Essay, Research Paper
Taming of the Shrew
Illusion vs. Reality
As a passing traveler in Padua, one could easily make superficial assumptions about the inhabitants. On the surface, Katherina seems like a vicious tiger that is angry at the entire world. Petruchio first appears like the type of man that anybody would like to have as a friend. At first glance, Bianca seems like a heavenly vision of beauty that any man would be lucky to have for a wife. However, after the courtship of Katherina begins, the true personalities of the characters are revealed.
When a person’s own family fears them, one would assume that there is good reason for it. In Katherina’s case though, nobody ever takes the time to listen to what she actually feels. When she says, “A pretty pet! It is best put finger in the eye, an she knew why.” (Pg. 16), she is not acting maliciously but rather calling out for attention. In contrast to all the flattery that Bianca receives, the only time people ever talk about Katherina is when she acts like a shrew. A more vulnerable side to Katherina actually surfaces when she arrives at Petruchio’s house. As Petruchio taunts her with food, she exclaims, “I pray you husband, be not so disquiet: The meat was well, if you were so contented.” (Pg. 70) Disposing of the invincibility she maintains in Padua, she hungrily entreats her new husband to be reasonable. Taking off the fierce mask she wears in the beginning of the play, Katherina exposes the reality that she too is human.
Stumbling onto the scene in Padua, Petruchio makes a grand entrance as a man who brings merriment to all those around him. He jokes with Hortensio and eagerly accepts the offer to woo Katherina. At his first encounter with the eldest daughter, he seems like the perfect match for her. He matches her wit for wit and skillfully reacts to every move she makes. When she says she has the sting of a wasp, he replies, “My remedy is then to pluck it out.” (Pg. 42) Clever and alert, his personality is initially appealing. As time passes however, Petruchio lets his cruel and tormenting ways manifest. Bent on gaining the complete obedience of his new wife, he refuses to let Katherina attend Bianca’s wedding unless she admits that the sun is the moon (when it is not). Opposite of being jovial, he manipulates Katherina into speaking bold-faced lies using devious tactics. Rather than playing the part of the loving husband, he acts like the merciless warden of a jail.
When people initially encounter Bianca, they usually have one reaction. As Lucentio puts it, ” I perish, Tranio, if I achieve not this young modest girl.” (Pg. 18) Her innocent appearance lends to the deception that she is docile and easily controlled. While she may not speak out vocally like her sister, she certainly knows what she wants. Even among the various suitors she has, she skillfully placates them so that they continue to adorn her with gifts while she continually keeps them at bay. When she finally decides to settle down with someone she chooses as acceptable, she exerts more control over the marriage than may have been expected. During the wager the husbands make at the final dinner, Biondello reports that Bianca says, “Sir, my mistress sends you word that she is busy and she cannot come.” (Pg. 103) Considering the time period she lives in, her refusing to answer Lucentio’s call is almost unheard of. Behind the gentle fa ade she has there lurks a cunning woman.
Human nature is ever changing but the masks that people put on change even more. Whether hiding behind nasty, good-natured, or angelic attitudes, the true character of a person still lies underneath. As seen by the personality shifts that Katherina, Petruchio and Bianca experience, people often do not act the way their appearances might suggest.