Taming of the Shrew: Kate’s Taming Through Petruchio’s Manipulation
The importance of Scene two Act one is that this is the very first encounter Kate and Petruchio have together, and the audience gets to see almost immediately how Petruchio begins his quest in taming a shrew. This scene sets the mood for the rest of the encounters both these characters have, and the audience sees prideful Kate dwindle away into nothingness through Petruchio’s teachings of obedience. The movement through this passage indicates each character that talks about Kate has something negative to say about her, until Petruchio comes along and mixes the negative words, with his words of endearment. Both Kate and Petruchio talk in the same manner, but, because Petruchio is a man, it is easier for him to tame Kate because of the patriarchal society of the Shakespearean era. The theme and implied subtext is Petruchio’s modern methods of taming Kate through psychological, mental and emotional values.
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Kate is introduced as “renowned in Padua for her scolding tongue” (1.2.96). She is vulgar, and her words are cunning with a razor sharp sting to them (2.1. 210-215), yet she is naïve. I believe she behaves like this because deep inside her there is a rooted fear that she will never marry, and be humiliated as being deemed a spinster, since her sister already has many male suitors after her (2.1.33). There is also the shame and jealousy engrained in her because her father Baptista likes Bianca more than her. Marriage is used as an act of manipulation in “reference to the content of shaming that Petruchio will utilize and tame Kate” (Schneider, 241). Since Kate is seen as a shrew, marriage emphasizes the public humiliation and shame she builds up in herself. Publicizing her marriage puts Kate in an unwanted position of publicity with the talk of Bianca, her younger sister getting married. Petruchio coming late to his wedding also deludes Kate’s inhibitions of feeling shamed publically because it represents that Petruchio does not really care about Kate or her reputation (3.2.90-94).
From the first encounter between Kate and Petruchio, he uses words like “bonny”, “prettiest” and “super-dainty” (2.1.183-186) to describe her, while intermingling vulgar words subtly into the context. Petruchio stressed Kate as his wife, and where is my Kate… my lovely bride (3.2.85). It is the words of endearment that Kate is drawn to; Petruchio uses this to his advantage. Petruchio also states that it does not matter what is on the outside, but the inside is what matters (4. 3. 169-174), reinforcing his teaching and taming methods towards Kate. I agree with Gary Schneider’s previous argument of shame, as Petruchio, sees these feelings Kate experiences and uses words of endearment to lure into his manipulative trap to tame her.
Kate’s own father makes a deal with the suitors to have Kate married before her younger sister; they would receive a bountiful dowry with her (1.1.50-51). Essentially, Baptista does not want to be burdened with the knowledge that his eldest daughter would not be married. Kate’s rooted fears of not getting married manifests in her, which I believe is why she has such a vulgar way of speaking to people; she does not want to end up dancing weird ritualistic dances emphasizing she is an unmarried woman at her sisters wedding. (2.1.33). Petruchio, seeing what a large dowry Baptista is offering with his daughter Kate, takes this challenge; well aware he will be able to tame Kate. Petruchio merely sees Kate as a belittled human being who needs to be domesticated (1.2.195-205).
Kate, through the duration of the play, is a very loud, passionate woman with many opinions, yet the subtext implies Petruchio sees her actions and behaviours as a game to create a perfect step ford wife (2.1. 265-270). This is a direct implication of Petruchio’s actions and he will manipulate her, not with violence or brute force, but physically, emotionally and psychologically to do so (2.1. 215-216). I find the straight forwardness of Petruchio non- physical form of abuse to be contributive towards the play, because it emphasizes there are a multitude of different ways oppression can be used. In the privacy of their conversation, Kate is compliant with Petruchio’s wishes, but returns to her crude mannerism when her father appears (2.1.279). Petruchio openly lies to Baptista of the agreement both he, and Kate made of marriage on Sunday. On the day of the wedding, Kate stays quiet instead of refusing to marry Petruchio; she even gets worried he will not even come to the wedding and leave her at the alter (3.2.20). Again, this directly emphasizes Petruchio’s manipulation the through shame being left to wait at the alter. I believe this is psychologically damaging for Kate because this is her only chance to be married. I agree with Emily Detmer’s argument that the “play signals a shift towards a “modern” way of managing the subordination of wives by legitimizing domination as long as it is not physical” (274).
