Scene Analysis Essay, Research Paper
The intent of this paper is to analyze a few points in Shakespeare’s Play, “The Taming of the Shrew.” During scenes i and iii of Act IV, Petruchio has taken Katherine to his country estate. It is here that Petruchio will manage to transform and conform Katherine to playing the role of a benevolent wife. Petruchio’s strategy is a very good one that causes Katherine to realize that her shrewness will not be tolerated and she must switch roles from shrew to benevolent wife.
The Falcon, that Pretruchio’s mentions during his monologue (IV.i.201-225), is a symbol of Katherine. Petruchio has to figure out a way to make her into the wife that he wants. To do this, he trains her like he would train a falcon. He denies her food and sleep until she is willing to do anything that he wishes. He also shows her prizes such as clothing and food, which she desires, and then takes them away. She, like the bird, comes to depend on him for these things and realizes it is her duty to love and serve him. All has been planned in his mind in advance: “Thus have I politicly begun my reign,” he says, where “politicly” means “with careful calculation” (IV.i.157). The goal of this strategy, as in his first meeting with Katherine, is to bend her hostile temperament into benevolence by turning everything against her; to “kill a wife with kindness” (IV.i.177).
Clearly, Katherine is affected by this treatment, especially by the excuses he gives for his behavior; she complains to Grumio that “that which spites me more than all these wants,/ He does it under name of perfect love” (IV.iii.11-12). This hinders her ability to react to his actions with her typical anger, since he seems to have the best intentions. And yet, it is remarkable that she does not see through Petruchio’s facade, and realize that he is doing everything simply to frustrate her. Most likely, she does in fact suspect foul play–indicated by her use of the phrase, “under name of perfect love”–but does not wish to stand up to him on this point.
Katherine does, once again, try to draw the line at one point; when Petruchio tries to throw away the cap that the tailor made, which she very much likes, she has had enough, and tries to establish some position. “I trust I may have leave to speak,/ And speak I will. I am no child, no babe I will be free/ Even to the uttermost, as I please, in words” (IV.iii.73-80). Unfortunately, not even this is enough to get her so much as the cap in the end; she may be free in words, but her words now fall upon deaf ears, which is the source of her frustration. Before she met Petruchio, even though her words were rarely taken well, at least she could be assured of a reaction to them, and she seemed to take some delight in the reaction she could get from men. Now, her words are ignored even when she removes their edge, and asks for the simplest courtesies. Now indeed she cannot choose, for though she is powerless with Petruchio, she would only endure greater shame if she fled him and returned to Padua.
Also, in Scene 3 Shakespeare seems to insert another bit of social commentary through the mouth of Petruchio, concerning the importance of clothing. He says that it is “the mind that makes that body rich;/ And as the sun breaks through the darkest clouds,/ So honor peereth in the meanest habit” (IV.iii.164-166). This is the same sentiment that Petruchio expressed earlier to Baptista, and the repetition should make us take notice. The Induction seemed to claim that clothes could in fact change the man, just as Sly was changed from a drunkard to a nobleman. Here, Shakespeare is suggesting that this is not really the case. Of course, we know that the trick with Sly will only last so long, and that sooner or later he will be put on the street again. The key is how this relates to Katherine’s situation. In which role–”shrew” or wife–does Katherine really belong, and in which is she only play-acting? She seemed unhappy in both of them, and it may be that she is suited for neither; and yet, as her resistance fades in the face of Petruchio’s persistence, she seems to choose the married life by default. Has she really lost all that much by losing her hot temper and sharp tongue? That depends, of course, on what replaces them.