The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

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Act IV, Scenes 3 and 4 Summary and Analysis

Summary
In Act IV, Scene iii, Grumio talks with Katharina after a night of terror. We learn from their conversation that Petruchio has fulfilled his plan not to allow his bride any sleep on her wedding night, supposedly “all in the name of perfect love” (12). The scene begins, however, with Grumio denying Kate’s request for food. Grumio either believes Petruchio when he claims that certain foods are too choleric for fierce people like Kate, or Grumio is in on the scheme, as he dismisses any food Kate mentions as being too hot or choleric for her temperament. In either case, Grumio sadistically teases Kate by offering, then rejecting, certain foods.

Petruchio enters along with Hortensio, and tantalizes Kate with a real piece of food. Petruchio uses Kate’s silence at this point to give the meat to Hortensio, stating that Kate has not thanked him for his kind offer. Clearly, Kate did not believe he would ever give it to her.

A tailor and haberdasher enter with a gown and cap respectively. When Petruchio rejects the cap, Kate defies him and declares that the cap suits the current fashion. Petruchio maintains his position, and an enraged Kate starts to launch a harangue against Petruchio. He cuts her off, ignores what she has said, and pretends that Katharina has agreed with him.

Petruchio rejects the tailor’s gown in a similar manner, but this time he argues with the tailor not Kate. In fact, when Kate charges Petruchio with making a puppet of her, he displaces the blame onto the tailor. Petruchio finally dismisses the tailor, but sends Hortensio to pay him for his trouble. Petruchio justifies his action by telling Kate that they must appear humble before her father.

Petruchio announces his plans for departure, but Kate points out that he has mistaken the time of day in his calculations. Petruchio becomes indignant and refuses to leave until his calculations are accepted and demonstrated.

In Act IV, Scene iv, Tranio and the pedant arrive at Baptista’s to perform the act of consent. The pedant worries, however, that Baptista may recognize him from their meeting some twenty years ago.
Baptista greets them and Tranio hastily asks for his “father’s” consent to marry Bianca. The pedant feigns a more graceful approach to the business of their union and his consent, but speedily gives his consent anyway.

Baptista urges them to proceed more cautiously, since the dowry arrangements have not yet been made. He asks that they not discuss these matters at his house for fear of eavesdroppers, such as Gremio. Tranio suggests that they transact their negotiations at his lodging where his father is staying.

At this point, Baptista sends Lucentio off to inform Bianca of their dealings and to get her ready to greet her fiancé formally. Tranio, Baptista, and the pedant leave for dinner. Biondello appears while Lucentio is still on stage, and alerts Lucentio to Tranio’s presumed plans. Biondello implies that Lucentio must marry Bianca before they hold the binding church ceremony. Lucentio leaves to fetch Bianca.

Analysis
Act IV, Scene iii shows a darker side to Petruchio and Grumio, who at this point seems to be collaborating with his master; Grumio certainly follows Petruchio’s lead, in any case. Given Kate’s admission that she has never had to ask for anything in her life (7-8), Petruchio’s method seems fitted to the task of disciplining a spoiled person.

With the cap incident, Petruchio specifies how Kate will have to act in order to get what she wants—she will have to be gentle (71). Here Petruchio puns on the double sense of “gentle,” which can mean either mild or noble. He suggests, then, that Kate’s lack of mildness undermines the honor of her bourgeois origins. For an Elizabethan audience attuned to self-conscious theatrical signals, Petruchio’s gesture signals that many of the players on stage are dressing above their station when they perform.

This metatheatrical signal is repeated when Grumio mistakes Petruchio’s meaning...

(The entire section is 1,476 words.)