Kate hits Petruchio in their first encounter, but instead of him slapping Kate back, Petruchio threatens her (2.1.215-216). This line in the play is very interesting because it conveys a very modern approach to the abuse Woman faced in a marriage, especially in Shakespearean time, as well as Petruchio does not mind hitting any man he encounters. It is common during this era, for a man to use physical force on his wife. This goes to show that to tame Kate, Petruchio uses techniques that are unconventional to the time, to teach Kate to be dominated and domesticated. In using cunning techniques such as manipulation, through the different senses, Petruchio has the characters in the play fooled of the abuse he has tormented Kate with. Petruchio can also be seen as a gentleman by showing the audience he will not be provoked to hit a woman. Detmer states “thus a husband’s domination of his wife was ‘natural,’ needing to be checked only when it was overstepping recognized boundaries” (276). Kate’s final monologue is the epitome of all her teachings (5.2.140-183). She becomes this idealized figure of a tamed, household wife, an example for all women to model after. I whole-heartedly agree with Detmer in the regards to the fact that no one even knew Kate had been abused, they saw the outcome of it, and did not question how it happened because Petruchio left no visible marks on her.
Petruchio uses his adoration for Kate as a ploy to tame her. Through Petruchio’s eyes, Kate is beautiful and “pleasant”, and compares her to “springtime flowers” (2.1. 238-239). Kate is a goddess (2.1.253), yet very gentle, and tells her all the rumors he has heard about her are lies (2.1.235-238). This is direct psychological manipulation because he twists his words and uses the physical characteristics of Kate as ideals in purchasing an object; and object Petruchio will buy and use as he pleases. The abusive things Petruchio does to Kate are all in the name of love (4.3.12). Essentially Petruchio says once I coerce her with my words, I am going make her obedient. From adoration, to comparing Kate to a horse (2.1.245), an animal that needs to be tamed, Petruchio directly dehumanizes Kate, emphasizing her need to be tamed just like an animal. As stated before, Petruchio does not see Kate on the same level as him, not only because she is a woman in Shakespearean time who must be married off, but because she is old, and unwanted, and, for those reasons Petruchio wants her, to show the world that he can possess anything and anyone.
Petruchio describes himself taming Kate by comparing himself with the forces of nature. He declares himself the wind; a force that is constant, and, through metaphors, says he will be the great gust of wind that will wipe out Kate’s fire (2.1.130-134) Petruchio also commands the moon and sun, as declares that whatever bright light the sky is radiating is by his command (4.5.4-7). Kate is characterized as a devil (3.2.49), which creates the allusions of God and the Devil. Petruchio elevates himself to a godlike figure that uses worldly elements to tame a devilish Kate. This straightforwardly presents Petruchio’s psychological manipulation in teaching Kate. Eventually, Kate tells him that whatever he says and believes is the truth; she will believe the same (4.5.19-23), teaching her to be obedient.
Petruchio has made it his mission in life to tame Kate the Curst. (2.1.268-270) He tells her beauty is on the inside, rather than it being portrayed outwardly (4.3. 166-176). During their wedding, Petruchio not only is late, but is wearing ridiculous clothing embarrassing Kate, and her father Baptista. Petruchio does not want to change because Kate is marrying him and not his cloths (3.2.110). This is foreshadowing to Kate’s choice of cloths later in the play. Petruchio’s direct manipulation is shown through his dress and deportment, and he basically says get ready for your world to get turned upside down because you are my property now and I do what I want (3.2.220-225). When finding garments for Kate to wear to go visit her father, Petruchio and the tailor start out with very lavish clothing- things Kate would wear-but every time she said something of interest towards the clothing, they would strip something away, or replace it with questionable and unflattering alternatives (4.3.136-140). This is direct correlation in humiliating Kate trhrough material possessions. I believe Petruchio does this because Kate is his property and shows her you will be tamed (2.1.268-270).
Emily Detmer states “Petruchio proves his manliness by embracing what other man fear (taming a shrew) but also by working alone” (281). Petruchio is warned multiple times by many characters that Kate is a force to be reckoned with, known as Kate the Curst, as well as referenced to the devil. (2.1.45). Baptista is even hesitant to offer his daughters hand in marriage for fear that Kate will rip them apart with her foul words (2.1.164-165). This directly implies Petruchio uses his manliness as a tactic to tame Kate because no other man has the guts to speak to Kate the way he does, let alone have a conversation with her in general (2.1). His masculine presence allows for him to speak to Kate the same way she speaks to everyone else. I would even argue that through Petruchio’s manliness, he is even more shrew that the shrew herself, Kate. Not only does this teach Kate obedience, but also almost immediately, her strong presence vanishes. Petruchio tells Baptista of their immediate marriage, but Kate does not interject her opinions in the conversation, but just lets the marriage happen (2.1. 289). This directly correlates with obedience, as Kate would have definitely said a nasty phrase or called off any wedding plans whatsoever.Petruchio’s manliness evokes the principals of a “private, domestic, and often isolated sight of discipline” (Detmer, 282), that Kate had to endure to be tamed. Besides the servants Petruchio owned, and the tailor, no one knew or saw of the abuse Kate endured in the privacy of Petruchio’s home.
