Explain the irony in the following quote from The Taming of the Shrew.
"If either of you both love Katharina,
Because I know you well, and love you well,
Leave shall you have to court her at your pleasure."
(Baptista - I.i.52-54)
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This is our first introduction to Baptista and his two daughters, Katharina and Bianca. We can sympathise with Baptista - he has two beautiful daughters, but one, Katharina, is so shrewish that no suitor will spend any time with her. The other, Bianca, is lovely and meek, as a young girl should be, and obviously has a number of suitors. Baptista looks as if he is doomed to be stuck with Katharina for the rest of his life, and thus he engineers a plan to try to ensure that he marries off both of his daughters, rather than just the kinder, more pleasant one. Thus the quote you have highlighted expresses his plan: he will only allow Bianca to marry once Katharina is safely married. Ironically, he then says to the suitors of Bianca, Gremio and Hortensio, that if they "love" Katharina, they have their leave to "court" her. This kind offer on the part of Baptista is quickly rejected by Gremio and Hortensio, who clearly prefer Bianca, and thus are scared off by the decree that Baptista makes.
Thus the situation is ironic as Baptista must know that the two suitors are highly unlikely to marry Katharina--she is far too waspish and shrewish to attract them, thus setting the stage for the rest of the play and Petruchio's conquest of "the shrew."
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