The Woman's Prize Summary
by John Fletcher

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The Woman's Prize Summary

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.

Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

As they gathered in Petruchio’s house after the wedding, Moroso, Sophocles, and Tranio discussed the match that had been made between Petruchio, the shrew-tamer, and the soft and yielding Maria, daughter of Petronius. Although Moroso, an ancient dotard who was infatuated with Livia, Petronius’ second daughter, held that Petruchio was not so terrible as some believed, the others agreed that his first wife, now dead, had so inflamed his ill humor that Maria was in for a very bad time indeed. As a man’s man Petruchio left nothing to be desired, but as a woman’s man he was fiery and unpredictable.

A different conversation occupied two other wedding guests. Young Rowland was half afraid that Livia, enticed by Moroso’s gold, would renounce the love she had secretly sworn to him, and he was attempting to induce her to elope with him. But Livia, who was as practical as she was beautiful, was unwilling to sacrifice her marriage portion by marrying without her father’s permission. Vowing that she had a plan which would make her legitimately his, she sent Rowland from her. She was immediately joined by the new bride Maria and her cousin Bianca.

Influenced by Bianca, Maria had undergone such a change that Livia was shocked. Gone were her soft and gentle manners; in their place Maria, urged on by Bianca, exhibited a firm resolution. She would fight a holy war for the salvation of all womanhood. Never would she yield herself to her husband until his spirit was broken, until the wife-tamer was himself tamed. This she proclaimed in so imperious and immodest a tone that Livia left offended, but Maria’s plans remained unchanged. When Jacques entered to inform her that Petruchio was ready to come to her, she replied that Petruchio could sleep elsewhere—he would share no bed with her. Dumbfounded, Jacques sought the impatient bridegroom.

Jacques interrupted Petruchio’s boasts of his sexual prowess with the news that Maria and Bianca were firmly entrenched in the bedchamber with a month’s rations and the determination that no man should enter until he had come to terms with them. Just then the window opened above the courtyard where Petruchio was standing, and Maria appeared to announce that she would remain barricaded until Petruchio signed the articles she proposed. Petruchio...

(The entire section is 1,769 words.)