illustration of Kate and Petruchio standing and staring at one another

The Taming of the Shrew

by William Shakespeare

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How and why does Petruchio punish Katherine on their wedding night in The Taming of the Shrew?

Quick answer:

Petruchio punishes his new wife, Katherine, by preventing her from attending the wedding feast, by berating her and throwing tantrums, and by keeping her from eating and sleeping. He does so to "tame" her, to show her the silliness of her own behavior, and to change her ways.

Expert Answers

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In Shakespeare's play The Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio arrives in Padua determined to find a wife who is rich, no matter what she is like as a person. Katherine (or Kate), the daughter of Baptista Minola, is Petruchio's choice, partly because Bianca's suitors want to get Kate married off so that one of them will have a chance with Bianca. Petruchio agrees to help, and he is determined to tame the shrewish, complaining, nasty Kate.

Indeed, Petruchio and Kate marry in spite of Kate's loud protests, and Petruchio begins the process of "taming" his wife. He insists that they leave before the wedding feast, and he takes Kate directly home. He throws tantrums about everything, insisting that everything is inferior, from the food to the servants. He even throws food and insists that they not eat it, and he does not allow Kate to sleep in the poorly made bed. He also berates Kate continually. Petruchio has determined that he will prevent Kate from eating and sleeping for a while until she calms down. Apparently, Kate herself often acts just like Petruchio is now, and her new husband wants her to know what it feels like.

Petruchio's act continues during the couple's early days of marriage, and he makes life fairly miserable for Kate, yet at the same time, she is seeing the light. Pretty soon, Kate realizes what Petruchio is doing, and she becomes quite an agreeable person who will likely have a happy marriage with her new husband.

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