(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 began to reason with her, gently at first but with increasing fire, but for every one of his arguments she had a counterargument of greater weight. Finally, in a blind rage, Petruchio swore that he would starve her into submission. Thus the engagement ended, with the bride inside and the bridegroom firmly locked out.

Livia, meanwhile, began to put her plan into action. With Moroso looking on, she purposely offended Rowland and bade him what seemed to be a final farewell as the young man stalked away, cursing women and all their works. Moroso took this as a sign that his suit had prospered; yet when he attempted to kiss Livia, she gave him a box on the ear. Somewhat discomfited, Moroso complained to Petronius, who assured him that within two hours the girl would be married to him. But Livia had other ideas. Approaching the sealed chamber, she begged to become a member of the women’s party. Her admission was assured when Maria learned that she was laden with provisions.

Outside, the siege continued. Sophocles argued for a peaceful settlement, but Petruchio was adamant; he would assert his rights as a husband—no woman could daunt him. But Petruchio had reckoned without the townswomen, who had learned of Maria’s stand. Armed with pot lids, ladles, and other...

(The entire section is 1470 words.)