What type of language does Petruchio use to describe Katherine during his discussion with Baptista in The Taming of the Shrew?

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Petruchio certainly tries to charm Baptista during his first meeting at the beginning of Act 2, using the overtly flattering language to describe Katherine . Of course, Baptista is not entirely fooled because he knows that Katherine’s negative reputation precedes her, yet he still allows Petruchio to try and convince...

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Petruchio certainly tries to charm Baptista during his first meeting at the beginning of Act 2, using the overtly flattering language to describe Katherine. Of course, Baptista is not entirely fooled because he knows that Katherine’s negative reputation precedes her, yet he still allows Petruchio to try and convince him to grant marriage to Katherine.

Baptista insists later in the scene that Petruchio must have Katherine’s love, a statement that shows Baptista is not fleeced by Petruchio’s charm. At this, Petruchio drops his false flattery, insisting that he is Katherine’s equal when he says:

"I am as peremptory as she is proud-minded;

And where two raging fires meet together,

They do consume the thing that feeds their fury . . .

For I am rough and woo not like a babe" (2.1.124-130).

This shows that Petruchio understands Katherine’s true reputation, thereby contradicting his earlier characterization of her as mild. Baptista responds by wishing Petruchio good luck, warning him to be prepared for abusive language from Katherine.

This indicates that Baptista certainly knows Petruchio is just trying to charm him. However, rather than be offended, Baptista sees this as evidence of Petruchio’s willingness to overlook Katherine’s many flaws. Desperate for his older daughter to find a suitable husband, he is willing to accept an offer from any suitor bold enough to try courting her.

Therefore, what begins as a conversation based on artifice becomes an honest discussion of the reality of Katherine’s resistance to courtship. Nevertheless, Baptista encourages Petruchio—perhaps even believing that he will fail.

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As part of his plan to marry rich, Petruchio determines to marry Katherine, the shrew.  He understands he must convince both Baptista and Kate that he will not be moved by any antics or outbursts or other shrewish behavior. 

When he meets Baptista in Act II, Petruchio speaks of Katherine in glowing terms, calling her "fair" and "virtuous."  He lays it on pretty thick when he says:

...hearing of her beauty and her wit,

Her affability and bashful modesty,

Her wondrous qualities and mild behaviour....

Clearly the audience has already seen this is not an accurate description of Kate; Baptista certainly knows his daughter is nothing like that.  However, both of them are won over (bulldozed over?) by his apparent willingness to see beauty where others see no such thing. 

Petruchio uses this same kind of language with Kate, and she is almost, or perhaps temporarily, won over as well.  Petruchio does a masterful job in The Taming of the Shrew of letting everyone think he's in control. 

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