The Taming of the Shrew





We think people act the way that their true identity is. Every person has disguised

their true identity at one point in time has. We display these false characters or put on

our masks for some personal gain. Many times, complicated situations occur because

of the changing of people’s masks between reality and illusion (Cahn 39). In a similar

way, The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, does just that. He creates a

soap operasituation by placing different "masks" on his characters.

Katharina does not know how to properly act to gain attention, but instead she

places a "mask"on herself that becomes her reality. She is known throughout Padua as

the shrew of the town. In the story, you could imply that her mother is dead. Therefore,

when Katharina was young, she played the role of mother to Bianca (Leonard 23). As

the sisters grew older, Katharina did not need to play the maternal role to her younger

sibling by being harsh. However, Katherina could not switch the gears of that character

since everyone already knew her by that personality. She knows about Bianca’s

deceptive ways. Bianca is being courted by several men and has her choice of

prospective husbands. However, due to customs in that era, Katharina, must be married

before her younger sister.

In the early acts, Katharina’s attitude appears as if she does not care at all about

getting married. Instead, she yearns for her father’s attention, but she goes about

getting it in the wrong ways. Unlike her elder sister, Bianca appears to be of a more

complacent nature. Katharina dislikes her because their father shows favoritism

towards her. Katharina talks back to everyone with her cold but creative remarks

and makes her presence known in Act 1 Scene1:

Katharina: I’faith, sir, you shall never need to fear.
I wis it to not halfway to her heart -
But if it were, doubt not her care should be
To comb your noodle with a three-legged stool
And paint your face and use you like a fool.

Act I, Scene I

A main characteristic of Katharina is that she is easily upset, becoming verbally and

physically violent. She even goes so far as to hit her newly appointed music teacher,

Hortensio (Act I, Scene I). Not long after, she hits the only suitor that would woo her,

Petruchio. Katherina is convinced that her father does not care for her, especially because

he wanted Petruchio to marry her. Perhaps Katherina’s belief is true (Cahn 43). Baptista

would rather talk to Bianca because of her pleasant personality rather then arguing every

point with Katherina. Katharina wants the attention that Bianca receives, but she tries to

call the attention in the wrong ways by acting out physically and verbally.

Petruchio has to break Katherina out of her shrew character by becoming a character

himself. Petruchio came into Padua not knowing what would happen. When he found out

about Katherina, he was eager to meet her for two reasons: to gain her wealth and for the

challenge of taming her (Act I Scene II).

Petruchio’s character is that of a gentleman. He opens doors for ladies and is kind and

courteous to everyone. As the play goes on, Petruchio marries Katherina. He plans to

tame her and unveil her beautiful inner self so he would have a lovely wife (Leonard 31).

He begins to show her who is in command starting on their wedding day. Petruchio

shows up late to the wedding and caused Katherina to become angry and scared of

being stood up. After being married, Petruchio starts the taming process. He refuses

to let her sleep and restricts food from her (Act IV, Scene III). Soon Katherina breaks

down and starts to act obedient to Petruchio with her "mask" still being within her reach.

Then he shows Katherina who is in command of the relationship by not allowing

Katherina to get elegant clothing that she wants. Instead, Petruchio yells at the

haberdasher and tailor that brought them and yelling how they are not made correctly.

Petruchio is trying to show Katherina what she does and why no one likes that "mask."

Overtime, Katherina breaks away chunks of her "mask" until her old personality has

disappeared (Act IV,