Looking closer at Petruchio and Katherina, they seem to have a lot of things in common. Particularly, it seems, their bad qualities. Like for instance their violence. At the beginning of Act 2 Scene 1, Katherina immediately is shown as being very violent towards her sister Bianca, whilst she pleads her to stop “Good sister, wrong me not”. Katherina tries to bully Bianca into telling her secrets about her love life, which immediately shows Katherina’s violent nature.
This links directly to when Petruchio is first presented; in the stage directions it shows him hurting his servant Grumio: “He wrings him by the ears”. Immediately you can begin to see the direct correlation between the personalities. When Katherina and Petruchio first meet, they seem to have a battle of sharp witty puns, each trying to outdo the other which seems to show that their minds think alike in many ways. In Act 3 Scene 2, after the wedding, Tranio says to the other men around him “Of all mad matches never was the like.” Before this, both Katherina and Petruchio had been described as mad in different circumstances. Again implying that they are a good match, a “mad match” maybe, but that is possibly what makes them so good for each other.
Katherina is no ordinary woman. She does not care for things the way her sister Bianca does, and does not behave in a way that is expected of a woman in this time. So Petruchio’s attempts to woo her should certainly be different to the way Lucentio tries to win over a mild girl like Bianca.Petruchio is conceivably showing Katherina by force that he wants to be with her, rather than the typical speeches of love, for the typical women in this play. Petruchio does also seem to want to make Katherina feel good about herself, for before he meets her he tells Baptista; “Say that she rail, why then I’ll tell her plain, She sings as sweetly as a nightingale”, in order to win her over. Petruchio seems to be able to see Katherina’s beauty, even if at times he does not show this for the sake of “taming her”, because he tells her “I am a husband for your turn, For, by this light whereby I see thy beauty.
” He’s looking past her shrew like exterior and teaching her to change this and become the true beauty that he believes she is. What it is important to remember about this relationship, is that the play in which it is set is a comedy and often in comic productions, exaggeration in gestures are used to put across the full amusement value to the audience. When Petruchio is treating Kate badly, and abusing her mentally or physically, it is possible that this is purely a comic ploy, along with use of sharp wit. The battles between the couple are basically there to amuse Shakespeare’s audience.
When it comes to the wedding scene, it is feasible that Petruchio’s clothes are a way of saying how their relationship was not to be shallow or superficial. Like for instance that of Bianca and Lucentio’s; for they fell in love at first site, purely on looks, when Katherina and Petruchio got to know each other first, in a way. Petruchio declares that Katherina is marrying him, not his clothes, indicating that the man beneath the attire is not the same as the attire itself.
Thus, Lucentio, dressed as a tutor, cannot escape the fact that he must return to his true identity.By the same token, when Katherina plays the role of a dutiful wife, she remains, essentially Katherina. In Act4 Scene 5; often referred to the ‘Sun and Moon’ scene, it is often the opinion that this shows Katherina finally brought down and under Petruchio’s thumb. It appears in the text though that this is not necessarily the truth. When Petruchio tests her calling Vincentio a fresh “gentlewoman”, Katherina takes this over the top using sexual puns towards the old Vincentio, she calls him a “Young budding virgin, fair and fresh and sweet”.Almost as though she is playing with Petruchio and making him seem the fool. She takes it over the top.
It is also important to remember the context in which the play was written. Women were not expected to be like Katherina, bold and mean, towards men. They were expected to be mild, modest and subdued like Bianca in order that they get a husband. It was very important for a girl to marry and have children in the sixteenth century, not for love, but for money and political reasons. In order that they could ensure themselves somewhere to live and guarantee that they are safe financially.Queen Elizabeth was ruling England at the time when this play was written, so it is also unlikely that Shakespeare would write a sexist play likely to offend her in some way, in fact probably quite the opposite.
It seems that the play may really be a comedy about an assertive woman coping with how she is expected to act in the society of the late sixteenth century and of how one must obey the unwritten rules of a society to be accepted in it. She manages to make a compromise with the man who respects her enough to fight fire with fire for her.