Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The Woman’s Prize by John Fletcher was written as a continuation and reversal of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Petruchio marries Maria, a quiet woman, after his wife Katharina dies, although the marriage does not go as planned.
The play opens with Petruchio’s friends discussing how poor Maria will have her hands full with her new husband. Maria is wary of Petruchio and devises a plan which will tame him rather than having him try to break her. This involves locking herself away with her cousin Bianca and enough food to survive for some time. She also rouses her younger sister Livia to join her in her plan, as Livia is supposed to marry Moroso, a much older man, even though she loves Rowland.
When Petruchio tries to get Maria to come out, she tells him what she wants, which is basically the freedom to live her life. They argue but don’t reach an agreement. Livia sends Rowland away so that she might join Maria.
Petruchio rallies the forces and they overtake the women. Although there is a temporary peace, it doesn’t last, as Maria continues to withhold intimacy. Instead, she orders expensive things and flirts with one of Petruchio’s friends. Petruchio is devastated.
Rowland tries to pretend that he doesn’t care that Livia is going to marry Moroso, but he can barely contain himself. Livia feigns an illness and tricks her father and Moroso into signing a contract stating that she can marry Rowland. Meanwhile, Maria declares that Petruchio has the plague, and his friends all abandon him. He pretends to die from the grief Maria has caused him. Deciding that she has won, she says she will be a good wife from then on, and she and Petruchio reconcile.