title = To Tame A Shrew
papers = To Tame A Shrew
Does She Have To Be So Difficult!
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:
husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one
that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at
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
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.
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 those around them.
Katharina: The Acting Shrew
the performance done by the Sanderson High School for last year’s State UIL
One-Act Play, they chose to do scenes from Taming of the Shrew. This interpretation
of the play was an interesting one compared to the other interpretations I
had seen before. Instead of presenting Katharina as being tamed at worst (I
say tamed at worst because if Katharina was tamed, she would have truly lost
most of her spirit) or liberated at best, Karina Mendoza portrayed Katharina
as being an actress pretending to be tamed.
In the scene where Katharina
and Petruchio are returning to Padua for Bianca’s wedding, they are shown arguing
along the road, as to whether the globe in the sky was the sun or the moon.
Instead of realizing Petruchio was trying to free her from her anger and join
him in his witty word-play, and instead of giving up everything to allow Petruchio
to have full dominion over her, Katharina pretends to go along with him and
starts agreeing with everything he says. What Petruchio doesn’t see is that
when Katharina turns away and faces the audience, she rolls her eyes at him,
revealing that even though it appears she has conceded to him, she still retains
What also aids in this view is that when Katharina and Petruchio
arrive in Padua, after Katharina gives the above speech, Petruchio scoops her
into his arms and carries her into the church, all the men applauding him.
It is at this point Katharina looks out to the audience and gives the crowd
a knowing wink and signs the word for “Okay,” as if she is the one who got
him instead of the other way around.
I find this evidence plausible as well,
since it is difficult to see Katharina willing to give in to Petruchio and
find a middle ground with him, even if their aggressive nature is so much alike.
After all, if Katharina is just acting as if she were tamed, then it is likely
she would still have her shrewish attitude. If this is the case, then Petruchio
is in for a big downfall when she decides to remove her disguise and unleash
herself upon her unsuspecting husband.
Katharina: The Tamer of the Shrew
far, all the examples I have given have presented Katharina as the tamed, liberated
or acting shrew. I would like to present a different view of Katharina as
something other than the one being tamed, and look at a modern interpretation
that displays her as the tamer.
I recently had an opportunity to see a recording
of the 80’s television comedy Moonlighting, starring Bruce Willis and Cybill
Shepherd. In this show, a special was done on a revision of Taming of the
Shrew with Willis’ character as Petruchio and Shepherd’s as Katharina. For
the first part, this version follows the original Shakespeare text, with some
liberties taken by the writers of the show, showing some tongue-in-cheek humor
– Petruchio rides in on a horse with both of them wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses,
the saddle has the logo for BMW on the side, and Katharina has a closet full
of “cheap” vases to throw at her suitors. But, as the comedy progresses, an
interesting twist is given – beginning when Petruchio and Katharina return
to Padua for the wedding of Bianca and Lucentio. Petruchio is confronting
Baptista about receiving the promised dowry for wedding Katharina, and Baptista
demands proof that Katharina has been tamed, a part of the bargain for receiving
the dowry, because he had heard rumors that K
atharina was not tamed or liberated,
but that Petruchio was the one that had given in to Katharina’s aggressive
To prove he had tamed Katharina, Petruchio states to her the globe
in the sky is the moon at noon-time. Katharina turns to the blazing sun, and
after a few moments of silence from the whole town waiting for her response,
says “My husband, you are mistaken. For it is the sun. I beg you, look again.”
The shocked crowd turns to Petruchio who, instead of getting mad and threatening
they return to his home as in the other performances when they are on the road
to Padua, stares back at the sun, and says, “Why, you are right. How foolish
of me.” The rest of the tale ends with a variation of Katharina’s speech in
an 1980’s fashion – that man and woman are to be equals and should not try
to be dominant over the other, and that it was Petruchio’s kindness towards
her that won her heart, for she was still the same opinionated woman. She
states that what women truly want is for men to treat them with respect and
they will receive the same respect in return. In other words, Katharina was
not the one needing to b
e tamed, but the brash attitude of Petruchio.
Throughout this essay, I have presented four different arguments
about the subject of Katharina’s taming. In analyzing the text of the play
and seeing how different interpretations have presented the taming, I find
that I have to agree with two of the interpretations, the first that Katharina
is acting tamed, and second that she was liberated.
First, I feel that she
was just acting on the road to Padua, that she was still just pretending to
be tamed so she could see her family one more time. I feel this with how quickly
she changed her attitude when Petruchio threatened to return home and forego
the wedding. But, I also feel that her acting job here backfired against her
emotionally. When she saw that by being obedient to Petruchio he treated her
as an equal, she realized she needed to compromise her nature to keep this
man she was falling in love with, which leads to her being liberated.
Katharina is liberated because she still displays some of her shrewish attitudes
during the feast for Lucentio and Bianca’s wedding, when she drags out the
two stubborn women, who refused to come out when the husbands called for them.
If she was tamed at this point, she would not have been aggressive towards
the two ladies. If she was acting, she would have risked being discovered
if she showed herself being aggressive with the ladies. If she was liberated
and able to be as an equal with Petruchio, she would have acted the way she
did – aggressive towards those who were being stubborn about their husband’s
authority. I see it as Katharina was trying to show them that if they are
obedient to their husband, the husband would treat them as an equal.
find I have to agree with the Moonlighting version of the play, in a sense.
It has to be seen that if Katharina gave in some of her attitude towards Petruchio,
Petruchio also had to give in some of his own attitude. The attitude of show
respect and obedience and receive respect and equality, although carried to
an extreme in the Moonlighting episode, can be seen in all the versions of
the play discussed.
In conclusion, I believe that Katharina is not the only
one who became liberated through the course of the play, but Petruchio as well,
from his own super-masculinity.