To Tame A Shrew

To Tame A Shrew

In Shakespeare\'s Taming of the Shrew, one topic that has been debated, interpreted, discussed, reinterpreted and adapted into different forms has been the character of Katharina, the shrew, and whether she was tamed, liberated, or just a good enough actress to make Everyone think she was in fact, tamed. In this essay, I will present arguments for and against each of these points, as well as discuss one television adaptation of Taming of the Shrew that presents Katharina not as the expected shrew, but as Petruchio\'s tamer.

Katharina: The Whipped Shrew
There is evidence that supports Katharina was tamed by Petruchio. For instance, in the opening of the play, Katharina is very vocal and aggressive. Men, women and children trembled whenever she came around, including her father and sister. By the end of the play, however, she is presented as being mild and submissive to Petruchio, leading up to her greatest speech in the dialogue of the play:

Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks and true obedience;
Too little payment for so great a debt. (5.2.146-154)

In looking at this outtake of Katharina\'s speech, it can be seen that she has been tamed by Petruchio\'s actions throughout the first four acts. It is difficult to take Katharina\'s message here and say, "She is still the same person." Her monologue reveals that she now sees it is her duty to respect her husband and to be submissive to him. Her speech leads the audience to see that this duty of the wife is one that is a repayment to the husband for all the hard work he does to support her, a debt that the wife could never possibly repay.

Reasons why Katharina might not have been tamed can be found in the fact that the play takes place in what seems to be just a few days. One must ask the question: Is it possible to cause such a great change in a person\'s behavior in such a short amount of time as this? It is very unlikely that it is possible, since Katharina, by the opening of the play, is at least 20 years of age and is very much set into her ways. It would take much longer to cure Katharina of this attitude problem she possesses.With this in mind, it is very likely that Katharina was either liberated by Petruchio in how to control her temper, or she acted as if she had been tamed to get everyone off of her back.

Katharina: The Liberated Shrew
Since it is not possible for Katharina to have been tamed by Petruchio in the short time period of the play, it is possible that she was liberated by Petruchio\'s actions. In the movie version of Taming of the Shrew, starring Elizabeth Taylor as Katharina and Richard Burton as Petruchio, the ending sequence is presented with the widow and Bianca refusing to come out at their suitor\'s request. Petruchio then sends for Katharina, and with the expressions on everyone\'s face, it can be assumed they weren\'t expecting her to come out either. Instead, Katharina does come out, with Bianca under one arm and the widow under the other. It was at this point she delivered her speech quoted above.

Now, if she was tamed, it is doubtful she would have come out with the other women in her grips. It is more likely she would have come out alone, saying something along the lines of "Yes, my darling Petruchio, what can I do for thee?" Instead, she forces the other women to be obedient to their spouses, still showing some of the fearful aggressiveness at the beginning of the play.

I see this as evidence that Petruchio has liberated Katharina in a sense that she no longer needs to be brash and aggressive at all times, but more she can use her assertiveness for her husband\'s advantage, and more importantly for her own advantage, as when dragging in the two