Shakespeare’s Preamble of Katherine and Bianca

The Taming of the Shrew brings out the comedic side of Shakespeare where irony and puns carry the play throughout. In my paper, I will concentrate on one the irony’s of the play, the introduction of the two sisters. These two sisters begin off with the elder, Katherine, viewed as a shrew, and Bianca as the angelic younger of the two. However, as the play proceeds, we begin to see the true sides of the two sisters and their roles totally turn around. I will try to analyze the method in which Shakespeare introduces the two sisters and how he hints their true identity and the events for the rest of the play during the first two acts.
Although even her father calls her a shrew, Katherine has a deeper character than the epithet would imply. From the beginning we see that she is continually placed second in her father’s affections, and despised by all others. Bianca on the other hand, is identified as the favorite, playing the long-suffering angel, increasing Baptisa’s distinction between the two. As Katherine recognizes her sister’s strategy, her reaction is as one can imagine how another would react suffering this type of bias for so many years. She is hurt and she seeks revenge. This is seen in Act II, Scene I, when Katherine sums up her own state: “I will go sit and weep/ Till I can find occasion of revenge” (35-36). It is an immature response, but the only one she knows, and it serves the dual purpose of cloaking her hurt. The transformation, which she undergoes near the end of the play, is not one of character, but one of attitude. At the end of the play, we find out that her negative attitude becomes a positive one. The shrew is not a shrew at all beneath the surface.
The play begins introducing Katherine with her father’s words of shame towards her when he offers his eldest daughter to the two suitors of Bianca. The audience is then given their first impression of Katherine from the Gremio, a suitor of Bianca, right after her father’s words when he says: “To cart her, rather. She is too rough for me.” (Act 1, Scene 1, 55) From here, Katherine is given the image of a turbulent, “curst and shrewd” character. She talks back to her father with total disrespect and shows her temper to the company around her. However, understanding her position, one does begin to sympathize with her as in a public place, where such passersby as Tranio and Lucentio can easily overhear, Baptisa informs Bianca’s suitors that he will not allow either of them to marry his younger daughter until a husband is found for Katherine. In effect, he is announcing that he wants Katherine off his hands. He then offers her to either of Bianca’s suitors. Katherine humiliation at this point must be extreme; she is discussed on a public street like an article of merchandise, which her father is unable to get rid of, and then offered nonchalantly to a pair of suitors who have already expressed their preference for her sister. Her image as a shrew takes a step back.
Apparently gentle in her behavior, Bianca is an unkind sister and a disobedient wife. She fosters her father’s attitude of favoritism for herself and dislike for Katherine by playing the part of a noble victim. Her disregard for Lucentio’s wishes as a newlywed leads to grim speculation as to what her behavior may be when they have been married longer. Ironically, as the play ends, she is more of a shrew than her sister.
We first see impressions of Bianca when she ‘humbly’ takes leave from the awkward situation of her sister arguing about the preferential treatment her father gives. (Act 1, Scene 1 81-84) She is given this divine image as bystanders like Lucentio speak words of: “O yes, I saw sweet beauty in her face, Such as the daughter of Agenor had”. This give the audience (those that do not know the content of the play) the misconception that Bianca will be the more glorified of the two and maybe as an example for he taming of Katherine. However, as the play evolves, we begin