Act II, Scene 1 Summary and Analysis
At Baptista’s home, Katharina interrogates Bianca, whose hands are bound. The elder sister wants to know which suitor Bianca prefers, but the younger sister will not admit to favoring either Hortensio or the rich Gremio. Bianca offers to stay away from the man of Katharina’s choice, but perceives that Kate has been jesting. This idea inflames Kate, who then strikes Bianca.
Baptista enters and interposes himself between the two sisters. Bianca runs out after Kate attempts to strike her a second time. Kate once again charges her father with trying to humiliate her.
The old and new suitors arrive. Petruchio presents Hortensio as Litio, a musician. Gremio presents Lucentio, disguised as Cambio, a schoolmaster. Tranio announces himself as Lucentio, and gives Baptista books and a lute.
Petruchio hastily asks to be permitted to court Kate immediately. The father quickly settles the terms of her dowry first: Baptista offers one half of his lands upon his death and 20,000 crowns up front; Petruchio grants Kate all his lands and leases in the event that she should survive him. When Baptista suggests that wooing Kate will be a difficult affair, Petruchio reassures him that he can aptly persuade a woman of Kate’s nature.
Hortensio enters with his lute broken over his head and dangling around his neck. When asked what has happened, Hortensio claims that Katharina would prove a better soldier than wife. The report of Kate’s behavior excites Petruchio, who declares that he wishes to speak with her now more than ever. The two men leave, and Petruchio soliloquizes about the technique of courtship he will employ to woo Kate; he intends to flatter her.
Kate comes in. Petruchio greets her politely, but Kate treats him rudely and dismissively. A verbal sparring match ensues wherein Kate rejects Petruchio repeatedly while Petruchio continues to flatter and to taunt Kate using sexual innuendos. Kate strikes him, but Petruchio ends their conversation by claiming that he intends to marry her, that he will not be refused, and that the marriage has already been agreed to by her father.
Baptista, Gremio, and Tranio enter conveniently at this point and ask how Petruchio has fared. Petruchio feigns success. He must save face by claiming that Kate and he fight in the presence of others but act mildly when alone. The men quickly congratulate him on his progress.
Tranio tries to assert his claim to Bianca by needling Gremio about his old age. Gremio fires back that he probably has more material possessions to offer than Tranio. Baptista interrupts them at this sensitive moment by asking how each suitor will provide for his daughter. Gremio promises his house and all his furnishings upon his death. Tranio proffers all his lands and houses. Moreover, Tranio suggests that because of his youth, he will not leave Bianca a lonely widow, as Gremio will surely do on account of his old age. As Tranio’s offer far and away exceeds that of Gremio, Baptista decides to let Tranio court Bianca.
The reader will notice that this scene comprises the entire act. Not only is the length of the act appropriate for comedy, but the fact that there is no change of venue necessitates the action being enclosed in a single scene. The staging of one long act with no change of scenery permits the action to take place rapidly. The quick pace reflects the flimflam style behind Petruchio’s courtship of Kate.
When the act begins, Kate seems to have let paranoia get the best of her. But the audience may change its mind when Katharina reminds Bianca that Gremio is old and rich. This thought might appear callous, but Katharina would not be alone here. Her father, Baptista, for example, is interested most in the financial security of his children, though he claims, disingenuously, that Kate’s love “is all in all” (129).
Petruchio seems even more hard-hearted than Baptista, for he dismisses outright Kate’s preferences. He claims simply that he is “peremptory” (131) and will...
(The entire section is 2,019 words.)