The Taming of the Shrew: An Critique


The Taming of the Shrew is one of the earliest comedies written by
sixteenth and seventeenth century English bard, William Shakespeare. Some
scholars believe it may have been his first work written for the stage as well
as his first comedy (Shakespearean 310). The earliest record of it being
performed on stage is in 1593 or 1594. It is thought by many to be one of
Shakespeare\'s most immature plays (Cyclopedia 1106).
In The Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio was the only suitor willing to
court Kate, the more undesirable of Baptista\'s two daughters. Kate was never
described as unattractive (Elizabeth Taylor played her role in one film of the
production), but was known for her shrewish behavior around all of Padua.
Bianca, on the other hand was very sweet and charming and beautiful; for these
reasons many suitors wooed her. Kate was presented to be much more intelligent
and witty than Bianca, but, ironically, she could not compete with Bianca
because of these witty comebacks and caustic remarks she made (Dash 830). All
of the men who desired Bianca needed somebody to marry Kate, as it was customary
for the older daughter to be married before the young one. Finally, Petruchio
came along to court Kate, saying he wanted to marry wealthily in Padua. It
appeared, though, as if Petruchio was the kind of man who needed an opposition
in life. The shrewish Kate, who was known to have a sharp tongue, very
adequately filled his need for another powerful character in a relationship
(Kahn 419). When Petruchio began to woo Kate, everybody was rather surprised,
but Signior Baptista agreed when Petruchio wanted marry her on Saturday of the
week he met her. Clearly, he was not opposed because he wanted to hurry and get
Kate married so she would not be in Bianca\'s way anymore. Petruchio showed up
to the wedding late and in strange attire, but nevertheless they were married
that Saturday. Petruchio began his famous process of taming his bride.
From the beginning, Petruchio wanted to dominate a relationship of two
dominating personalities. He sought to tame her in a nonviolent but still
somewhat cruel fashion. Petruchio\'s method of "taming" Kate featured depriving
her of the things she had taken for granted and been given all of her life, and
he sarcastically acted as if it was in her best interest (Leggatt 410). In the
name of love, Petruchio refused to let her eat, under the pretense that she
deserved better food than what was being given her (Nevo 262). Similarly,
Petruchio did not think that her bed was suitable for her to sleep in, so his
servants took turns keeping her awake and denying her the sleep that she so
desperately needed. When the tailor brought in what seemed to be a very pretty
cap, Petruchio refused to let Kate have it, despite her incessant pleas to keep
the cap (Legatt 410). Petruchio took the stance that Kate was his property, as
he pointed out in the second scene of act three:

I will be master of what is mine own.
230 She is my goods, my chattels, she is my house.
My household stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything….

Petruchio\'s words left no doubt as to his belief in the patriarchal
marriage system that existed during Shakespeare\'s time, perhaps presented in
somewhat of an exaggerated form (Kahn 414).
As tiredness, hunger, and frustration set in on Kate, her wildcat
personality began to weaken noticeably. Because of the helplessness of her
situation, she began to show submission to her husband. When Kate mentioned the
sun in a conversation, Petruchio absurdly disagreed with her and told her it was
the moon. Kate proceeded to agree with him, to which, of course, he changed his
mind back. Kate\'s response was that it changes even as his mind, and this was
the first sign of her submission to Petruchio (Evans 32).
Petruchio\'s actions were very extreme during the play, but as Kate caught
on to their role playing their relationship improved (Nevo 262). Many scholars
feel that, despite Kate\'s submissiveness in the closing scene of the play, she
would continue to be a strong opposition for Petruchio. Her representation at
the end of the play, however, is very docile and submissive. There were several
points in the play during which she demonstrated her new found domesticated
personality. Firstly, she showcased it by saying what Petruchio wanted her to,
regardless of the absurdity of the