The Taming of the Shrew Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In The Taming of the Shrew, is Katherine being tamed?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I took a slightly different reading of your question and laughed, yet again, at the possibility that it is Petruchio that has been tamed and not Katherina at all.

I agree that Katherina absolutely has altered her behavior and is no longer irate and ill-tempered all of the time.  Perhaps that is being tamed.  Oh, but I always enjoy going so much further than that by saying that it is Petruchio who has truly learned to love another and, through this intelligence, has been able to temper Katherina to the fullest.  Even eNotes summary describes Petruchio (at the early part of the play) as "slovenly and vulgar."  An avid description, to be sure.  However, by the end of the play (and even amid tests of her compliance) Katherina is invited by Petruchio to share in his jokes, such as "mistaking" Vincentio as a young woman.  Further, I submit that some of his tests are actually moments when he engages in word play with Katherina (such as the latter sun/moon incident) so as to make her an absolute...

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shaketeach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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torresleticia14 | Student

At the start of the play, Katherine had a reputation for being ill-tempered and aggressive, unwilling to hold her sharp tongue. Her fiery attitude can be attributed to many reasons, but, mainly, Kate does not conform to ideal gender roles of her time and that alienation does seem to add fuel to the flame. Her own father, Baptista, scolds her, “For shame, thou hilding of a devilish spirit!” (2.1.27-28). She is known to be a handful. Yet, Kate is under immense societal pressure. Suitors are uninterested in courting a shrew, and her father desperately wants her wed and out of the house before her sister Bianca. The one man who is up for the challenge of marrying Kate is not at all who she wanted, and is only interested in her wealth and the bet he placed promising to “tame the shrew.” But Petruchio is also the first suitor whose attitude measures up to Katherine -- that is, he was not stunned by her bitterness. In fact, he met her insults with compliments, and was just as aggressive with her as she was with him. Her temper does not scare him away, like the other suitors, and he assures her, “Thus in plain terms: your father hath consented/ That you shall be my wife, your dowry ’greed on/ And, will you, nill you, I will marry you” (2.1.284-286). Despite all, her attitude, her anger, her aggressiveness, Katherine still has no choice but to marry Petruchio. It is what’s expected of her, it’s the only way for Bianca to be free to marry, and Baptista agreed upon it. After being forced to marry this man, and dealing with the starvation, sleep deprivation and public humiliation he put her through in the taming process, Katherine has been stripped of all her power. She realizes she truly has no control over anything in her society. Her final speech, then, was her trying to claim back that control. She uses irony throughout her speech to disguise her cynicism. Kate says, “Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper/Thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee” (5.2.162-163), and while Petruchio was her “keeper,” he kept her tortured in isolation, in the name of “care.” It does not seem likely that she meant these words of affection for a man that treated her so poorly, especially for someone with as strong of a personality as Katherina Minola. Her use of irony continued to the end of the speech, when she said:

“And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,

And not obedient to his honest will,

What is she but a foul contending rebel

And graceless traitor to her loving lord?

I am ashamed that women are so simple…” (5.2.173-177)

The simple woman she describes sounds a lot like the Katherine who was forced to marry Petruchio, who swore she wouldn’t bow down to a man. She basically insulted herself, and doing so in front of everyone helped solidify that she was “tamed,” ensuring her husband won the bet. For the first time, all eyes are on her, and people are going to give her attention. She used the spotlight to scold the other wives, calling them “unable worms.” By talking down to them, Kate assert her position over them. She is now the ideal and coveted wife. This speech was more than Kate giving in and submitting to her husband to end all the suffering he had planned in his attempt to tame her; it was more a realization that the only way she can maintain any kind of control in society is by living up to the expectations of her gender role. She would rather have some power, even if it came from the assigned role of a wife, than to have no power at all as the beaten and tortured shrew of Padua.