Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
This scene gives much detail about the characters of Katherine and Petruchio. Katherine’s cruelty is seen repeatedly. She binds her sister’s hands and torments her about her suitors. When Bianca laughs at her ideas about Gremio, Katherine rudely hits her. She then verbally attacks her father, accusing him of favoritism and cruelty, for she is genuinely hurt by his treatment. Next she hits Licio (Hortensio) with a lute during her music lesson when she does not get her way. When she meets Petruchio, she immediately argues with him and even strikes him at one point. Finally, Katherine scoffs at the thought of marrying Petruchio, stating he’ll be hanged before she becomes his bride; but she offers no more protest, silently suggesting that she is not so opposed to this marriage. Shakespeare clearly shows Katherine’s shrewish personality; but he also hints that it does not come naturally to her. Katherine works at being unpleasant in order to have revenge for the way she has been treated.
In contrast to the quarrelsome Katherine, Petruchio is shown to be an intelligent, patient, direct, and adventurous man. He feels challenged by the idea of trying to tame Katherine and feels certain that he will succeed. When he hears that she has hit her tutor with her lute, he is impressed by her spirit, but even more determined to break it. Hoping to soften her, Petruchio treats her kindly and tenderly, as evidenced by the fact he calls her Kate. He answers her scorn with praise and her jabs with wit and humor. When she strikes him, he calmly informs her that if she repeats her action, he will strike back. When Petruchio talks to her father, he gets right to the point, asking Baptista the terms of Katherine’s dowry. Shakespeare tries to present the patient Petruchio in a way to suggest that he is, indeed, capable of taming a shrew.
It is also important to notice the names that Shakespeare has chosen for some of the characters. Bianca is Italian for white, a symbol of innocence. Cambio is Italian for change, and Lucentio changes into this character. Tranio "trains" to be like Lucentio, and Lucentio (based on the Italian word "lucent", meaning light) becomes a light for Bianca amongst her dreary suitors.
This masterfully well written scene is filled with wit, humor, contrasts, and irony. It also does much to advance the characterization and plots of the play.