The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

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Act IV, Scenes 1 and 2 Summary and Analysis

New characters:
Curtis: servant of Petruchio who speaks with Grumio

Nathaniel, Philip, Nicholas, Peter: servants of Petruchio

Pedant: a traveler whom Tranio tricks into playing the role of Vincentio

Summary
In Act IV, Scene i, Grumio arrives at Petruchio’s country home ahead of his master and new mistress to prepare for their reception and, above all, to start a fire to warm the travellers after their chilling journey. He meets Curtis, a fellow servant, who asks whether Katharina is the shrew she is reported to be. Grumio responds that once she was, but that the cold journey has temporarily tamed her.

After some verbal scuffling with Curtis, Grumio reports that Katharina fell into the mud, that Petruchio started to beat him for this nuisance, and that Kate had to intervene to save him from Petruchio. Curtis acknowledges that Petruchio is more of a shrew than Katharina.

Petruchio arrives and scolds Grumio for not bringing the servants to meet him and Kate in a nearby park. Grumio claims that most of the servants were not equipped to meet them.

During Grumio’s explanation, a servant tries to offer water to Kate in order to help her wash up from the journey, but he spills the water. When Petruchio becomes enraged, Kate vainly intervenes to check his anger.

The servants finally bring out supper, but Petruchio claims that the mutton is burnt. Kate objects that the meal has been prepared properly and that the meat is edible. Still, Petruchio insists that burnt meat is bad for choleric tempers like theirs and must be sent back. Petruchio effectively starves Katharina on her first night in her new home.

When Kate has gone to her room in disappointment, Petruchio soliloquizes, revealing his plan to tame Kate by denying her food and sleep.

In Act IV, Scene ii, the courting continues back at Baptista’s home. Tranio attempts to dissuade Hortensio from wooing Bianca any further. He suggests that she has already chosen the schoolmaster Cambio. Hortensio agrees, pointing out Bianca’s favoritism while eavesdropping on Lucentio and Bianca, who have all but dropped the pretense of poetry lessons.

When Tranio feigns indignation, Hortensio reveals his true identity. The pair forswear Bianca, and Hortensio states that he will pursue a wealthy widow instead.

Hortensio leaves, and Tranio calls to Bianca and Lucentio, who rejoice that Hortensio is now out of the picture. Tranio jokes that Hortensio has gone to taming school. Bianca questions the existence of such a thing, and Tranio responds that Petruchio is the master of one.

Biondello interrupts their felicitations to report that he has seen an old traveler who might fit the part of Vincentio and consent to Lucentio’s marriage before Bianca’s father. Tranio convinces Lucentio that he will be able to persuade the pedant, by means of a ruse, to assume the identity of Lucentio’s father.

Tranio encounters the pedant alone and delivers his story. He says that if the authorities catch the pedant in Padua, they will execute him. The pedant is from Mantua, and the dukes of Padua and Mantua are quarreling. Tranio suggests that the pedant take on the identity of “his” father, Vincentio. The pedant agrees. Tranio further stipulates that he will have to pretend to consent to Tranio’s marriage.

Analysis
Although he appears idiotic, Grumio may in fact demonstrate some savvy in Act IV, Scene i by his report of Petruchio’s taming technique. He claims, for instance, that “winter tames man, woman and beast” (20), perhaps implying that Petruchio has kept Kate out in the cold in order to break her spirit before she arrives at her new home.

Grumio may not realize, however, the extent to which Petruchio relies upon maltreating him in order to win Kate’s support for her new household servants and thus her new living situation. For example, Grumio does not quite play along with Petruchio’s irascible behavior when Petruchio beats him for allowing Kate’s horse to fall in the mud, or when the servant spills water...

(The entire section is 1,422 words.)