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After the wedding, Kate is brought to Petruchio’s house and tortured psychologically, and mentally from the deprivation of food and sleep (4.3.8). Petruchio basically says you deserve the best cut of meat and what is prepared is disgusting, so you are not eating (4.1.150-158). This is a high degree of control through the words of that manner would make Kate feel special- he thinks so highly of her she only deserves the best-but, as he continues to do this, Kate will have nothing to eat because nothing is good enough. Petruchio also finds little imperfections on the bed, either with the sheets or throwing the pillows as to obscure her sleep pattern (4.1.180-187). I believe sleep deprivation and hunger are enough to put anyone into a state of submission. Petruchio sociopathic behaviour strives to manage Kate by taking away the basic necessities for her to function as a proper human being, thus make her a submissive, obedient wife. I claim Petruchio is a sociopath because he only cares about himself, does not have adequate social skills and wants to control another human being simply because he owns her and sees it as a challenge (4.1.168-190). Going back to Emily Detmers argument, the abuse Kate is receiving is a more modern approach because this does not include any acts of physical violence. By taking away the things Kate needs, little by little, she becomes more submissive and that is what Petruchio intents. No amount of force could make a strong will woman like Kate bend to the will of anyone. Baptista is even amazed to see Kate’s decorum has changed along with her attitude in being a more obedient woman and wife (5.2.50), seeing not what happened for this outcome, just the end result.
Kate’s final speech is her full submission into “conformable as other household Kates (32.1.270). Petruchio has taken away her identity through her cloths, deprived her of her sleep, taken away her food, but most importantly, taken away her “power of language” (Newman, 259). Knowing Kate was a woman of her words, Petruchio took advantage of that knowledge and began taking away the material things Kate had. I believe that in removing those material objects, Kate slowly began losing her voice, ultimately losing who she is. Petruchio’s persistence in teaching and controling her finally wore her down. Newman article states, “Kate’s speech contradicts the very sentiment she affirms; rather than resolve the plays action, her monologue simply displays the fundamental contradiction presented by a female dramatic protagonist” (259). The dramatic irony in the play is Kate was never in control of what she said, she was influenced by peoples harsh comments about her, then Petruchio came along and took that away from her too, leaving her to be a shell of nothingness but devotion for her husband. Becoming obedient, Kate ultimately lost what made her different from the rest of the Shakespearean society women; in the end she not only became them, but also becomes the exemplary model of what a domesticated housewife should be. Kate’s every move is dictated to her by Petruchio- so when he tells her to get up and do something she does, unlike the other women in the room (5.2.103-106).
In looking at the title page for the Norton Critical Edition of Taming of the Shrew, the cover is a vibrant red with black outlined, expressive eyes staring at the viewer. The title page is a portrayal of a gaze shot, with no second image showing a point of view shot, or the eye-line shot. Being Kate’s eyes, this allows the interpretation of this version of the play to have emphasis on Kate. There is an absence of all other characters in the play, including Petruchio, though; I argue that the red background can be the presence of Petruchio in Kate’s life. I believe this because the stark red colour reads as urgency and danger to Kate. This can be used as a parallel to Petruchio, as he created danger in the abuse he gives to Kate. The expression reads as anger and confusion, much like the perplex feelings Kate has in remaining true to her identity, while being oppressed and manipulated by her husband Petruchio. Being starved, sleep deprived and utterly defeated; there is hostility in Kate’s eyes. The expressions understood can be correlated to Kate’s life as a daughter that was overshadowed by her obedient sister Bianca in her father’s eyes, to the way people perceived her to be- a curst devil, and the abuse she received when she married Petruchio. It is only after, that the view looks down the page to read the white title Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, where it is on a grey and black background. These colours are more muted and subtle to the eye, allowing the viewer to understand that from the picture, Kate it the shrew that must be tamed.
- Detmer, Emily. “Civilizing Subordination: Domestic Violence and The Taming of the Shrew.” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 3, 1997, pp. 273–94. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/2871017.
- Schneider, Gary. “The Public, the Private, and the Shaming of the Shrew”
- Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, vol. 42, no 2, 2002. Pp. 235-258. Rice University. JSTOR. Accessed: 19-11-18
- Shakespeare, William. Edited by Dympna Callaghan. “Norton Critical Editions; Taming of the Shrew” pp.1- 79
- Newman, Karen. “Renaissance Family Politics and Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew”
- Norton Critical Editions pp 247-261
- Taming of the Shrew Cover Page Norton – Google Search. https://www.google.ca/search?rlz=1C5CHFA_enCA762CA762&biw=1112&bih=585&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=di70W-_UGsHO5gLky7jICg&q=taming+of+the+shrew+cover+page+norton&oq=taming+of+the+shrew+cover+page+norton&gs_l=img.3…5559.7197..7428…0.0..0.104.549.6j1……1….1..gws-wiz-img.CP9EILtvlC0#imgrc=BVqFQ33eUsWuAM: Accessed 20 Nov. 2018.
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