illustration of Kate and Petruchio standing and staring at one another

The Taming of the Shrew

by William Shakespeare

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In The Taming of the Shrew, Act 2, scene 1, list words Petruchio uses to describe Katharina and explain how it is humorous.

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In Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, in Act Two, scene one, Petruchio makes a list of Katharina's charming characteristics. He describes her as having beauty and wit. He recognizes her affability and bashful modesty. He insists that she has "wondrous qualities and mild behavior."

What makes this so humorous, and ironic, is that Katharina is none of these things. Where she may be a beauty, it is only skin-deep. Her wit is sharp, but not to be admired as she uses her tongue like a razor. She is not affable at all, but very hard to get along with, and the words "bashful" and "modesty" do not pertain to Katharina under any circumstances, probably not even when she is sleeping. There is nothing mild about her behavior, hence her label of "shrew." One would be hard pressed to discover any characteristics she possesses that could be construed as "wondrous qualities."

Petruchio says:

I am a gentleman of Verona, sir,

That, hearing of her beauty and her wit,

Her affability and bashful modesty,

Her wondrous qualities and mild behavior, (50)

Am bold to show myself a forward guest

Within your house, to make mine eye the witness

Of that report which I so oft have heard.

Because we know that no one has reported the fine characteristics he lists as Katharina's, we can only assume that he is determined to marry her, and insists that she is all of these things to push his desire to marry her. He also seems to believe that he can harness her wild behavior.

I am as peremptory as she proud-minded;
And where two raging fires meet together
They do consume the thing that feeds their fury:
Though little fire grows great with little wind,
Yet extreme gusts will blow out fire and all:(135)
So I to her and so she yields to me;
For I am rough and woo not like a babe.


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