by Chelsea Cardenas
What is it about Katherina Minola? She’s once of Shakespeare’s fiercest characters. From the beginning of the play, the audience begins to form their opinions about her solely based on the commentary from other people. Coincidence? I think not. Shakespeare is doing this deliberately teaching his audience to think twice before they judge too quickly. There’s a large contrast in the beginning between Katherine and her younger sister Bianca. Bianca seems like this quiet, compliant angel, while Katherine is the aggressive, angry she-devil. Later we begin to get a glimpse into the way Baptista favors Bianca and compares Katherine to her. We also start to see the ways Bianca slyly taunts her older sister and we start to understand a bit of the resentment behind Katherine’s actions. It doesn’t justify her childish tantrums, but it allows the audience to start to sympathize with her more. Katherine’s behavior is a very human example of “the best defense is a good offense”. Katherine attacks others first in order to avoid criticism and turn people’s attention away from her own insecurities at being compared to her sister all the time.
When Petruchio comes around he’s undaunted by Katherine’s reputation , determined to marry her for her dowry. To his surprise he finds someone who matches up to his own personality and is amused by her. Petruchio becomes Katherine’s second chance as he woos her and tames her in the most humane way; by giving her a taste of her own medicine. Petruchio throws tantrums that match the ones he’s seen Katherine throw and shows her what her own shrewishness looks like. She begins to slowly see and understand just how ridiculous she had been and starts to appreciate and respect her husband. Not only that, but she actually begins to fall in love with him once she finally feels as though she has found her place. A lot of Katherine’s backstory is an identity crisis. Her father wanted her to be like Bianca, society wanted her to be prim and proper, so she decided to be the exact opposite. With Petruchio she starts to realize the power a woman has as a wife when she supports her husband rather than resists him. She begins to understand that the more power her husband has, the more power she has, and Petruchio has no problem letting Katherine be a powerful woman. For example, in the last act, the audience sees that Bianca and Katherine have flipped characters. Katherine is tame and respectful while Bianca resists the authority of her husband. Petruchio asks Katherine to tell the other women why they shouldn’t resist their husbands. He never asks her to talk about her affection for him and he is pleasantly surprised as she gives a heartfelt speech about the duties of a wife and what they owe their husbands. This last speech demonstrates Katherine truly finding her place in the world and her identity through a marriage she didn’t originally want.
Shakespeare clearly makes many commentaries using Katherine’s extreme character and contrasting her with other characters. He makes a commentary on marriage conventions through the contrasting characters of Katherine and Bianca. Bianca is portrayed as the perfect child with tons of suitors lined up to marry her, while Katherine is the shrew that none would dare to woo. Bianca is wooed and courted rather conventionally once Katherine is promised to Petruchio. Katherine, on the other hand is wooed extremely unconventionally and forced to marry a man she doesn’t love, even though the audience can see the chemistry between them. At the end we see that even though she was courts conventionally, Bianca falls into a loveless marriage while Katherine ends up falling in love with Petruchio. Shakespeare uses Katherine’s extreme character contrasted with Petruchio’s rather tame methods to make a social commentary on the way shrewish women were treated at that time, as well as the way women in general were courted.
Shakespeare, William, and David M. Bevington. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. New York: Longman, 1997. 108-110. Print.
Shakespeare, William, Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard, Katharine Eisaman Maus, and Andrew Gurr. “The Taming of The Shrew.” The Norton Shakespeare. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997. 133-201. Print.
Shakespeare, William. No Fear Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew. Ed. John C. Crowther. New York: SparkNotes, 2004. Print.