The whole of this scene focuses on Petruchio’s control over Katherina, a complete transformation from Act 2 Scene 1 in which both are equals. Although we know Katherina is only joining in Petruchio’s game, we are still unsure as to whether she has been tamed and is now a passive, obedient wife. As the whole scene is based on acting, it is hard to distinguish between the reality and fantasy. I think this was Shakespeare’s aim because it brings in a sense of ambiguity, giving way for a range of contradictory opinions and takes on whether Katherina has really been tamed.
Some say she is being ironical, because she is satirising what Petruchio says. For example, “fair and fresh and sweet,” is another phrase she uses to describe the ‘woman’ they meet on their travels. She could have merely called he a woman, without going into such detail. This could be interpreted as Katherina going over the top and satirising what Petruchio is commanding her to do. Or you may believe that she has really been tamed and is simply doing as all Elizabethan women should do, be seen and not heard and do what they are told.
The climax of both the play and Katherina’s behaviour comes in the last scene, when Katherina delivers her final speech to the guests at Bianca’s wedding. She appears to have been tamed by her husband and willing to become a traditional woman. However, when you look closer you may think that the speech is another example of Katherina’s irony towards her husband and society in general. “To wound thy lord… blots thy beauty, ” she claims to both Bianca and the Widow, although we must notice that she herself is looking anything but beauteous.
She has been deprived sleep and is wearing the simply clothes that she has left because the Tailor was accused of making terrible clothes. So maybe she is being ironical because she herself is not beautiful. Another example is when she describes the women as, “froud, ” which means shrewish, knowing that she herself has been called such a thing too. She could be making a mockery of herself and of men’s shallow opinion of women. “Vail your stomachs, ” Katherina says and let your husband look after you. Accept your faults and his, but never argue back to your husband.
She wants women to lower their pride, but in the first meeting between Petruchio and herself she did no such thing. Instead she gave as good as she got and fought everything Petruchio said about her, “If you strike me, you are no gentleman. ” For people who believe that Katherina really has changed and has finally been tamed by the only man in the play capable of doing so there are also examples of this too. “Our bodies are soft, and weak, ” which is true because in Elizabethan times woman did not work.
Their place was considered to be in the home, looking after the children because women could not perform manual labour or learn, as it would infect their mind. So this references is in fact based on truth and could be Katherina being genuinely submissive to Petruchio. She goes on to say that, “My mind hath been as big as one of yours. ” She is admitting that she too was once a shrewish woman, who disobeyed her father and then her husband, but now she gives the impression that she is a changed woman and regrets what she once was.
Then the speech could be seen as a warning to the other women of what they are turning into and how they must stop themselves before the situation gets too bad. The final speech could be seen as Katherina finally conquering her problem of being unable to let anyone into her life. It signifies that she has accepted Petruchio as her husband and is beginning to show signs of feeling some kind of affection towards him, maybe not love, but something is definitely there.
Whatever is the true meaning of Katherina we will never know and this is why Shakespeare presented her as he did. He wanted people to question her motives and actions, while trying to figure out whether or not she believes in what she is saying. She provides hope for women who have been submissive all their lives, but to a gentlewoman is a constant reminder of what you could become if you do not take care of yourself and your husband.