To Tame A Shrew

In Shakespeare\'s Taming of the Shrew,
one topic that has been debated, interpreted, discussed, reinterpreted and
adapted into different forms has been the character of Katharina, the shrew,
and whether she was tamed, liberated, or just a good enough actress to make
everyone think she was in fact, tamed. In this essay, I will present arguments
for and against each of these points, as well as discuss one television adaptation
of Taming of the Shrew that presents Katharina not as the expected shrew, but
as Petruchio\'s tamer.

Katharina: The Whipped Shrew

There is evidence
that supports Katharina was tamed by Petruchio. For instance, in the opening
of the play, Katharina is very vocal and aggressive. Men, women and children
trembled whenever she came around, including her father and sister. By the
end of the play, however, she is presented as being mild and submissive to
Petruchio, leading up to her greatest speech in the dialogue of the play:
Thy
husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one
that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful
labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst
thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at
thy hands
But love, fair looks and true obedience;
Too little payment
for so great a debt. (5.2.146-154)
In looking at this outtake of Katharina\'s
speech, it can be seen that she has been tamed by Petruchio\'s actions throughout
the first four acts. It is difficult to take Katharina\'s message here and
say, "She is still the same person." Her monologue reveals that she now sees
it is her duty to respect her husband and to be submissive to him. Her speech
leads the audience to see that this duty of the wife is one that is a repayment
to the husband for all the hard work he does to support her, a debt that the
wife could never possibly repay.
Reasons why Katharina might not have been
tamed can be found in the fact that the play takes place in what seems to be
just a few days. One must ask the question: Is it possible to cause such a
great change in a person\'s behavior in such a short amount of time as this?
It is very unlikely that it is possible, since Katharina, by the opening of
the play, is at least 20 years of age and is very much set into her ways.
It would take much longer to cure Katharina of this attitude problem she possesses.
With this in mind, it is very likely that Katharina was either liberated by
Petruchio in how to control her temper, or she acted as if she had been tamed
to get everyone off of her back.

Katharina: The Liberated Shrew

Since
it is not possible for Katharina to have been tamed by Petruchio in the short
time period of the play, it is possible that she was liberated by Petruchio\'s
actions. In the movie version of Taming of the Shrew, starring Elizabeth Taylor
as Katharina and Richard Burton as Petruchio, the ending sequence is presented
with the widow and Bianca refusing to come out at their suitor\'s request.
Petruchio then sends for Katharina, and with the expressions on everyone\'s
face, it can be assumed they weren\'t expecting her to come out either. Instead,
Katharina does come out, with Bianca under one arm and the widow under the
other. It was at this point she delivered her speech quoted above.
Now,
if she was tamed, it is doubtful she would have come out with the other women
in her grips. It is more likely she would have come out alone, saying something
along the lines of "Yes, my darling Petruchio, what can I do for thee?" Instead,
she forces the other women to be obedient to their spouses, still showing some
of the fearful aggressiveness at the beginning of the play.
I see this as
evidence that Petruchio has liberated Katharina in a sense that she no longer
needs to be brash and aggressive at all times, but more she can use her assertiveness
for her husband\'s advantage, and more importantly for her own advantage, as
when dragging in the two women. In other words, together, they made a great
team with Petruchio\'s great wit and ability to play word games at the drop
of a hat and Katharina\'s strong will and stubbornness. I find that they no
longer use these on each other, except for amusement, but to influence and
gain stature and control to