At the beginning of the play, Katharina’s character (without any influence from Petruchio) is one of a, foul-tempered, sharp-tongued women. This was infrequent for women and Bianca’s suitors tell one another “To cart her rather: she’s too rough for me. ” This informs the audience that when it comes to marriage Katharina is the last person on their mind as they prefer someone “gentle” and “mild” and not a woman who is “too rough for me. ” As each man is speaking negatively of Katharina, it suggests that she has a sense of supremacy which is aimed at men.
However, because no man has ever tried to control or speak to Katharina in a pleasant manner, they are then unsure of how she will react after marriage. Initially, Katharina’s introduction is made through the mouthpiece of the insignificant male characters; it is important that Katharina is referred to rather than seen because this then keeps her actual personality a clandestine to the audience and allows judgement based on what they have heard.This is funny because, Katharina behaves in the manner in which she is described, so the audience’s discernment of her “shrewish” manner pervades the play.
There is an advantage to introducing and speaking of Katharina first and in a manner that shows her as superior to many, especially men, as this shows that Katharina is a woman who is bound to rule and hold potency over her partner. This is because, if she can silence her father from speaking, she can hold control over Petruchio, “Why, and I trust I may go too, may I not?” Here, Katharina is telling her father that she is to be included too. The fact that Katharina is shown to have verbal ascendancy over her male counterparts is important because it introduces the common comic trope of cuckoldry – a woman was not expected to have power over any man, let alone her father! This is effective in foreshadowing the introduction of Petruchio at a later time, inciting the audience to think whether any one will actually be able to “tame the shrew. ”During Act 2, whilst preparing for Katharina and Petruchio’s first meeting, Petruchio tells us that he will believe the opposite of whatever Katharina says about herself, “Say that she rail, why then I’ll tell her plain/She sings as sweetly as a nightingale.
” Although both individuals stubbornly refuse to accept the things the other says, there is a clear similarity to what they say thus, showing how alike they are and the basis of their compatibility. At this point Petruchio thinks he has control over the conversation due to the way he speaks to Katharina in a mocking way.However, the humour comes in because actually, Katharina has the power due to her witty sarcastic comments. KATHARINA: “Asses are made to bear, and so are you. ” PETRUCHIO: “Women are made to bear, and so are you. ” KATHARINA: “No such jade as you, if me you mean. ” PETRUCHIO: “Should be? Should-buzz! ” KATHARINA: “Well ta’en, and like a buzzard. ” The narrative voice of this extract is sharp and antagonistic, with Shakespeare establishing the idea that his gender opposite protagonists disagree with one another.
However, it also shows Katharina and Petruchio sharing each other’s language, making puns out of insults and insults from puns. The first two lines sound the same due to the mirroring of the iambic pentameter, suggesting the beginning of the battle of the sexes: a timeless and universal tent of comedy. When Petruchio says “Women are made to bear, and so are you,” Petruchio could be telling Katharina that, regardless of the way she acts, she is like all other women. This stereotypes her to be a woman who bears children and follows her husband’s commands.
But, when Katharina says, “Asses are made to bear,” she is indicating that Petruchio is an idiot, who she has to put up with. This links to comedy because, she is calling him an ass, in Shakespearean era, a women wouldn’t have control over a man in the way Katharina has controlled Petruchio here. In addition, as a Modern comedy Petruchio would be seen as having control, his comment of, “Women are made to bear, and so are you,” can be seen as a sexual, making himself seem superior to her. This sexual element appeals to both cotemporary and modern audiences: the bawdier the better!It could also be heightened through performance, with actors emphasising the sexual nature of the lines through movement and gesture to highlight the comic effect.
However, Shakespeare’s presentation of Katharina could also be telling Petruchio that she can easily tolerate his behaviour and ignore him: he has no power over her. The fact that the spelling of ‘bear’ can be attributed to the animal is satirical: the character is bearable, easy to accept and get on with shows that the speaking character is like a bear; strong minded and unpredictable. However, the one being referred to as an ass suggests that they are stupid or are simple minded.
The pattern of rhyme and repetition is shown in a single line stretched between two speakers, so that the meter suggested by “Should be? Should-buzz! ” is completed by “Well ta’en, and like a buzzard. ” Thus Kate and Petruchio have subtly merged in a single verse. Though they don’t seem to get along at all, this cooperative insulting foreshadows their coming marital union, which takes place (offstage) in Act 3. It also suggests that, whilst Katharina is not in complete control in this scene, she certainly equals her male equivalent and the comedy certainly revolves (at least in part) around her.Act 3 is a turning point in the play and it also illustrates that this comedy is a deviation from the norm. Indeed, in most Shakespearean comedies the marriage takes place at the end of the place and indicates a certain resolution and peace. However, the fact that it takes place in what is structurally considered to be a pivotal scene suggests that this will not be a normal marriage. A Shakespearean audience would certainly have picked up on this, and would be expecting what is to follow to be somewhat unconventional.
Perhaps it also hints at the fact that resolution – in the true sense of what comedy meant to a Shakespearean audience – will be problematic for this couple. The outrageous outfit Petruchio wears to his wedding with Kate symbolises his control over her. Biondello says, “Petruchio is coming in a new hat and an old jerkin, a pair of old breeches thrice turned, a pair of boots that have been candle-cases, one buckled, another laced, an old rusty sword ta’en out of the town armory, with a broken hilt, and chapeless; with two broken points.” Simply by wearing the costume, he is able to humiliate her. Thus, suggesting that the taming of her has begun already.
It may be shameful for Kate to be marrying someone in such attire, but she knows she has no choice. She consents to let the ceremony proceed, even with Petruchio dressed like a clown, and thus yields to his power before the wedding even begins. The outfit also symbolises the momentary nature of clothing. Petruchio’s strange clothing exposes the importance of appearances in signalling social status and establishing identity.Petruchio declares that Kate is marrying him, he says, “To me she’s married, not unto my clothes” indicating that the man beneath the attire is not the same as the attire itself.
All control is coming from Petruchio and his simple ideas of clothing and being late. The main theme of this play was to overcome the challenge of taming the strong character of Katharina, which due to power and control Petruchio is successful in doing. In her last speech, Katharina says, “Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, Thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee.” The words, “lord,” “keeper” and “head” reflect the views of a marriage in the sixteenth century, using words of high prominence. The last part of her description shows the sincerity in what she is saying. The, “one that cares for thee,” indicates her acknowledgment, despite Petruchio’s crazy antics, that he truly cares for her.
If she had meant it to be sarcastic, this admission of being cared for would seem out of place and misguided. Although women are portrayed as strong and confident, who cannot be dictated, in the end, marriage is an eventuality.This is what happened in
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