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Essay/Term paper: To tame a shrew

Essay, term paper, research paper:  The Taming of the Shrew

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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:


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,


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


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.


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 women. In other words, together, they made a great

team with Petruchio's great wit and ability to play word games at the drop

of a hat and Katharina's strong will and stubbornness. I find that they no

longer use these on each other, except for amusement, but to influence and

gain stature and control to those around them.

Katharina: The Acting Shrew


the performance done by the Sanderson High School for last year's State UIL

One-Act Play, they chose to do scenes from Taming of the Shrew. This interpretation

of the play was an interesting one compared to the other interpretations I

had seen before. Instead of presenting Katharina as being tamed at worst (I

say tamed at worst because if Katharina was tamed, she would have truly lost

most of her spirit) or liberated at best, Karina Mendoza portrayed Katharina

as being an actress pretending to be tamed.

In the scene where Katharina

and Petruchio are returning to Padua for Bianca's wedding, they are shown arguing

along the road, as to whether the globe in the sky was the sun or the moon.

Instead of realizing Petruchio was trying to free her from her anger and join

him in his witty word-play, and instead of giving up everything to allow Petruchio

to have full dominion over her, Katharina pretends to go along with him and

starts agreeing with everything he says. What Petruchio doesn't see is that

when Katharina turns away and faces the audience, she rolls her eyes at him,

revealing that even though it appears she has conceded to him, she still retains

her personality.

What also aids in this view is that when Katharina and Petruchio

arrive in Padua, after Katharina gives the above speech, Petruchio scoops her

into his arms and carries her into the church, all the men applauding him.

It is at this point Katharina looks out to the audience and gives the crowd

a knowing wink and signs the word for "Okay," as if she is the one who got

him instead of the other way around.

I find this evidence plausible as well,

since it is difficult to see Katharina willing to give in to Petruchio and

find a middle ground with him, even if their aggressive nature is so much alike.

After all, if Katharina is just acting as if she were tamed, then it is likely

she would still have her shrewish attitude. If this is the case, then Petruchio

is in for a big downfall when she decides to remove her disguise and unleash

herself upon her unsuspecting husband.

Katharina: The Tamer of the Shrew


far, all the examples I have given have presented Katharina as the tamed, liberated

or acting shrew. I would like to present a different view of Katharina as

something other than the one being tamed, and look at a modern interpretation

that displays her as the tamer.

I recently had an opportunity to see a recording

of the 80's television comedy Moonlighting, starring Bruce Willis and Cybill

Shepherd. In this show, a special was done on a revision of Taming of the

Shrew with Willis' character as Petruchio and Shepherd's as Katharina. For

the first part, this version follows the original Shakespeare text, with some

liberties taken by the writers of the show, showing some tongue-in-cheek humor

- Petruchio rides in on a horse with both of them wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses,

the saddle has the logo for BMW on the side, and Katharina has a closet full

of "cheap" vases to throw at her suitors. But, as the comedy progresses, an

interesting twist is given - beginning when Petruchio and Katharina return

to Padua for the wedding of Bianca and Lucentio. Petruchio is confronting

Baptista about receiving the promised dowry for wedding Katharina, and Baptista

demands proof that Katharina has been tamed, a part of the bargain for receiving

the dowry, because he had heard rumors that K

atharina was not tamed or liberated,

but that Petruchio was the one that had given in to Katharina's aggressive


To prove he had tamed Katharina, Petruchio states to her the globe

in the sky is the moon at noon-time. Katharina turns to the blazing sun, and

after a few moments of silence from the whole town waiting for her response,

says "My husband, you are mistaken. For it is the sun. I beg you, look again."

The shocked crowd turns to Petruchio who, instead of getting mad and threatening

they return to his home as in the other performances when they are on the road

to Padua, stares back at the sun, and says, "Why, you are right. How foolish

of me." The rest of the tale ends with a variation of Katharina's speech in

an 1980's fashion - that man and woman are to be equals and should not try

to be dominant over the other, and that it was Petruchio's kindness towards

her that won her heart, for she was still the same opinionated woman. She

states that what women truly want is for men to treat them with respect and

they will receive the same respect in return. In other words, Katharina was

not the one needing to b

e tamed, but the brash attitude of Petruchio.



Throughout this essay, I have presented four different arguments

about the subject of Katharina's taming. In analyzing the text of the play

and seeing how different interpretations have presented the taming, I find

that I have to agree with two of the interpretations, the first that Katharina

is acting tamed, and second that she was liberated.

First, I feel that she

was just acting on the road to Padua, that she was still just pretending to

be tamed so she could see her family one more time. I feel this with how quickly

she changed her attitude when Petruchio threatened to return home and forego

the wedding. But, I also feel that her acting job here backfired against her

emotionally. When she saw that by being obedient to Petruchio he treated her

as an equal, she realized she needed to compromise her nature to keep this

man she was falling in love with, which leads to her being liberated.

I say

Katharina is liberated because she still displays some of her shrewish attitudes

during the feast for Lucentio and Bianca's wedding, when she drags out the

two stubborn women, who refused to come out when the husbands called for them.

If she was tamed at this point, she would not have been aggressive towards

the two ladies. If she was acting, she would have risked being discovered

if she showed herself being aggressive with the ladies. If she was liberated

and able to be as an equal with Petruchio, she would have acted the way she

did - aggressive towards those who were being stubborn about their husband's

authority. I see it as Katharina was trying to show them that if they are

obedient to their husband, the husband would treat them as an equal.

I also

find I have to agree with the Moonlighting version of the play, in a sense.

It has to be seen that if Katharina gave in some of her attitude towards Petruchio,

Petruchio also had to give in some of his own attitude. The attitude of show

respect and obedience and receive respect and equality, although carried to

an extreme in the Moonlighting episode, can be seen in all the versions of

the play discussed.

In conclusion, I believe that Katharina is not the only

one who became liberated through the course of the play, but Petruchio as well,

from his own super-masculinity.


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