden as Petrucio had described him.
This can be seen as a sure message from Katerina to Petrucio that enough was enough and that she knows what he is doing and that she can make a fool out of him as well. Finally, the key speech made by Katerina in act 5 scene 2 can by interpreted as hugely ironic. Firstly, it is a truly drastic change in the personality and outlook of Katerina and the idea of a once fierce and outspoken feminist now putting shame on other women not heeding to the back and call of their husbands in a serious manner is almost too much to comprehend.
Also it could be seen that there are hidden messages in the speech ‘and for thy maintenance; commits his body to painfull labour both by sea and land, to watch the night in storms, the day in cold, whilst thy li’st warm at home, safe and secure’ could be seen as Katerina saying ‘look, whilst he is away working and keeping us in luxury we could become his master as opposed to the other way around’. Another example could be ‘I am ashamed that women are so simple to offer war when they should kneel for peace’.
Again she could be saying ‘think about it, we can get what we want by pretending to obey these fools and in return get what we want for very little’. Another interpretation of the extent to which Katerina is tamed is that Petrucio’s methods of ‘taming’ were so severe that they finally drove her mad. In act 1 scene 1 we see Katerina as bad tempered and rude but we see nothing to make us wonder weather she is insane. We can even sympathise with her discontent for her fathers attempt to in effect selling her to the highest bidder which especially today would be seen as unacceptable by many.
She even seems very quick witted and not prepared to be made into anybody’s fool. Act 2 scene 1 is another good example of her quick wit and harsh tongue. This is the first meeting between Petrucio and Katerina and as expected she is not happy about the situation. Calling Petrucio a crab, craven and a coxcomb. This can be seen to back up the idea that Katerina is in complete control of her mental faculties. There are indications that Katerina may be losing her mind in act 4 scene 1.
Examples of this are when Petrucio refuses the food cooked by his serving men because it is burned and Katerina complains saying that the meat was fine. Although Petrucio may have been lying in order to prevent her from eating there is still a possibility that the meat really was burned and that Katerina was mistaken. Another example of Katerina acting out of the ordinary is on the way to Padua. Although it is probable that the reason for her agreeing that it is night when it is clearly day was so that they could get to Padua it is her greeting of Vincentio which puts the largest question mark on her sanity.
Although only doing it to please Petrucio she still goes well over the top by referring to him as a ‘young, budding virgin’ and needlessly elaborates by saying ‘happy the parents of so fair a child! ‘. This could even be seen as intentional cruelty towards Vincentio and by judging form Katerinas actions in saving Grumio from being beaten by Petrucio after the wedding it is not a common character trait of Katerina. These actions are largely in contrast with those of Katerina earlier on in the play and shows the possible change in character which she goes through as a result of Petrucio’s taming tactics.
Petrucio himself is even so shocked by what he see’s he says ‘why, how now, Kate? I hope thou art not mad. The final scene is probably the single largest display of the extent of Katrinas eccentricity in the play. Firstly she stamps on an expensive cap which she really fought hard to get as if it was nothing. Finally she, once ordered to by Petrucio, gives a speech to the other two ‘shrew’s about how they should be more loving and respectful toward their husbands. Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, thy head, sovereign’. This is a very drastic change in opinion especially seen as even as late as act 4 scene 3 she is still expressing her discontent for what Petrucio is trying to do to her and fighting his efforts to tame her. An alternative view point and interpretation of the extent to which Katerina is tamed is that she genuinely falls in love with Petrucio and by the end of the play is only acting to please him. We see that from act 1 scece1 she is branded by people as
A feind of hell and the devils dam. We are also given actions to back up this view such as how she hit her sister and speaks rudely to the suitors for Bianca. Especially seeing as at the time women were not supposed to speak their minds if it went against the ideas of their male superiors this would be quite shocking for a Shakespearean audience. One interpretation of the first meeting between Katerina and Petrucio is that she is straight away a lot warmer towards Petrucio than the other men in the play.
For example only moments earlier she had smashed a lute over Hortensio’s head simply for telling her that she mistook her frets. Now that she is confronted by a man trying to woo her which she was complaining about to her father in act 1 scene 1 you would expect her to be outraged. However she seems almost to enjoy Petrucio and the challenge which he presents. She is not used to people standing up to her as Petrucio is and also she is not used to People being this interested in her as Petrucio seems to e and may be flattered by him.
Although she does strike Petrucio she does let him hold her for quite a long time without struggling. Is it possible that her sole reason for hitting Petrucio is that he would hold her? Also when Petrucio is telling Baptista that she loves him and that she would only remain cursed in company she does not deny it. She only complains when Petrucio announces that they will be married that Sunday but once she has allowed others to believe that she will remain cursed in company her protests mean little and one interpretation is that she is aware of this.
Act 3 scene 2 is another fine example of evidence that Katerina has feelings for Petrucio even at this point in the play. For starters Katerina actually turns up to the wedding. This is significant because is the groom were Gremio or Hortensio for example she would probably have flatly refused to go along with it. Also she is very upset when Petrucio doesn’t appear to be going to show up to the wedding and runs off crying. Although this could be due to embarrassment it is also a likely explanation that she is actually heart broken.
In act 4 scene 3 we see signs of Katerina starting to possibly give in to Petrucio. We see Petrucio taunting Katerina with food and then having Hoertensio eat it infront of her. From what we have already seen you would expect Katerina to go mad at Petrucio but she remains quiet through it all and doesn’t complain. She may be starting to realise that the only way that she can get anything whilst living under Petrucio’s roof is not to go against his will. Maybe she is beginning to respect his methods of discipline?
Act 4 scene 5 is another sign that she is happy to please Petrucio at the risk of making a fool out of herself and at the expense of having to knowingly contradict her beliefs to please him. An example of this is that she agrees with Petrucio that it is the night when it is clearly the night. Another is that she addresses Vincentio as a young budding virgin and speaks at length about just how fine a maiden he is, making a complete fool out of herself in the process. It could be that she elaborates at such length to prove to Petrucio that she is truly prepared to heed to his will and to please him.
The final scene too many is ample proof that Katerina is tamed by the end of the play and that she is genuinely in love with Petruchio. The first we see of this is that she is the only one of the three women which comes to their husband when called. This is quite a shock to most of the men who are present partly because it makes her look the least of a shrew and raises concerns about Bianca. We then see further her apparent commitment to Petruchio when she stamps on a cap which she really fought to get. And finally in the speech she makes to the other women.
For many this is the overriding proof that she loves Petruchio as why would someone with a personality as strong as that of Katerina at the start of the play give a speech to other women about how they should act to only please their husbands unless she had been changed in some way and actually believed in what it is that she was saying. It is my opinion Katerina is not tamed by the end of the play. I do believe however that she is a changed woman and that the ‘Kate the curst’, devils dam of old is now if not gone completely pretty subdued.
I think that Katerina has realised through living with Petruchio that there are people who are just as if not more curst than herself and that being on the receiving end of that is not so pleasant. I think that overall Petruchio was quite a good thing to happen to Katerina in the fact that although she went through a tough time with him she came out of the other end a new woman and in my opinion not one who is just going to do whatever Petruchio says or be at war with him for the rest of their lives but as someone who can accept others and tolerate them as well as stick up for herself.
I think that Petruchio just wanted to see Katerina do something like make the speech and will be far more tolerant towards her in return for the tolerance which she gives him. This view would be backed up by a feminist critic of the book Germaine Greer who stated ‘Kate has the uncommon good fortune to find Petruchio, who is man enough to know what he wants and how to get it’. R. B Heilman who’s view was that ‘The truth is that Kate’s great victory is, with Petruchio’s help, over herself; she has come to accept herself as having enough merits so that she can be content without having the last word and scaring everybody off,.